Leaders of training departments receive training requests continuously, and it is their job to respond to these requests with solutions after a proper analysis. Solutions can come in many forms, from formal multi-day classroom training to online training to telling people to watch a YouTube video. YouTube has certainly enabled an enormous variety of learning options that anyone can find. On YouTube you can learn just about anything from making a healthy smoothie to how to negotiate a salary during your next job interview.
It is tempting for a learning and development leader to respond to training requests with “Just have them go to YouTube for that.” After all, you don’t have the resources to create all of the training courses that are requested. And there are many very good lessons on YouTube, right?
Well, not so fast.
Online training courses are preferable to YouTube for several reasons.
Obviously, you are not going to send employees to YouTube to learn how to use your customized customer relationship management system. A vague request that people need to learn “conflict management skills” is also not something you should just send to YouTube. This type of request should be analyzed, a specific need formulated, and some intervention designed to specifically address the need. Online training is a preferable choice when you have a specific training need.
You Want People to Actually Do It
If you have managers asking for Excel training, it is tempting to say, “Just go to YouTube.” I’ve done that. The problem is that even if your team wants to learn Excel, if left to their own devices, most of them will not do it, even on YouTube. People get distracted. People don’t sharpen the saw. People don’t even finish MOOCs, which have a 7% completion rate. If you really want people to complete a training course, develop online courses specifically for their need.
You Want to Tackle a Business Objective
A well-designed online training course will address specific objectives that students must achieve and these learning objectives are tied to some business outcome that you want everyone to tackle. In other words, a well-designed course does not “teach Excel.” A well-designed course teaches someone how to "create a useful report using a data source from another system.” Online training helps a learner connect the dots between “learning excel” and producing a work product that the business needs.
Learning on YouTube a Bad Idea?
It is not that learning on YouTube is a bad idea. On the contrary. However, if you have a specific need, want your team to actually learn a specific new skill, and want to help people connect the dots between learning the new skill and getting a specific job done, you should design online training.
Have you sent people in your company to learn something new on YouTube? How did that work out for you?
Bill Cushard, author, blogger, and learning experience (LX) designer, is a human performance technologist (HPT) with extensive, in-the-trenches experience building learning organizations at companies like E*TRADE, Accenture, and ServiceRocket. You can follow him on Twitter or on Google+.