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Training vs Learning: What's the Difference?

Explore the key distinctions in 'Training vs Learning': this insightful article delves into differences in methods, outcomes, and impacts on personal and professional growth.

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The similarity between training and learning is that they're both essential in one's quest for knowledge and skill development. However, their differences are subtle yet meaningful.

Training and learning adopt different approaches to achieve their goals. The former seeks to impart knowledge or information, while the latter involves absorbing, understanding, and applying it. This is why when one trains for something, it means something different from learning something. 

Both concepts thrive off each other, but to highlight their differences in detail, one must understand their core meaning. It seems that weighing these concepts might prove a challenge.

However, the comparisons between them will explain why one is viewed as a process and the other as an event. Continue reading to learn more about training vs. learning. 

What’s Training?

One can define training in many ways, but one comprehensive explanation will do justice. Training is a process designed to transfer specific knowledge or skills from an instructor to a trainee in a particular field or domain.

Training is necessary to enhance one's proficiency in a niche. It's usually conducted within structured settings for desirable and measurable outcomes. 

Practical instances of training in action abound in different contexts. In the corporate world, for example, sales training will include workshops on negotiation and effective communication techniques.

In the healthcare sector, the medical staff could undergo thorough training to handle emergency medical procedures. In the military, soldiers are trained to be disciplined, follow orders, be tactical experts, and handle weapons.

These instances have something in common - an objective or goal. Training is a necessary event that equips individuals with the skills or expertise they need to perform optimally in a designated role. 

What’s Learning?

Training vs Learning

Learning is a process that entails acquiring knowledge, skills, understanding, or expertise in a given field. Unlike training, it's continuous in nature and can take form through different experiences.

Learning doesn't end when one acquires what he/she desires because knowledge becomes outdated. So, one has to keep learning to stay in touch with the ever-evolving landscape of their domain. It’s best described as a lifelong development

How one learns depends on the situation, role, or setting. When one is learning a language, for example, it may involve immersion into the target culture, which embodies experiential learning.

Scientists learn from conducting experiments and research. A chef masters their culinary skills through practice and experimentation. In the field of technology, programmers and developers have to learn how to use new software applications or tools to stay current. 

Learning can also be viewed from the perspective of adaptive behaviors. For instance, one can acquire problem-solving skills by navigating puzzles.

In summary, learning can be formal (classroom setting), informal (via observation), or experiential (real-world experiences). Presently, a lot of learning has been virtual, thanks to engaging and interactive educational platforms. Learning is crucial for personal and professional growth. 

Training vs Learning: The Differences

The differences between training and learning are as subtle as they are profound. Knowing how these processes or concepts vary can help one understand how they interact with or depend on each other. The following are the areas in which training and learning differ.


When it comes to training, the objectives are:

  • Achieving a Specific Expertise or Skill: This is the primary objective of a training exercise. In reference to its meaning, the process is complete if the intended skill or knowledge has been imparted. Take software development training, for instance. The skill or expertise could be debugging or mastering a new software tool. Generally, the skill can be personal, academic, technical, or professional in nature. 
  • Performance Improvement: With training, an individual or team is expected to improve in a specific area. This should translate to a streamlined operation process and fewer errors. For instance, after one has completed sales training, they're expected to improve their conversion rates and generate more income for the organization. 
  • Measurable Outcomes: For training to be considered effective, the outcomes of the exercise have to be quantifiable. A good example is customer service training. The (measurable) outcome can be increasing the number of positive responders in their customer satisfaction survey. Alternatively, it can be the number of times the customers' problems or queries have been resolved in the first call. Other measurable outcomes for this training include mean hold time and average handle time. 

