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Are Academics Overrated in a YouTube World?

It isn’t a stretch to say that we have a world of knowledge at our literal fingertips. So what does that mean in regards to formalized education for adult learners?

As I scroll through my various feeds, I often see and resonate with the popular sentiment that anyone can learn anything, anytime, anywhere. And I totally agree! I’m not sure a day goes by when I don’t Google how to complete a task, do a repair, or fine-tune a process. At this point, it’s a habit for me. I’m guessing it’s one for you too. 

It isn’t a stretch to say that we have a world of knowledge at our literal fingertips. So what does that mean in regards to formalized education for adult learners? As an educator who has advanced degrees and serves as adjunct faculty to a number of schools, am I headed in the wrong direction? Should we commission museum displays for syllabi and pedagogy alongside stagecoaches, Atari Pong, and dial-up Internet?

Thankfully, it’s not my role to answer that question for leaders worldwide, but I would like to offer some perspective for those actively involved in church ministry and seeking to impact the next generation. At the front of the conversation, there are three truths about learning and academics we must consider.

Relevant questions guide the journey.

The most impactful mentor in my life often said, “Without questions, there is no learning.” And to expand on that truth, we could say that only the correct questions will obtain the desired results. If you are attempting to train to complete a marathon but are only googling, “fastest sneakers” or, “how to run really fast,” you have little chance of success. Why? Because you aren’t asking the right questions. But if you start by googling “couch to 5k” or “my first marathon,” then you’re probably on your way to succeeding because you’re asking a different question. 

So how do you know what questions to ask? In a well-designed academic program such as Orange’s certification and master’s programs, we’ve worked with leading educators, curriculum designers, and practitioners to assist with framing the correct questions. Additionally, a quality program will have you crafting your application projects to solve real-world questions you’re battling in your everyday world. At the end of the day, I agree that there are no dumb questions. But there are right ones. And those are the ones we need to be asking.

Synchronized content crushes random truths.

For nearly four years, I had a TIG welding machine with no idea how to use it properly. An accomplished TIG welder should be able to form aluminum weld beads into a “stack of dimes,” whereas mine looked like “bird droppings.” I must have watched a hundred YouTube videos, Instagram stories, and tutorials. Yet I was still making very little progress.

Then one day, I made a decision to walk away from the computer screen and take an actual welding class—in person, with a real-life human. In just over eight hours of guided, planned discussion with immediate feedback, I made significant progress. I wasn’t told anything I hadn’t previously heard, but I was given timely and relevant information in context and with guidance. And it made all the difference. 

As a church leader trying to pivot, respond, and proactively lead, random content isn’t going to cut it. Having the opportunity to grow through a planned curriculum and proven processes will help you outpace your challenges and lead with confidence.

Real-world application and feedback prevent drift.

It’s shocking how wrong my personal perceptions are. Many days, I’m convinced I only ate the targeted 2,000 calories . . . until I enter my food choices into an app and see just how wrong I was. I assume my running form is textbook until I see my shadow and am reminded of a giraffe with a limp. 

I could go on, but the point is that my self-esteem is taking a beating. We all benefit from a running partner who reminds us to “shorten our stride,” a friend who suggests a healthier restaurant, or a colleague who edits our materials. Left to our own devices, we can wrongly assume we’re making more progress than we really are. Within an academic certification or a master’s program, we get to dialogue with others who sharpen our ideas and raise new exemplars before us. Instructors provide guidance and create linkage to assist in application.

So what’s your next step? Would jumping into a master’s program focused on the organizational leadership of family ministry be a good step? Or how about a three-course certification in Thinking Orange to help you gain confidence and build credibility? We’re here to help you take the next step. Click here to find out more. 

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