Video has traditionally been a highly popular and effective training tool, but has it been replaced by YouTube, Vimeo, and other online video sites? In a sense it has, but there are certain essential things that YouTube doesn't provide by itself, so while it is indeed a highly useful addition to a training program, it's not the be-all and end-all in training.
In 2013, a ground-breaking study compiled data from 500 learning professionals from a total of 48 different countries, to come up with a list of the top 100 learning tools - that is, tools people use for personal learning, or tools used by professionals in teaching and training. It shouldn't come as a surprise that the top ten slots were almost all taken by online tools such as Twitter, Google Docs, YouTube, Evernote, Dropbox, Wordpress, Facebook, and Google Hangouts. The top three alone are enormously powerful tools:
1. Twitter: With its 140 characteric limit, some people find it difficult to think of Twitter as a useful training tool. However,it's number one for a good reason, and that's the immediacy of sharing in real-time your ideas and thoughts with others, not to mention the ease with which links can be shared. Twitter is a productivity-killer for some, but when it's used correctly it can add incredible depth to discussions, presentations, and training sessions, simply because it makes real-time group discussion so easy.
2. Google Drive/Docs is high up on the list because it makes document collaboration an absolute breeze in distance learning. For trainers who use online learning in their approach, it's an invaluable tool not only for working with learners, but also for creating surveys and spreadsheets.
3. As for YouTube, it's number 3 ranking is well-deserved. It's an absolute treasure-trove of videos on almost any subject imaginable, presented in a wide variety of ways. From videos of formal training sessions and presentations, including the phenomenal TED Talks series, to casual one-on-one “classes” that make learning feel personal even when it's conducted through video clips. Another huge advantage is the ease with which videos can be shared, whether it's with a simple Twitter link, or by embedding a video into a wiki, block, or email newsletter.
YouTube is definitely not the only way to learn, but it has quickly become an extremely important one, in part because video is itself an effective tool, but also because YouTube is such a convenient and easily-accessible medium for disseminating educational and training information. It's fast and easy to upload videos, it's free to upload and to watch videos, and once videos are uploaded they're easily accessed by anyone with an internet connection.
There are some downsides, of course, for example in some training situations, the opportunity for real-time discussion isn't there. However, they're not necessarily inherent to the medium, they're mostly about how trainers choose to use the tools they have. YouTube can definitely be an effective part of a one-on-one or group training session, for a trainer who wants to use it that way.
Youtube is increasingly becoming the main way in which people choose to digest their information. Youtube tutorials are no longer a new ideas for the wired generation, they are the norm. While there are limitations, particularly around the one-to-one training experience Youtube will continue to be at the top of the online training tools.