The new school is YouTube. The new student is autodidact.
By Tobias van Schneider Published March 19, 2020
You may already be aware that I'm self-taught. That journey, for me, started almost two decades ago. I did finish high school, but that is pretty much everything I have on paper. Since then, the world has changed.
When I started out, there weren't many resources online. People in the digital space weren't disseminating knowledge the same way they are today. I would've killed to have someone I admire either share their thoughts or let me look over their shoulder. To get a glimpse behind the scenes.
The internet, not too long ago, didn't have YouTube. No design courses existed online. All we had was a couple IRC channels and forums – and most of these were invite-only, meaning you only mingled with those on the same experience level as you. You rarely had a chance to see what the "upper class" of design is doing. If I did happen to get access to a PSD file from a "famous" designer, it could keep me up for nights just studying the layers, replicating the effects, understanding how it was done. But that rarely happened. Being self-taught in the early days of the internet meant taking the hard road and figuring it out yourself as much as you can.
Thinking about it now in 2020, things have changed massively. A self-taught education might still not be the most common path, but it's the one of least resistance, with an abundance of resources.
"The new student doesn't have to go to college, taking on a huge debt that will follow them around for the majority of their most productive years."
In 1990, the lack of resources made it difficult to be self-taught. In 2020, the abundance of resources almost has a paralyzing effect on people. Many people aren't learning on their own because there is simply TOO MUCH information out there. They don't know where to start. And isn't this an amazing problem to have?
We have YouTube: Completely free and ready to teach you pretty much everything you want to know about every topic you can imagine. You just have to search for it.
We have online courses, blogs, Twitter and Instagram. The tools and resources available today only mean that more people can and should be autodidacts.
YouTube is the new school. The new student doesn't have to go to college, taking on a huge debt that will follow them around for the majority of their most productive years. (I have slightly different thoughts on schools in Europe, which are mostly free to attend). Honest truth: I believe the majority of people shouldn't even go to college. I'm not saying that college is categorically bad, I just don't think it's the best solution for many, depending on the subject matter.
At least at this point in the digital age, schools have a completely outdated way of teaching and preparing young people for their professional career. Especially if this career is part of the new technology movement. The internet, however, is adapting and updating at every given moment.
I believe alternative learning scenarios, not bound to the rules of traditional education, will only continue to become more powerful. And I will do my best to support it, to contribute resources I would have loved when I started out as a self-taught designer. It might not replace a school, but it's my way of contributing a tiny bit to a system that is slowly changing.
Hi, I'm Tobias, a German designer living in New York. I'm the founder of DESK, nice to meet you!