Training vs. Learning

Over time I have noticed an unfortunate conflation of these terms, with many of us using them somewhat interchangeably. They are not the same! And I don’t mean to be merely pedantic about this. Conflating them causes us to obscure a crucial distinction.

Training is what trainers or print materials or on-line courses do. Learning is what the recipient of the training does (we hope).  The learning part is aspirational. It’s what we want to happen, but we don’t know for certain that it will. (So really, what we call eLearning should actually be called eTraining.)

Why is this distinction important? Because all training developers need to keep in mind that learning is not guaranteed.  If we keep this in mind then we will:

  • Create our training using evidence-based instructional techniques, such as advanced organizers, interleavinig and spiral curricula.
  • Use known methodologies from learning research such as spaced learning and the testing effect to promote long-term retention.
  • Measure learning during instruction, immediately after instruction and at regular intervals subsequently to ensure that learning is taking place, has taken place and is retained over time.

One thought on “Training vs. Learning

  1. Absolutely and well stated….we can’t learn them! All we can do is to create an environment, use best practices, well research instructional methods and support the process. It is not our job to learn them. It is our job to train them……create the best instruction we can given the content, context and delivery methods we have and then assess the results.


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