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4 reasons why taking a course is better than watching a YouTube video

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Should You Take a Course or Watch a Youtube Video?

Don’t know how to run a macro in Excel? Need to learn how to apply a specific graphic effect in Photoshop? It’s hard to imagine how you would have dealt with such a conundrum 10 years ago, but nowadays the answer is simple: Google it or YouTube it.

YouTube has the great advantage of portraying things in a visual way that makes it easy for users to follow and understand, which is not always the case with the web pages that you find when you Google a given problem. But even YouTube has its drawbacks – while it is an infinitely useful resource that can help you learn to perform unfamiliar tasks in a matter of minutes rather than days or weeks, there are still a number of reasons for which it still falls short when compared with a "real" course.

1. You can’t ask questions during a YouTube video.

Some tasks are pretty straightforward and a run-of-the-mill "how to" video will do the trick. But in many cases, it is not quite as simple as that – your role, industry and goals will determine why you need to perform a given task and the ultimate result that you are after. That means that you need to approach the problem in a specific way that the author of a YouTube video was not taking into consideration when he or she made it. As a result, the instructions that you are given may not be suitable for the issue at hand. At the same time, you can’t very well stop the person in the video to ask that they give you another example or explain further.

Another issue is that you may not even know what the problem is. Taking the Excel example, do you know that you need to run a macro? Do you know that it’s the best way to achieve your intended result? Perhaps you just have an inkling that you're not doing things in the most logical or straightforward manner, but you don't really know why. If so, then you may find it difficult to know what you should be Googling or YouTubing in the first place.

In the majority of cases, training courses – even the online ones – have the advantage of giving you access to a course instructor and/or tutor who you can interrupt and interact with. You can ask questions and request more relevant examples, and in return you get advice that is specific to you and your problem. What's more, the programmes tend to cover a wider selection of topics, meaning that you gain a broader set of skills that often enable you to find multiple solutions to common issues. This then gives you the flexibility to choose the one that is most suitable for each specific situation you come across.

2. YouTube doesn’t give you learning resources.

Professional courses tend to be brief and it can be difficult for learners to retain all of the information that they are given, particularly if they don’t get the chance to apply it soon after they return to the workplace. That’s why most training providers will provide delegates with a set of learning materials – whether physical or digital – that they can refer to in the future. Handbooks, useful articles, recaps, videos… whatever they may be, they are yours to keep and use in the future.

A video on YouTube is great and it can help you solve a problem, but it’s very unlikely that the person who uploaded it will give you access to reference material. Even the video itself may not be there anymore when, two months after originally find it, you realise that you don’t quite remember how you got that macro to work. Taking a course gives you more security that you will be able to solve problems time and time again, building on your skills and using concepts or tools that you may not even have covered in the original course.

3. "Expert YouTube watcher" doesn’t look good on your CV.

So you watched a YouTube video and you learned how to apply that great effect in Photoshop. There’s no doubt that you feel a sense of achievement and that you can show your current boss potential future employers the results of having picked up this new trick: a series of powerful graphic banners that make your website stand out.

But you may not even get to the stage where you can show them your work. In the 5-7 seconds that recruiters generally spend looking at your CV, the truth of the matter is that an official course or qualification in Adobe Photoshop has a better chance of making a mark than the promise that your work speaks for itself. And writing that you’re an avid YouTube watcher isn’t likely to have a particularly positive effect either – if it does stand out, it probably stands out for the wrong reasons. The fact is that YouTube is great because it’s easily accessible by anyone with an Internet connection, but unfortunately this also means that having watched a YouTube video doesn’t make you special. No matter how good your banners are…

4. You don’t network with other professionals on YouTube.

Everybody enjoys a little fight in YouTube’s comments section every once in a while, but whether that is a healthy form of interaction with others is open to question.

At, we survey users regularly and have found that the opportunity to network with peers is consistently indicated as a primary benefit of attending a course. Even online courses, including MOOCs, are almost always structured in a way that makes discussion and interaction with other learners a primary feature of the programme. So even if you don’t learn anything from the course tutor (though of course you should hope to!), you can develop new ideas and perspectives as well as build relationships that may prove useful for you in the future.

When it comes to YouTube, It’s no secret that it doesn’t have a professional orientation, at least for now. This means that any interaction you can hope to have just won’t be as valuable as the kind you have access to when taking a professional development course.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use YouTube at all or that you should pick any old course for the sake of having taken one. What it does mean is that, provided take the time to find the right training option for you need, you will get much more out of a professional development course than you may think.

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Last updated: 22 Apr 2016

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