Are you wondering is there any difference between Adult Education and Adult Learning?

Education is often understood and used as a synonym for Learning.

Whether traditional or alternative, both Education and Learning are two words related to acquiring knowledge.

But the two are not the same.

Continue reading to get to know the difference and which one to choose in YOUR current situation!


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Education or Learning?

“Education is what people do to you, and learning is what you do to yourself.”

Joi Ito

Briefly, this quote by Joi Ito illuminates the point.

To fully understand is better to examine the two separately.


What is Adult Education

Student are learning in a university classroom

Adult Education programs allow adults to enter higher to gain a degree or diploma or earn a specific qualification in their chosen field. Options are available at accredited institutions and training centers, both traditional on-campus and online.

Education is a formal process where individuals receive knowledge, skills, ethical values,  morals, beliefs, and habits. Educational methods are including teaching and training by systematic instructions from an outside source, provided via an institution or organization.

It is structured into courses and lessons. It is passive, built on extrinsic motivation. Based on facts, concepts, and theories. Measurable, concentrate on performance and achievement.

It accompanies you at some point in your life but has a beginning and an end.

So consider Education as one option, but as the most effective learning method in any community. It is mandatory until a certain age. In adult learning, in many cases, Education remains necessary and useful.


What is Adult Learning

 A woman is learning from home online

Adult Learning is a broader concept.

It is acquiring knowledge, attitude, skills, behaviors, values, and new understanding through Education, self-studying, and life experience.

Lead by personally relevant situations, intrinsic motivation, and evolves in the inner self. In some cases leads to curiosity; another time, it is driven by the need to learn a new skill for career advancement or earn more money or be better at a hobby.

It is progressive, proactive, and self-directed. The mindset of the person is actively changing.

It is a continuous part of adulthood, a lifelong process from birth to death due to the ongoing interaction between people and their environment.

Learning includes self-teaching, self-improvement, and personal development.

And there are so many ways, methods how you can teach and improve yourselves.


When to Choose Education, and when Learning?

Student asks a question from the teacher.

You might think now, what advantages one has over the other?

And which one to choose?


When to Choose Adult Education

Group of adults just got their university diploma

1. Want to Gain an Accredited College Degree

It is the way to pursue certain careers. Becoming a doctor, surgeon, physiotherapist, engineer, chemist without a proper degree is simply not possible.

Use higher Education to begin or return to an internationally recognized degree program. Be respected in your community, in society with your status.


2. Want to Enter a Profession with a Specific Qualification

Maybe you don’t need a college degree, but do you need a certificate of competence for your chosen profession?

Enter adult education to gain a specific qualification that is required in your occupation. It helps you begin or grow on the career path you are interested in or passionate about.


3. External Motivation Needed

Choose structured education programs when you need motivation through extrinsic assistance by a system and directed instructions. You preferably measure your advancement by tests and exams.


4. Studying by Top Experts in the Selected Field

You would like to get knowledge from the top professors and leaders in a specific area.


5. Want to network with relevant people, build connections

Great opportunity to meet interesting people and build new relationships. Offers an incredible amount of value. Plays a massive role in your professional success.

You can build early credibility and show your strength by club memberships and attending networking events and internships provided by higher education and adult training courses.


6. Want to increase your earning potential

Having a specific certificate makes you more attractive in the eyes of employers. Provides you better opportunities in the world of work and higher earning potential.

Furthermore, you develop essential skills during your studies, like communication, teamwork, organization, problem-solving, leadership, discipline, self-control, and many more. It will benefit your career.

Whether you select and complete traditional on-campus, distance, or online adult educational programs, you can enjoy these advantages.


When to Choose Adult Learning

Are you worried now that you don’t have the time and money to go back to college?

Or are you thinking that you might don’t need that certificate for your career advancement?

When to Choose Adult Learning

1. Barriers because of Obligations and Responsibilities

You find it challenging to participate in adult education due to the lack of time, family demands, finances, and transportation. You are busy and overwhelmed with obligations and responsibilities, so you cannot engage yourself in education.


2. Not Necessary the College Degree or Qualification

Many high-paying careers don’t require a college degree or any qualifications at all. For example, starting your own business or become specialized in a particular technical or relevant business skill for our growth.

A college certificate doesn’t always guarantee success. A surprising number of the world’s most successful people never graduated from college. You can simply observe and study from the bests in your chosen field.


3. Self-Improvement, Personal Development

You prefer to learn alone without any instruction at your own pace, planning your own time, prioritizing your tasks. You have your internal drive. You don’t need external motivation and encouragement.

Adult learning through training courses, online applications, virtual platforms, and video communication tools provides vast personal growth and goal fulfillment opportunities.

In Adult learning, the most significant help nowadays is the internet.

Via online programs and tools, you can learn almost any skills you need for your personal and professional growth!


Traditional or Online Learning?

Young adults working on computer

Adult Traditional Learning and Education

Traditional face-to-face learning involves interactions between teacher and student in the same physical location, in a classroom.

The primary benefit of the traditional on-campus programs is the personal interactions between your fellow students and professors. Social activity is an essential part of the learning process, and this is partly missing from e-lectures.

Adult Online Learning and Education

Online learning programs are exclusively delivered and administered via the internet and take place in a virtual platform. Trainees have access to pre-recorded lectures, e-books, audios, text, images, and other related resources. Exercise with interactive tools, using discussion forums, projects, and self-tested quizzes, targeting engagement and encouraging collaboration.

Read here more about the 9 reasons why Online Learning is so important.

Distance learning is often used as a general term to express online learning despite the differences between the two. Online learning is referring to the Virtual characteristic and the method or channel. Distance learning is more about geography, where a physical institution is involved but has an online learning component due to special circumstances.

All the lectures, assignments, presentations, tests are enabled via these online platforms.

E-learning involves online interaction and typically a physical distance between you and your teachers.

In adult distance education programs, educational materials are delivered to its students in remote locations. The variety of these alternative methods are continuously increasing.

Several adults choose online Education because of their barriers to obligations and responsibilities. They have to stay home with their children, financial reasons, keep their full-time job, or spend less time commuting. Others live far away, so they can have the opportunity to learn the subject they choose location independently. Others simply enjoy the comfort of their homes.

Two student learn together

You might ask the question, so which one is better? Traditional or Online?

Having interaction with your classmates and professor in the same location? Or staying home in front of your computer, practically alone?

Adult online learning is continuously evolving due to advancing technology. The courses are 100% online, offering a convenient option, flexibility, comfort, and time-saving.

If you need assistance to significantly improve your online learning experience, read the book of Bob Wilson M.Ed., the Making the Shift to Online Learning: 5 Keys to Success.

The answer, of course, depends on your personal preference and given circumstances and barriers. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Would you like to know if Online Learning is as effective as Face-to-Face? Read more here.

Final Thoughts on Choosing Learning vs. Education

When to choose Adult Education

  • Want to gain an accredited college degree
  • Want to enter a profession with a specific qualification
  • External motivation needed
  • Studying by top experts in the selected field
  • Want to network with relevant people, build connections
  • Want to increase your earning potential


When to choose Adult Learning

  • Barriers because of obligations and responsibilities
  • Not necessary the college degree or qualification
  • Your target is self-improvement, personal development.


The choice between adult education and adult learning depends on your career requirement and goals and the pursuit of your individual satisfaction.

The two are different. Education is an action created by external influence, while learning is driven by internal motivation.



Adult Education by
Definition of Education on Wikipedia
Definition of Learning on Wikipedia


Have you made your choice? Let us know in the comments.