In recent years, the training industry has been experiencing a significant shift. The barriers to market entry have lowered, especially with the advent of online marketing. This change has allowed a new breed of “trainers” to emerge—marketers, content curators, and subject matter experts (SMEs) who rebrand themselves as learning and development (L&D) professionals. These new entrants often rely heavily on social media tactics to sell their knowledge to “students.” Unfortunately, the proliferation of these non-professionals is tarnishing the reputation of the entire L&D industry and undermining the delivery of effective training.


Gap #1 – Course Completion Doesn’t Equal Effective Training

A common misconception among these new vendors is that course completion equates to learning. The industry has seen a surge in platforms designed to sell courses online—almost 100 in a recent search. These platforms operate on the belief that once a student completes a course, they have learned something valuable. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

Watching a video or completing a series of lectures does not necessarily mean that real learning has taken place. True learning involves relevant application and practice. Learners must engage with instructionally sound solutions that encourage critical thinking and the application of new skills. Simply put, course completion alone does not transform students into skilled ambassadors who can effectively impact their lives. Effective training goes beyond mere completion; it requires a structured approach to ensure genuine learning and skill development.


Gap #2 -Fun Doesn’t Equate to Skill Acquisition

Another flawed notion perpetuated by these vendors is that making training fun ensures that learners acquire new skills. They often claim, “students have fun taking training,” “games entice people to take your course,” it’s “backed by brain science,” or “proven by behavioral science.” I know the Learning Pirate would shudder at these pseudoscientific claims.

While these elements can enhance engagement, they do not guarantee that learners will change their behavior or acquire new skills. Engagement doesn’t equal effective.

Extrinsic motivation factors, such as fun or gaining XP, rarely drive learners to put in the hard effort required to learn. Learning is inherently challenging, requiring persistence, critical thinking, and application. The superficial engagement tactics promoted by these vendors overlook the depth and complexity of genuine skill acquisition. Effective training focuses on intrinsic motivation and practical application, ensuring learners can transfer their new knowledge and skills to real-world scenarios.


Gap #3 – Lecture Isn’t the Best Modality

The reliance on lectures as a primary teaching method is another pitfall of these new training programs. Many courses by so-called experts are delivered through lectures, which can be inspiring or entertaining but are rarely effective for teaching new skills, whether soft or technical. Instead, this is the default approach because training has been lecture for millennia.

Lectures do not provide opportunities for practice and feedback, which are essential for learning. A somewhat useful example outside the corporate training realm is the “How to Draw” videos, where learners follow along with the artist and pause as needed. This allows learners to directly apply their new skills which is excellent. However, this approach, while somewhat interactive, still lacks the critical elements of practice and feedback.

In the corporate training space, better modalities include coaching, mentoring, peer learning, and interactive eLearning—all of which require a custom, instructionally sound design. These methodologies, however, are often beyond the expertise of non-professional trainers who default to lectures for their simplicity and minimal teaching effort. Effective training employs varied and interactive modalities that promote active learning and skill application.


Gap #4 – Speedy Courses Don’t Mean Fast Skill Acquisition

A misleading promise made by platform vendors is that speedy course creation somehow leads to faster skill acquisition. Statements like “course completion without lifting a finger” epitomize this misguided belief. Likewise, trainers themselves promising “learn X in only 10 minutes a day” also reinforce the promise of no-effort skill acquisition.

While the enthusiasm and passion of content creators are commendable, the notion that minimal effort will result in substantial skill development is far from reality. Effective learning requires time, effort, and a well-structured instructional design. Taking quick, effortless courses may appeal to those seeking convenience, but they do not facilitate the deep, meaningful learning necessary for real skill acquisition. Effective training takes into account the time and effort needed to develop comprehensive learning experiences that truly benefit the learners.

The Impact on the L&D Industry

The influx of non-professional trainers is not just a passing trend; it poses an increasing threat to the credibility and effectiveness of the entire L&D industry. These vendors often lack the foundational knowledge and expertise required to design and deliver effective training programs. Their overreliance on social media marketing and flashy engagement tactics may attract students, but it does little to ensure that these students truly learn and develop new skills.


The L&D industry has been built on principles of instructional design, learner engagement, and practical application for effective training. Professionals in this field understand that learning is a complex process that requires careful planning, execution, and assessment. The rise of non-professional trainers undermines these principles, leading to a proliferation of low-quality training programs that fail to deliver real value.


Upholding Standards in L&D

To counter this trend, it is crucial for the L&D industry to uphold high standards and emphasize the importance of professional expertise and effective training solutions, not just flashy one. Organizations must be discerning when selecting training providers, ensuring that they choose those with a proven track record of delivering effective, instructionally sound programs. Additionally, L&D professionals must continue to advocate for the value of well-designed training that prioritizes learning outcomes over mere course completion.


By reinforcing these standards, the L&D industry can protect its reputation and ensure that learners receive the quality training they need to succeed. While the allure of quick and easy solutions may persist, the long-term benefits of professional, well-designed, and effective training programs will ultimately prevail.