Daily Archives: December 11, 2005

Training vs. Learning

Is it the “training industry” or the “learning industry”? (Yeah, I know there are plenty of alternates to make this even more confusing, but let’s stick to these two for now.)

I’ve seen arguments about this on discussion boards and had lengthy conversations in meetings about it. Some people can’t even figure out why the topic comes up. I grant it’s mostly a semantic issue (though not entirely, and I’ll get to that), but I think it’s an important one. Certainly not THE answer to training’s woes (not even close), but a contributor.

Here’s the main argument that I’ve heard from the “training” camp: everyone already calls it training and knows what we do, so don’t mess with it.

(Let me quickly make a pre-argument argument here: if what we do is as essential as we know it is, and yet we are at the top of the “cut” list when money gets tight, obviously there’s a perception discrepancy and we need to change the perception of what it is we do, so yeah, let’s mess with it.)

Here’s my argument for “learning”:

  • “Training” puts the emphasis on the event. It is something that you experience where information is imparted to you (i.e., you are a passive recipient of the information). It focuses on what the trainer does to you.
  • “Learning” puts the emphasis on the learner – it’s what you do (hopefully) when presented with new information. The responsibility is on the individual to be an active participant in the learning process. It focuses on what you have to do with the trainer’s help.

Some people see that shift in emphasis as a minor squabble. “Who cares what you call it? A rose by any other name, etc., etc.”

I don’t think it’s quite that simple.

It’s about setting expectations in order to influence motivation, one of the most important parts of a successful transfer of knowledge. If you aren’t motivated when you go to a session (live, online, or whatever), you’re not going to care what’s being said and could miss vital information. So anything that can help improve your motivation to learn, however subtle, is important.

Somebody’s going to say to me, “wait, you’re saying that just calling an event a learning opportunity instead of training is going to improve the event? That’s stupid.” Yes, you’re right. That is stupid. And it’s not what I’m saying.

What I am saying is that it sets the learner’s start point a little higher on the motivation continuum. That means that the trainer might not have to try quite so hard to convince the learner to be an active participant (an essential component of useful learning). Especially in an online situation, anything that helps the user engage is vital.

I’m not saying it’ll be a huge effect, but I am saying that whatever effect there is is helpful.

Now, let’s look at another aspect of the problem. I’ll restate my definitions:

  • “Training” puts the emphasis on the event. It is something that you experience where information is imparted to you (i.e., you are a passive recipient of the information). It focuses on what the trainer does to you.
  • “Learning” puts the emphasis on the learner – it’s what you do (hopefully) when presented with new information. The responsibility is on the individual to be an active participant in the learning process. It focuses on what you have to do with the trainer’s help.

Look at the terms from the perspective of the training professional. “Training” is very inward focused: what am I creating for you; what do I provide to you? (Could be that there are egos involved in continuing to use the term “training.”) “Learning” is externally focused: what do you need to do to be successful; what do you need me to do to help you get there?

Look at where the accountability is: with training, the success or failure is all on the trainer (a heavy weight to bear); with learning it’s more of a partnership, where the learner bears at least some of the responsibility for the outcome.

Within the industry, there has been a lot of talk about making training more “learner-centric.” Great! Why not start at the beginning? Set the expectation that your participants might be called on to think. Call it learning.

X-3 trailer up

Well, what do you know? The first trailer for X-Men 3 actually looks good! I was really worried with all the rumors I’d been hearing. Now I’m looking forward to it! Looks like some really interesting stuff.

Plus, it looks like we’ll see a little more of Collossus, Beast will be prominent, and Jean might be the Phoenix. They’re setting it up so it looks like Cyclops might die, which I have mixed feelings about. My first thought is that they are making it look that way, so obviously it isn’t going to happen. But, if it does, it’s probably what brings Jean back from whatever state she was in at the end of X-2, so there’s that whole self-sacrifice for love angle that does play into the character’s arc. I’d like to see him survive, because he was always one of my favorite characters in the comics and cartoons, but he never seemed quite as strong in the movies, so maybe this would be a good end for him. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.