By Gerry Murray. 21-08-2022
(Scroll down for a laugh)

"Abilities gradually deteriorate in the absence of deliberate efforts to improve." ~ K. Anders Ericsson 

Since the pandemic, we've become accustomed to living and working online. In many respects, the world of Zoom or Teams has brought several benefits. For example, we've saved time travelling to meetings. Now, we can simply have a meeting online. 

The training and coaching profession underwent a metamorphosis as trainers and coaches were forced to deliver their services online - it was literally a case of do or die! 

Apart from replacing the face-to-face classroom with face-to-face Zoom training, there has also been a marked growth in training courses being offered via online platforms to complete in your own time. I've been using one such platform since 2015 to create blended courses

Many of us are familiar with MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) such as Udemy, Coursera, etc. Most of us have watched an instructional video on YouTube. And, increasingly, we're being courted by LinkedIn Learning since they acquired a few years ago. In fact, LinkedIn has convinced many organisations to purchase access to their extensive course library. Like so many things that LinkedIn offers these courses appear to be over-hyped


LinkedIn claims that you can learn new skills simply by watching its course videos and completing some quizzes and exercises. Those of us who've spent many years giving training courses know that videos are a useful learning tool but they mainly serve the function of imparting knowledge. Yes, skills are covered. However, mostly only at the cognitive level of explaining what the skill is. Therefore, you know about the skill rather than know how to do it. Reading a book can achieve a similar outcome. 

To truly acquire a skill you need more than watching a video. For example, you also need to varying degrees: 

  • Someone to give you expert instruction to fine-tune aspects of your skill
  • Someone to provide you with feedback on what you're doing correctly and how to improve what you've not yet mastered
  • Practice, practice, practice
  • Etc...

As a former music teacher, this was all part of skill acquisition 101. Either the student could perform the piece of music or not. This is why I'm challenged by such assertions and concerned by how many Learning & Development professionals seem to buy into this without questioning it. Perhaps, check out my post from last week for insights on why this may be so...

Video tutorials certainly have a role in blended or flipped classroom learning and some are filmed with many cameras so you can see the steps involved in a skill. However, relying on these alone is folly for developing for example soft skills. Yet, we see an increase in the amount of LinkedIn course completion badges displayed on profiles. These essentially say that someone has watched the videos and completed the quizzes. We cannot determine whether they've actually acquired the skills. 

What does the research say? 

One of my favourite science researchers and writers is David Robson, who also appeared on my Leading People podcast last year. In an article this week for the BBC's Worklife series he highlights recent research that demonstrates both the illusion of knowledge and the illusion of skill acquisition.

The researchers carried out experiments whereby people watched instructional videos of various skills (e.g. throwing darts) and then were tested on their ability to perform these skills. In fact, not only were their performances not great but people consistently overestimated in advance how well they would do. This was further exaggerated the more times they had watched the videos. 

This is not necessarily new science. Some of you may have heard of the Dunning–Kruger effect, where people with low ability, knowledge or experience of a skill or task tend to overestimate their ability or knowledge. 

What are the implications? 

A few come to mind:

  • Make sure that you've actually acquired the skill and not just acquired knowledge of a skill. If in doubt, test yourself by applying the skill. Can you produce the desired result, or do you need to practice more?
  • Combine any online video instruction with other forms of learning such as working with a colleague, active practice, etc
  • Get an expert to assess your skill level and provide feedback and instruction on how to improve
  • Beware of those who "talk a good game of football"! Best to give them the ball and see what they can actually do! 

We were recently awarded the accreditation of Certified Transfer Designer by the Institute for Transfer Effectiveness for being able to create training courses where the skills actually get transferred to the workplace. 

Please get in touch if you'd like to learn more about how we do this...


Listen to the Podcast


Why are photographers less skilled than they used to be?
They're not developing.

I was recently complimented on my driving skills
Someone left a note on my car that said "Parking Fine"

Self-deprecation is my best skill,
And I'm pretty bad at it.

My boss calls me "The computer"
Not because of my calculation skills but because I go to sleep when left unattended for 15 minutes.

My boss said my math skills are average.
That's just mean.
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