I half agree with this. I tend to agree that you don’t “need” a formal education in many things creative — this includes both design and programming. There’s definitely a talent factor or an aptitude if you will. In fact I often question the value of college for such professions as the costs only keep increasing and as I continue to pay off the last bits of my student loans. However. I would still caution designers to understand the fundamentals and not just focus on learning tools/software.
I did go to school for design (SVA) and what they focus on there is actually branding, identity, authorship, and being entrepreneurial. Sure, they had a few courses you could take for Photoshop, but that’s not the focus nor is that a good use of your money (seriously, that school gives you access to a level you will not find easily elsewhere — that is the design industry and every teacher is a working professional or very well published author). This kind of education is not to be underestimated or undervalued and it’s also the parts that are hard to self-educate on too unfortunately.
You can always teach yourself to use Sketch or Photoshop…But reaching for Lynda or Coursera isn’t going to help you much for design fundamentals unfortunately. I’ve even seen previous teachers of mine try out Skillshare — They don’t actively use it anymore…Because it doesn’t translate. It’s not the same. An education in design is very much about collaboration and, like design itself, it’s a process. While I can buy the virtual critique, it’s not the same as tacking your work (and actually printing out your work) to a board in a room with others to critique. Something is lost in that digital translation unfortunately (great opportunity for someone to nail that by the way and not Dribbble nor DeviantArt nor any other site has gotten this right yet either).
The internet gives us a lot of flexibility and forgiveness with design, so we’re pretty fortunate. Though it’s stepping up its game. It’s also a community full of easily repeatable trends and we like those trends. It’s great for UX to follow the trends even.
However, it can not replace a formal education in design. Though the rising costs of education do present a very unfortunate barrier. I would at least strongly suggest some good design books. Get off the internet and pick up something tangible. Design is not just visual, it’s also physical. Think outside the box (that is your computer screen).