Isn’t YouTube amazing? You can learn pretty much anything you want just by watching a video. Literally anything, from yoga, knitting or mandarin, to tattooing, unicycling or beatboxing.
In fact, YouTube is the world’s second biggest search engine. There’s so much you can learn on there, it’s a wonder that anyone actually takes lessons any more.
But that got us thinking – is YouTube the best way to learn something new? Is it any better to take lessons instead of learning for free on the internet, at your own pace, in the comfort of your own home?
Let’s consider the evidence…
YouTube is a one-way street
The biggest downside to learning on YouTube is that it’s only one-way communication – which means you won’t get any feedback. And effective feedback is the best possible hack to learning there is. It builds confidence, self-awareness and your enthusiasm for learning. 
It makes sense when you think about it – you can think you’re doing something right but how do you actually know? – When someone else, who knows what they’re doing, gives you feedback. There’s just no way of knowing if you’re watching a video.
Plus you can ask questions, so if something doesn’t make sense, you don’t have to just muddle through through.
Practice makes permanent
We’ve all heard that practice makes perfect, but that’s not strictly true. Practice actually makes permanent – repeatedly doing the same thing over and over again helps things stick in your memory and become automatic. Which is great if you’re doing it right – but if you’re doing it wrong, it will be a lot harder to correct after many hours of practice. Taking a lesson means the likelihood of you doing something wrong, and then cementing it in your memory with practice, is a lot less.
You’ll probably learn faster in a lesson
if you’ve got a limited amount of time, like a holiday or a trip booked that you want to get ready for.
You’re much more likely to actually go to a lesson
We can all be a bit lazy, and when life gets in the way, it’s much easier to cancel on a YouTube video than an actual human being. It won’t be disappointed and it won’t cost you anything!
Having a set time and someone expecting you means you’re much more likely to actually learn what you want instead of putting it off for when you have more time/work is less hectic/ you’ve watched the new series of Stranger Things.
It’s much more fun doing it with someone else
(Get that thought out of your mind, we meant learning!) But seriously, who’s going to laugh at with you when you royally screw something up, like bashing into something (a wall/the floor/your face) or saying the wrong thing. Learning can be hard, but it feels much less so when someone is there sharing the experience with you. Plus who’s going to tell you you’re doing a great job, or cheer when you totally nail something?
YouTube probably isn’t a good idea for dangerous pursuits
Skydiving, base jumping, tattooing, slacklining more than a few feet up – anything likely to cause permanent damage/serious injury/death, you should probably see an expert first rather than just buy some kit and watch a few videos online!
And what about those times when YouTube really is your best bet?
YouTube is free
Depending on what you want to learn, paying for lessons can be really expensive, especially over time. This means YouTube is also great for if you want to try something without committing to a full course (but do see the point above about dangerous activities!)
Choose when and where to learn
The other bonus is that you can learn at your own pace, and do it wherever you want, wifi or 4G permitting of course. Sometimes there aren’t any classes nearby, or you just can’t make the times the class is on. And if you want to practice Spanish at 4am when you can’t sleep, or learn a trick for your brand new skateboard on Christmas Day – YouTube is perfect!
Learn from some of the world’s leading experts
Getting a real-life lesson from a world number one is probably pretty unrealistic, but on YouTube you can get a lesson from some of the best teachers in the world, including tennis tips from Novak Djokovic and guitar lessons from Slash from Guns n Roses!
So, which way is best for you? If you want to save your pennies or can’t find or get to a lesson, YouTube isn’t a bad place to start, but if you’re in a hurry to learn, or don’t want to learn by trial and error, lessons are definitely the most efficient way to go.
What do you want to learn? Check out our goals page if you need some inspiration, and then get your goals list started today!
Also published on Medium.