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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Training vs Learning - Which do You Create?

[UPDATE - Just wanted to give credit to the Social Learning Community on Yammer for inspiring this blog post. I think this topic is important to the eLearning community as a whole and so I'm happy to extend the conversation to the readers of this blog.]

As a member of the eLearning/learning/training/education community it feels like the alphabet soup of terms has become muddled again.  I suppose all industries go through this to some degree, and while it's mildly frustrating, going through the exercise can reveal some insights and help us focus our work.  So let's take a look at what happened.

The short version is that training departments, for many years, got very little respect.  We, as a community of professionals were convinced that a rebranding needed to occur and we wanted to become LEARNING professionals and not TRAINING professionals.  After all, training seemed to cheapen our work as adult learning practitioners and instructional design architects...and all the other fancy names we like to call ourselves.

But now it appears that we've come full circle.  With the growing discussions around informal vs. formal "learning", we've come to realize that, in fact, we DO NOT create learning.  And yikes! Learning actually happens without our interventions.  So, to say that we "create learning solutions" or something like that is actually quite silly.  Our bodies, mostly our brains, handles the learning side of things.  The human body is a learning machine.  I hope this isn't shocking to anyone.

In our current corporate culture our job is to make sure that certain bodies (employees) are exposed too, and learning, certain specific things.  These bodies will do the LEARNING on their own IF the correct CONTEXT is provided for them.

Let's stop the conversation right here because at this point we could go off in many different directions.  All I want to do at this point is to get you thinking about Training vs Learning.


I think it's safe to say that our job is to manipulate a person's environment in such a way that we are simply directing, or manipulating WHAT that person's body is being exposed to with the hope that their body's learning response is activated.  I know this sounds very rudimentary but if you think about it this way then TRAINING really does start to sound like a better catch-all term for the work that we do.

Here's wikipedia's take on Training:
"The term training refers to the acquisition of knowledgeskills, and competencies as a result of the teaching of vocational or practical skills and knowledge that relate to specific useful competencies. It forms the core of apprenticeships and provides the backbone of content at institutes of technology (also known as technical colleges or polytechnics). In addition to the basic training required for a tradeoccupation or profession, observers of the labor-market[who?] recognize as of 2008 the need to continue training beyond initial qualifications: to maintain, upgrade and update skills throughout working life. People within many professions and occupations may refer to this sort of training as professional development."

I understand WHY we so desperately want to be learning professionals and NOT Training Specialists.  But the reality is that what we create is best suited to the term training and NOT learning.  If for no other reason then the fact that nobody can actually create learning.  But we can understand how the human brain learns and optimize the environment of a person needing to learn something specific.  And so it's that understanding of how the human body learns that makes us better at what we create.

So, can a Learning Professional be a creator of Training...um...things? Yep! But are we confusing the market by mixing the terms? Maybe. Does it matter? I don't know.

And now this starts another conversation, "Should it be eTraining instead of eLearning".  Oh boy...<sigh>
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