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Should you pay to learn online? A case study of Lynda.com vs YouTube

If you want to learn more about coding and how to build a website or a simple animation, you can now do so from the comfort of your home.

Welcome to the new digital era, in which as absurd as it sounds, even design and computer schools are now at risk. The online education market is burgeoning with old timers like Lynda.com, semi-veterans like Treehouse and of course the up-and-coming ones like Coursera.

Industry potential aside, I have always been attracted to this question: Should netizens pay for online learning?

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If curiosity killed the cat, it blew a whole in my pocket. In an attempt to answer the question above, I found myself signing up for a Basic membership account with Lynda.com. I wanted to discover for myself how good the content is. It cost US$25 a month and I was hoping for something value-for-money.

To flip the coin and further explore the notion that free education can be as good, I decided to enrol my eyes into watching a series of YouTube instructional videos. Here are my findings:

The good of learning from Lynda.com 

If you want to learn about HTML5, a programming language for instance, Lynda.com has tonnes of videos just for the topic.

What I like most about the website is how it arranges the videos according to difficulty levels such as beginner, intermediate and so on. I think this is good as it maximises the website with videos catering to different sets of people, in this case with various levels of aptitude on a subject. To me, it is a helpful feature.

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Moreover, another thing I like about Lynda.com is that it is smart enough to match videos with what I love and am passionate about. Thus, I only watch videos which are relevant to me. This saves a lot of time searching for materials and I feel Lynda.com is trying its best to get to know its customers.

The bad of learning from Lynda.com 

Perhaps it is just me, but I was hoping for a certain degree of personality coming from the instructors in Lynda.com. If you are staring at a laptop with no one around you, listening to the tips presented is like lullaby to your ears.

It can be boring.

I suppose Lynda.com wants to keep its content to a more formal tone, or maybe I have not bumped into a charismatic educator there yet. Personally, if its digital, I’d appreciate a bit more personality, a bit more fun. We have short attention spans!

The good of learning from YouTube 

First and foremost, it is free.

I am sure Internet advocates would agree that everything on the web should be made free. One of the skills I wanted to refresh was javascript. I followed thenewboston and boy were the videos real good.

You see, without the monthly subscription, there is no need to hurry and complete the course within a stipulated time-frame. I could truly learn as fast or as slow as I want. Keep calm and learn javascript, anyone?

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Moreover, I really enjoyed the informality presented by thenewboston. He was witty and gave hilarious examples during his lessons. Not even once did my head took a dive to sleep while watching. It was just entertaining and I think I remembered the content more easily than those from Lynda.com.

Perhaps the most important feature is how YouTube itself has an even greater library of videos than Lynda.com. If I want to learn about Edge Animate, I could easily get recommended videos from a multitude of YouTube content producers. This is something that Lynda.com offers (customised suggestions) too but YouTube offers me a wider choice.

The bad of learning from YouTube 

Picture quality, picture quality, picture quality.

If there was a gripe that I have while learning via YouTube, it would be the inconsistent quality. I never faced this problem with Lynda.com – all of its videos were well-produced.

It seems that YouTube’s great numbers has its achilles heel, that is the website may find it hard to monitor the quality and make sure each and every video meets its standard.

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If poor visuals are not enough to frustrate you, YouTube has another huge issue which comes in the form of jumbled up recommended content – not arranged in sequence according to tutorial lesson numbers – sitting right below or at the side of your video. Imagine you are at Tutorial No. 3 and you have to search around to find No.4. Definitely not ideal for a curriculum standard of teaching which is vital for student understanding of concepts.

So should you pay?

Nope, I don’t think you should pay.

One of the first courses that I took at Lynda.com was on search engine optimisation. Yes, I gathered knowledge – maybe some trade secrets – but a sceptical part of me kept saying that I may be able to get the same content free just by heading to the library. Besides its foibles, YouTube offers a more flexible and entertaining option. (Oh, did I mention you can also learn from other YouTube users who share their own tips and tricks for free?)

I would not recommend paying for the premium account for Lynda.com too. As a matter of personal preference, I would rather write the codes by hand. I tend to remember and have a better grasp of the language when I do that. Nonetheless, beginners may find the exercise files useful.

Also read: Want to learn Thai and speak like a pro? Here’s a handy website to get you started

Featured image credit: UnderConsideration

 

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