Definition of Learning

by Jeff Cobb

Definition of Learning - Image of Open Dictionary

I believe there is a true learning revolution afoot, and given that Mission to Learn is a blog about lifelong learning, it seems only appropriate that I offer up a definition of learning as I see it.  So here’s how I define learning:

Learning is the lifelong process of transforming information and experience into knowledge, skills, behaviors, and attitudes.

I might add to that:

  • Learning is not dependent upon classes and courses – though these can be very useful tools
  • It does not require a degree, certificate, or grade to prove its worth – though clearly these have social value that most people would be unwise to ignore
  • It does require – in varying degrees, and in varying times and circumstances – activities like practice, reflection, interaction with the environment (in the broadest sense), and social interaction. The latter, in particular, can be greatly facilitated by the range of new technologies for communication and collaboration now available to us.
  • It does not always – probably not even most of the time – happen consciously – though I think that those who strive for a more conscious approach to learning throughout their lives – whether at work or otherwise – tend to be more successful in pretty much whatever way they define success.

I think that pretty well sums up the definition of learning that drives my efforts here at Mission to Learn. What do you think? Does this jibe your definition of learning? What would you add or take away? Please comment and share your thoughts on how to define learning.


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Start learning on Udemy today!

P.S. – If you are interested in this definition of learning, then you may also be interested in:

posted on May 21, 2009

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{ 61 comments… read them below or add one }

akem henry October 30, 2009 at 6:59 am

Has learning, in your opinion, nothing to do with the adaptation to new circumstances of both pleasurable shocking and painful experiences?

Anna Bolster December 4, 2009 at 11:15 am

I am attending an online school and I need info for my Life Long Learning paper for Finals. Can you help me


jtcobb December 4, 2009 at 12:13 pm

Anna – It depends on what you need. If you can provide more detail here in the comments, I can do my best to respond and also point others here to respond. – Jeff

am kenron January 22, 2010 at 4:01 am

learning is all wonderful as much as people define learning in many ways the only thing that blesses is that it has no end till death do u part

umera gul April 12, 2010 at 11:38 am

learning is a process which get start from the birth and end with death.

Anne May 17, 2010 at 9:53 am

Dear Jeff,
how do you think it is possible to keep learning and learning with the very limited time there is. Especially for people that are working in the management level?
Do you have any best practise examples for companies that encourage there people to keep on learning (job related but also to develop personaly)?


Jeff Cobb May 17, 2010 at 11:09 am

Anne – Thanks for commenting. Definitely a very good and important question. To a certain extent, of course, we can’t help but keep learning: it’s simply how we are wired. Lately I’ve been more and more intrigued by the idea that we all tend to know a lot more than we give ourselves credit for. We just don’t take proper time to reflect upon, analyze, and synthesize what we have learned. Even so, I know that is probably small comfort when caught up in the frenzy of everyday managerial duties. I wrote a post a while back on ways to find more time for focused learning. You may want to have a look at that: – perhaps some of these could be carved out as best practices that fit your situation. In addition to making more time, I think it is very important to develop habits like good note-taking and also to take seriously the idea that physical well being – particularly through good diet, exercise, and sleep – habits play a very important role in learning effectively and efficiently. In the end, of course, there is no magic bullet: anyone who want to learn continuously and achieve goals has to commit to it consciously and set priorities. I think all of the themes I outlined in an earlier post on the “self help” industry apply:

I hope these thoughts are of some help. I’d welcome any further ideas you or other readers have on the topic. It is one that will never go away!


joyce June 18, 2010 at 10:51 pm

Mr. Jeff, can you share to me what’s the difference between learning and really confuses me..Thanks..

Jeff Cobb June 19, 2010 at 8:15 am

Joyce – Perhaps an oversimplification, but I view learning as the process by which knowledge is acquired and modified. Learning is the process; knowledge is the outcome. Though I wouldn’t want to imply that knowledge is static. Because learning is continuous, knowledge, too, is always in flux. I hope that helps some. – Jeff

madhu ranjan July 8, 2010 at 5:44 am

i think learning is a past & feature experince. may be it is process of learning ,human beings learn any where.

Kofo odumewu August 8, 2010 at 3:39 am

To corroborate your response to joyce,As long as we are alive learning continues as knowlege too is not static ,they go together.

Kirstine Vergara August 9, 2010 at 11:16 am

The best thing about learning is that it never stops no matter how old you are or how intelligent you’ve become. It only does when you’ve stop paying attention.

blessing August 31, 2010 at 5:42 am

learning is a life long process. learning starts from the day we were born and ends the day we die. there is no learning in the grave. thank you.

JULIUS DESIPEDA September 4, 2010 at 10:38 pm


sandip kumar September 19, 2010 at 3:26 am

learning is not depend on the age of individual. it means that, a child can learns by old, an old people can learns by child/ A teacher can learn by the student and a student can learn by the teacher.