Learning, on the other hand, has the following objectives:

  • Gaining Knowledge and Understanding: Pursuing knowledge has always been the foremost learning objective, irrespective of the domain. During language learning, one doesn't just focus on knowing the vocabulary, cultural nuances, and grammatical structures. 
  • Developing Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills: Learning extends beyond memorizing information and understanding it. It also includes applying that knowledge to solve real-life problems and analyzing information to assess its relevance. For example, in a leadership context, one will need critical thinking skills to navigate challenges and make informed decisions. 
  • Lifelong Learning Mindset: This has to do with the cultivation of a mentality rooted in a proactive learning approach over the course of one's life. A good real-life scenario is a bunch of professionals in a dynamic field. They must continuously take courses and attend seminars and conferences to stay informed on trends and maintain their relevance in the industry. 


The focus for training includes:

  • Job-specific Expertise: These refer to the required skills for individuals in a specific role or profession. For example, a graphic designer has to be skilled in using design software. A programmer or developer must be proficient in coding. The focus of training is to ensure that these specialists are precise in the execution of their skills.
  • Task-Oriented: This entails equipping students/trainees with the relevant skills or knowledge that are directly applicable to their role or profession. Marketing training, for instance, will focus on market analysis, campaign planning, data interpretation, etc. 

The focus for learning includes:

  • Holistic Development: This entails a complete approach to growth, encompassing the mental, social, emotional, and physical aspects. Learning aims to do more than equip participants with skills but make them capable of navigating the intricacies of work and life. 
  • Cognitive and Emotional Growth: Cognitive growth involves the development of decision-making, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills. All these enhance one's intellectual capacity, and one can apply them in any role or profession. Emotional growth, on the other hand, refers to having self-awareness, empathy, and efficient interpersonal communication skills. 

Methods and Approaches

Training methods and approaches include:

  • Workshops and seminars: This approach provides a structured and interactive instructional experience for participants. In a leadership context, this training method will include group discussions, case studies, and activities that will enhance one’s decision-making skills. 
  • On-the-Job Training: This includes mentoring, job rotation, and job instruction. It appeals to the participant’s power of observation. 
  • Role-Playing: This is an active training method that immerses participants in realistic scenarios. For this approach, the participants are required to practice and fine-tune their skills in a controlled setting. 

Learning methods and approaches include:

  • Self-Directed Learning: This method allows trainees to acquire knowledge or skills at their own pace. It entails the use of personalized study plans.  
  • Interactive Learning: A group-oriented method that involves learning in collaborative or social settings. Practical examples are team projects and group discussions. 
  • Experiential Learning: Participants learn through practical means and real-life experiences. Examples include fieldwork, apprenticeships, and hands-on experiments. 


Training contexts include:

  • Workplace Training Programs: In this context, the training is meant to cover a wide range of topics that are relevant to the organization. This context uses a mix of training methods, such as workshops, seminars, online modules, and hands-on activities. 
  • Skill-Specific Courses: In this case, the scope is focused on transferring a skill for a particular job role or profession. For instance, a course on customer service specifically targets that skill and nothing else. 
  • Short-Term and Targeted: This context addressed gaps in knowledge or skills, emerging trends, and technological updates. For instance, an SEO company may organize a brief training for its employees. The exercise is designed to teach them how to use a new SEO tool that's gaining traction in the industry. 

Learning contexts include:

  • Educational Institutions: This includes classroom experiences in universities or colleges. This context uses lectures, curricula, individual and group assessments, practicals, and group discussions. It's usually long-term (from elementary school to BSC/Masters/Ph.D).
  • Informal Settings: This is learning outside educational institutions. It includes remote learning, community-based learning, and self-directed learning. This context encourages self-motivation and flexibility. It could be long-term or short-term. 
  • Continuous Learning: This entails ongoing education, such as periodic courses and workshops. 


When it comes to training vs learning, the differences have never been clearer.

Mistaking one concept for another is a result of not having a full understanding of both concepts. To recap, the key areas in which training and learning are different include objectives, focus, methods or approaches, and context.

Their inherent differences take nothing away from their importance to one's personal and professional development. Overall, training is on the giving end, while learning is on the receiving end of knowledge and skills acquisition. 

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