The Best Way to Learn Digital Marketing: Self-Study Versus Instructor-Led Training

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There is a growing demand for digital marketing courses in the last few years. But only in the last few years, i.e. starting 2011. Yet digital marketing (also referred to as  online marketing and Internet marketing) has been around since the 1990s.

It seems that all this time, it has mainly been a lot of trial-and-error and do-it-yourself for those who want to do digital marketing. That means digital marketing veterans have learned things the hard way: on their own.

Surely, anyone can learn digital marketing — well, practically anything — through self-study. We live in an explosion of information. There are so many resources online and offline on anything under the sun. There are almost 25 million search results for the key phrase “digital marketing.” So, if there is so much information out there and if the pioneers in digital marketing did everything on their own, why do people consider taking up training courses in digital marketing?

There are 5 advantages that an instructor-led training program in digital marketing over self-study:

1. Structure

The main advantage of a more formal training program over self-study is structure. A well-designed course will have learning objectives, training outcomes, content and instructional design, training materials, and validation to measure effectiveness. It’s well-structured, designed to take you from A to Z, step-by-step, from general to specific, theory to application. You know where to start and where to end.

Self-study, on the other hand, can be a bit of a — how do I put this? — a mess. With almost 25 million search results, really, where do you start? With so much information, it will overwhelm you. And even if you get started, what’s the next step? What do you do next?

2. Discipline

The other major advantage of taking a digital marketing course instead of learning things on your own is discipline. Enrolling in a training program forces you to sit down, concentrate, and learn. If you invest in a course, you want to make sure it pays off right? So you will do your best to attend all sessions and make the most out of it.

Now, try learning about all the major areas of digital marketing on your own. It will take a lot of discipline and will power to just get started. Once you begin, will you be able to sustain your initial enthusiasm? Will you invest time reading books, e-books, and articles online, and watching YouTube videos? Or will you get easily distracted watching cat videos, answering Facebook personality quizzes, and sharing Game of Thrones memes?

3. Time

If you enroll in a training program, you might feel you are wasting time. Instead of working or doing other things, you have to drag yourself to learn for a few hours once a week or so. There is also the time consumed going to the training venue. But think of it this way: there is a time limit to a formal training program. You know exactly how many hours it will take There’s a beginning and end. And because there is structure and discipline, you actually save time this way.

Contrast this to self-study. You think it’s free because it costs nothing? It will cost you time, a lot of time, certainly a lot more time than undergoing a training course in digital marketing. You will spend time Googling, time filtering search results, time evaluating whether the content is any good, time reading or watching, and time figuring out what to do next. And yes, time wasted because of distractions. Plus, because there’s no structure and you’re not sure if you learned what you need to know, it just doesn’t seem to end.

4. Interaction

We are social beings. Yes, even the most introverted among us. We crave interaction and connection. And we learn better if there is a back-and-forth between a lecturer and students, and among students. An instructor-led training program offers this kind of interaction. A good lecturer does not just transfer information, he or she facilitates lively discussion. In this environment, you can ask questions, clarify things you find confusing, ask your seatmate for help, talk to the lecturer during a break, learn from other participants who share their own experiences, and work together in small groups to solve problems or answer practical exercises.

Now if you self-study, you basically stare at a book or your computer screen. Fun. Seriously, who can you ask? What might take you hours figuring something out might be answered by a seasoned trainer in a couple of minutes. And while there is a treasure trove of learning materials online as well as brilliant insights from digital marketing gurus, nothing beats the experience of a fellow participant sharing a unique perspective or a lecturer giving his little secrets.

5. Networking

While you don’t enroll in a digital marketing course to network, face it: your class is a network. You have different lecturers who are experienced and could help you in your business or career even after the program. You have fellow students from different backgrounds and industries who may end up being a supplier, customer, or business partner.

Obviously, there are no opportunities to network if you self-study. It’s a lonely island, unless you count your cat beside you.

The Verdict

Now, don’t get me wrong. There is a place for self-study. If you are organized and disciplined, and you can spare the time, then go ahead and do it on your own. If you know enough and just want to add to your knowledge and skills, you can just self-study.

But if you are just starting or you feel it will be hard for you to commit learning on your own, then by all means considering enrolling in a digital marketing training course.

The Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing program is a foundational course and it’s now available in the Philippines. That means if you want to have a solid foundation in digital marketing, this is the right training program for you. It has a rigorous and well-structured syllabus, validated by DMI’s Syllabus Advisory Council made up of the world’s biggest Internet companies and digital agencies. It is updated regularly (it’s now on version 6.0).

It’s a 10-week, 40+ hour training program conducted once a week, half-day, by seasoned digital marketing practitioners. Yes, you will be devoting over 400 hours of training. But you know exactly how much time you need to devote, time that you also save because the comprehensive course covers all major areas of digital marketing. You are sure you will learn what you need to learn in digital marketing.

And since it’s in a live classroom environment, there are plenty of opportunities to ask questions and learn from fellow students. The course is highly interactive, with time for Q&A, group exercises, and classroom discussions. Plus, you get to network with our lecturers and your co-learners.

In the end, for something that can be technical like digital marketing, it’s best to enroll in an instructor-led training program. And then, once you have acquired the necessary knowledge and skills, you can continue learning through self-study or take up more advanced courses online.

Heinz is the Program Director of DigitalMarketersHQ (DMHQ) and President of Learning Curve, the Education Partner of the Digital Marketing Institute (DMI) in the Philippines. He is an Internet and technology media pioneer, publishing and editing print and online content since the late 90s.

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DigitalMarketersHQ (DMHQ) is the Education Partner of the Digital Marketing Institute (DMI) in the Philippines. Follow our blog to learn about industry trends, best practices, and digital marketing training and careers.

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