Don’t accuse us of splitting hairs: They sound like synonyms, but the terms “creative learning” and “creativity” actually have very different meanings when applied to education and learning and development. Not only would using them interchangeably be a mistake, but it might demonstrate a lack of understanding your learner altogether. Find out how creative learning and creativity are related and what it means for you–and mostly your learners.

You need creativity to create creative learning, but not vice versa. Think about it: Someone needs to be able to think creatively (meaning they develop ideas that are the combination of unique and useful) to come up with learning solutions, but a learner doesn’t necessarily need to be a creative person in order to participate.

Creative learning is a delivery method. It takes individual learning styles into consideration to come up with fresh and innovative solutions that increase engagement and retention of content.

Creativity is how an instructional designer addresses the needs of the learners, but it’s not the sole characteristic by which the learning is experienced.

Confused yet? Not to worry!

Here’s a breakdown of the major differences between the two:

Creativity is…

  • The ability to create something out of thin air. There’s a problem? A creative person can figure out the solutions by successfully plugging in unique and useful solutions for each challenge.
  • The ability to see both available solutions and solutions that do not yet exist to cater to each individual. Whether it’s using microlearning for learners on the go or adaptive learning for those that are fast on their feet, creativity means knowing how to make sure each learner gets the experience they need.
  • The ability to focus on the learner; not just the actual learning. Creativity is required to see beyond what needs to be done to decide the how.

Creative learning is…

  • Providing a personal learning environment for each learner and the way for an entire organization to think about training and workplace education.
  • Giving learners the opportunity to make decisions–and creating a space in which they feel comfortable about taking risks and seeing how their choices and actions affect outcomes.
  • Creating a learning path where learners are actively involved and not just passive participants. Learning on their own time, prescribing their own learning, and creating their own paths mean learners are stepping outside the typical bounds of training for creative learning opportunities.
  • Enjoying a number of different learning methods, from microlearning to gamification, as a way to increase overall learner engagement.

The trick is to find a learning organization that has the creativity to develop creative learning and then use those creative learning solutions to procure the best outcome possible. Learners don’t need to be creative types, but those that design and develop the content, materials, and delivery system should have the natural creativity to provide your learners with something more. By making sure that all materials focus on the learner and how each one absorbs and experiences new information, that creativity pays off in a big way.

Want to spark more creativity?

Here are a few powerful questions to help you take a new perspective and see things in multiple ways.

  • Putting “What if” in front of everything. Example: What if you could teach your employees one skill to further their career and the overall business, what would you choose?
  • Think of ways you could majorly mess up your current problem. Sometimes living the worst possible outcomes sheds light on solutions.
  • Ask how you could make this problem easier, but also ask how you can make it worse.
  • Keep asking a new question. We are taught to generate ideas when we brainstorm, but it’s more effective to generate more questions. When people generate questions they tend to delve into a problem more intelligently and challenge their own assumptions. This helps sparks a multitude of possible ideas.


If you are ready to drive more creative solutions in your learning strategy, connect with us here to let us know what you are working on.