What makes someone an expert?
What qualifies them to teach others how to do something, give “expert” advice or offer an “expert” critique?
As someone who has actually been doing for a living (for nearly 30 years) what I studied in college, my personal experience has been that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to truly KNOW how to do something until you’ve actually done it.
I studied marketing, advertising, and journalism in college.
I did plenty of student projects, wrote for the campus magazine, and even participated in a regional advertising competition. Yet it wasn’t until I graduated and got my first job working in an advertising agency that I realized how much I didn’t know. What I learned in college was theory. I gained knowledge on how things were supposed to work in the real world. What I learned in that first job, and in the 28 years since then, is how things actually work.
Theory is a great foundation.
It gives you a starting point. So you at least look like you know what you’re doing. You know the terminology and buzzwords. But you’re far from being an expert.
Recently, I’ve encountered people in the online teaching world, sharing what appears to be “expert” opinion on what it takes to teach successfully online. They quote online education theory and best practices… things like the number of seconds an image should remain on screen, what types of images are most effective, the ineffectiveness of talking head video lectures vs. PowerPoint-esq presentations, how to price and market courses, and even how much money you can expert to make. And yet, these “experts” don’t have online courses of their own.
I see many budding online instructors absorb this advice with gushing appreciation.
And, it concerns me because this advice is sometimes total misinformation—at least when compared to my real-world experience teaching online—and, I’ll base my future actions on real world results over theory any day.
And yet, on the Internet, anyone can pretend to be an expert. Anyone can share opinions as fact. Anyone can act like a hotshot. But I wonder if they ever really stop to think that they may be hurting others with their advice (I’m sure much of it is well-intentioned, even if it’s off-base). I wonder if they’ve ever stopped to think that MAYBE they ought to go out and try out all their theories before they start teaching them to other people.
I believe you need practical experience before you start sharing advice.
Yes, you can learn a lot in college, or in a book, a course, or from a coach or mentor. But until you’ve actually gotten out there and tested those theories you really don’t know how they’re going to perform in the real world.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion. And social media is a virtual hotbed for the sharing of opinions. I just believe it’s important to delineate between personal opinion and expert advice.
What do you think?
Do you believe someone can be an expert if they’ve only studied a topic? Or do you think they need to have spent some time applying what they’ve learned in the real world before offering advice to others? Please post a comment and share.