Learn a Language October 7, 2010 at 2:39 am

my definition of “learning” is when I learn something, I’ll make sure that I master it. Not hanging it in the air.

sadafraheel December 7, 2010 at 9:28 am

almost every aspect is coverd in the definition.i would like to add that when we strive in direct or indirect way to apprach a point,the acquired stuff can be regarded as learning,whether usefull or useless.

mustafa December 27, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Any relatively permanent change in behavior that occurs as result of experience is called learning

Samuel J. December 30, 2010 at 1:25 am

Hello Jeff!
I just wanted say I agree with your response to Anne on May 17, 2010. I understand and live in Anne’s situation. However, we must make a decision to learn, set goals, establish priorities and make a plan to accomplish those goals. Sitting down, performing a self analysis and making personal development decisions and plans can be a very intimidating process. A serious introspection requires us to see ourselves honestly and be willing to make the necessary positive changes that will aid us in attaining our goals. In this case the goal would be learning. Learning in a time constrained environment is challenging. However, you can do it!:) I am doing it!:)

Hema December 30, 2010 at 7:22 am

Education is a life long process

Elevic Pernis | The Road to Weirdom January 11, 2011 at 4:07 am

I agree with the spirit of your definition, although I will phrase my definition in a different manner. I’ll include the aspect that a person in goal-oriented, and learning is part of the process to achieve his goals.

ISMAIL K January 25, 2011 at 11:04 pm

learning is defined as “a process by which any change in behaviour occurs as a result of previous experience”.

anjali parkar January 29, 2011 at 12:46 pm

learning is the process of change all over behaviour and lifestyle

renuka patankar January 31, 2011 at 10:47 am

Yes! learning is a endless process of our life because till the death of life we keep on learning so many things related to all aspects of life. for example, we learn language styles,expressions from our family members. In schools we have free social accesses to learn moral values, discipline. Thus, learning is a endless process of everyday life till from morning when we woke up in the morning to till going to sleep.

Leeanna February 3, 2011 at 11:11 pm

I have been studying philosophy and world religion on my own free time as I feel so connected to the ‘whys” and “whats” of life.

since I have been reading so much on my own and slowly started to realize that I am learning at the same level as college graduates and scholars, understanding their writings, recognizing the topics and discussions made me question how different is my understanding of philosophy by self teaching than it would be at a 4 yr university?

Im 35 a mother 0f 4 girls and a wife. I was diagnosed with Lupus and my world quickly changed. I started to read more in my sick and low days and it sparked a new awakening for me. I know that going back to college is not an option for me due to my health, my age (having 4 daughters who we hope would like to go to college, and saving money for their tuition and not mine) I would be interested in a credited education, but until then, knowledge is power. Everyone deserves an education. Passion for education I always says breeds more intelligence.

I have been looking for books and lectures where I can have access to what is being taught in schools and resources that I wasn’t aware of yet.

This is an amazing website and I am so excited that I have found you! I will be researching more and taking advantage of what you have to offer!

You are offering a wonderful, “priceless” opportunity to many who have the desire but not the logistics of a formal education for whatever reason.

For this,
Thank You!

jyoti jugnu February 15, 2011 at 3:37 am

Learning is the process which make us mature and confident about most of the things.It is a endless process and it never stops. We can learn anything in anywhere.Learning is not a stastic,it is dynamic process.Through learning process we can updates our knowledge,skill,ability,etc.

Peter March 3, 2011 at 9:00 am

I agree with Jeff Cobb. I think his defintion of learning is brilliant. However I think it should be noted that this is a continual life long process, weather it is consciously or subconsciously. I feel the value of what is learnt is very subjective and can only be valued by the person who has aquired that knowledge.
Jeff Cobb for President!!!

Okuneye Oluwafunmilola Abosede April 13, 2011 at 4:37 am

Learning is a process of acquiring knowledge. on the other hand, it is a process of inculcating knowledge or information into ones ability, skills, behaviors, ideas, value e.t.c.

M Kathy Brown April 18, 2011 at 3:35 pm

I could probably write much about the Law of Learning and how someone grows from a newborn to becoming an Aristotelian or Platonist. But, instead, I thought you might enjoy reading a short personal essay I recently wrote on learning — just for fun :~) L is for Learning, But Not to Have Learned

Bebi April 25, 2011 at 4:16 am

Question – what is the aspect that influence leaning?


ashi May 18, 2011 at 8:39 am

in my view Learning is a change in life caused by experience

Sedara omodara May 21, 2011 at 5:11 am

Learning is continuouse process that can be achieved by observation,experience and practical

sarafa lasisi June 2, 2011 at 4:29 pm

It nice reading on your contribution,i must say learning is all the day to day life experience.thank you

cristine badilla July 4, 2011 at 4:20 am

why is learning probably considered a concept to define?

Abel Moses O. August 10, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Learning is as a result of past experience

bashar aliero August 12, 2011 at 3:21 am

learnind is process of acquring knwedgel.

tosin August 16, 2011 at 4:36 am

but my definition goes like learning is a relative permanent change in behavior duel to experience.

