At Skilljar, we have often debated the proper word (training, learning, or education) for describing how knowledge is transferred from companies to their customers and partners. Although it is certainly an exercise in semantics, the words we choose do have meaning and impact to our clients. Many are also launching their first "training" initiatives and are unsure what to call their team.
In this blog post, we discuss the pros and cons of using the words "training" versus "learning" vs "education."
The Case for "Training"
We currently prefer using "training." Here are reasons why:
- Training is oriented around specific outcomes. The word evokes practicing specific skills and behaviors in preparation for achieving defined goals.
- Training is commonly used by customer-facing and partner-facing teams. In contrast, "learning" is more commonly used by employee-facing human resources teams.
- Training is a defined skill on LinkedIn and thus a recognizable competency.
- Training is commonly used in the technical and software industries.
- Training is clearly distinct and separate from K-12 and higher "education" activities.
The Case for "Learning"
"Learning" is also commonly used in the industry. In fact, platforms like Skilljar are known as "learning management systems." Here are reasons why companies prefer to use the word "learning":
- Learning, or learning & development, is the historically accepted term of art. For example, large enterprises have "Chief Learning Officers," not "Chief Training Officers."
- Learning comes from the customer's (student's) point of view and resonates with customer success teams.
- Learning has a more relaxed tone than "training" and inspires acquiring knowledge for its own sake, in pursuit of a variety of goals.
- Learning is specific to knowledge acquisition and isn't potentially confused with physical "training."
The Case for "Education"
Although we stay away from the word "education" because we don't want Skilljar to be confused with an LMS designed for schools, many of our clients choose to use "customer education" to describe their knowledge enablement teams. Here's why:
- Education, or education services, has more gravitas than "training" and is commonly seen in VP titles, such as a VP Global Education.
- Education is broader than training, also encompassing certifications, webinars, educational partnerships, and other industry enablement activities.
- Education is closely linked with "continuing education" for professionally licensed industries and member associations.
- Education is a middle ground between the freedom of "learning" and the focus of "training."
Training, learning, and education are all common words used to describe how your students and users acquire knowledge about your product or service. There is no right answer and the context varies greatly from organization to organization. Which one do you use? Let us know in the comments!