Biir khatiwada August 27, 2011 at 1:03 am

Learning mean changes of behaviour which come due to experience.

Akash Tavseef. September 10, 2011 at 2:39 am

lerning is recieving knowledge from others. wheather the giver is educated or illitrate.

chidimma October 12, 2011 at 9:02 pm

Dear Jeff,
can you define and point out the differences and similarity between attitude and behavior. if you ask me, i think they are same .

Ravishankar GB November 24, 2011 at 1:38 am

Learning is permanent change in behavior that occurs as a result of experience…

T.G.Sambanthan December 2, 2011 at 2:46 am

Learning is search for truth. Truth of something or anything. But learning is simply “search for truth”. Learning can be and should be made a life long process. Learning can be achieved through a process. But learning cant not be itself “a process”.

foresttrailacade January 11, 2012 at 12:43 am

Learning is the necessity of life. The best thing about learning is that there is no age bar or time bar for learning. Today’s advance generation learning has become easy, comfortable and flexible through online education.

JULIA MAINA February 8, 2012 at 7:28 am

knowledge is the key to success {by learning you acquire a lot in life

Dr Kamakhya Kumar February 24, 2012 at 11:56 pm

Learning is one of the unexplained term of Psychology which can be understood through experiences, as it starts in the Ovum of Mother and ends with the life.

Israel O. O. March 4, 2012 at 4:40 am

Learning is the essence of all educational process that ensure students acquisition of skills and attitudes that leads to a change in behaviour,which is the goal of education.

neha gupta March 6, 2012 at 3:13 am

i m well satisfied with the other definitions of learning…thanks to oll…learning is the process o getting information from anywhere…u would learn anything anytym…i add thanksssss

ahmed A B March 10, 2012 at 4:44 am

the way i viewed learning is relatively permanent change in behavior which occur as result of experience that is accumulated over a period of time. and it is important to note that learning never stop till the organism diet

khadijah mahmoud March 10, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Hello Jeff,i am 100% satisfied with the way you define learning.thanks

Ntamu Blessing March 24, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Jeff, i tend to disagree with your position reflected in your post on the 19th of June 2010, that learning is the process and knowledge the outcome. I tend to believe that the application of knowlege which is reflected in behaviour (behaviour change) is the outcome of learning. I dare say learning is the process and the change in behaviour is the outcome.
Might i use this medium to applaud your definition of learning? I find your definition unique, original and exhaustive.

SALIHU DAUDA DANBABA "AL-ZAZZAKY" April 8, 2012 at 6:33 am

Learning is any relatively changes in behavior which the learner acquire in or outside the school, direct or indirect. Learning can be either positive or negative. Thank u all 4 contributing.

Abolaji April 14, 2012 at 4:11 am

Learning refers either to a process which produces progressive series of changes in behaviour and experience or a result that is the sum total of all such changes.

Arul venkadesh April 17, 2012 at 4:42 am

Learning is a part of our life and its a behavior that inculcates our capabilities,skills,knowledge,attitude,and transforms our entire personality from one end to other….

NAMANDA W. HUMPHREY April 24, 2012 at 3:58 am

learning is a continuous process of acquiring skills, knowledge, values and attitude from the time of birth to death, ( from womb to tomb), and relating them to the environment positively and responsibly.

Moe April 30, 2012 at 11:12 am

When I started to be home schooled , that was almost word for word the definition that my family had for learning. I agree that schools and classes are not the only way to learn. I think that a lot of life skills are not taught in school or by the students parents. I love to learn new things and hope that other people can find joy in it too.

sanusi ismaila babatunde May 1, 2012 at 6:58 am

learning could be defined as a life long process which can take place at any time anywhere in life irrespective of the field which one belongs.

KIKI PAUL June 5, 2012 at 7:49 am

Learning way of adding new thing to one’s life positively or negatively through some experiece.

Marie Therize September 12, 2012 at 4:26 pm

I agree with the definition that “Learning is the lifelong process of transforming information and experience into knowledge, skills, behaviors, and attitudes.”

This is true because learning ONLY occurs after the transformation must have taken place. That goes to say that knowledge is not power. Rather, applied knowledge is power. Because the application is an evidence that something was learnt. Hence, continuous application results in mastery, then you can say you have a skill. With a little more effort, that deed/ skill can be done even while asleep- that transforms into a behavior. Continuity in that behavior, in turn, gives birth to a state of mind which invariably becomes an attitude.

Suffice to say that knowledge gained could be positive or negative and the learning processes are similar.

Onifade tope October 9, 2012 at 5:47 am

Learning is all a child gains consciously or unconasciously from birth till death in the society he finds himself

Brenda Kambura October 18, 2012 at 3:49 am

i appreciate for different definitions of learning from you guys that helped me on my assignment

jai_technomind April 1, 2017 at 12:25 pm

learning is depends on the interest of individual. A child can learns form old. A teacher can learn by the student and a student can learn by the teacher.

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