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YouTube University: Edutainment for the Modern Era

The educational world is always abuzz with what will be next to 'revolutionize' the space; centuries of technological developments coincide with educators' and researchers' hopes and dreams, all bigger and more exciting than the last. Paraphrasing world-renowned YouTube educator Derek Muller of 1Veritasium: First we turned to the motion picture, then radio, television, DVDs, SmartBoards after that, and now: YouTube.

While the YouTube landscape is ever-changing and controversial, it has something that the premium online learning resources cannot offer: constant, free content for the masses. According to Karen Hua of Forbes magazine, “In fact, education videos are viewed twice as often as those found in the Pets & Animals category.“

The inspirational acorn from which the entire YouTube learning community benefits is the wholesome story of Khan Academy. From it sprouts many educational channels, affiliated and not affiliated with the creator, Salman Khan, himself. This generous personality is by extension placed on the image of many educational channels. Though not all have become non-profit organizations, and not all are of equal quality.

One of the many valid criticisms regarding YouTube as an educational resource is that its algorithm is easy to manipulate. Once someone steps foot in lousy information, such as conspiracy theory disguised as 'legitimate,' 'alternative' science, then it is near impossible to come back out of the quicksand.

This problem leads to the creation of YouTube's Education page, filled with only pre-verified and factual productions such as those offered by BigThink or CrashCourse. Algorithmic suggestions cannot touch it, and the viewer is shown the pre-made playlists. As The Verge reporter Demi Lee reported, “The playlists will have organizational features, like chapters around key concepts, ordered from beginner to advanced lessons.” It's undoubtedly an improvement in prioritizing legitimacy; however, there is an inherent freedom to YouTube that makes it enticing for the curious mind that one loses with this method. It all stems from the effort to address this problem in 2018, when YouTube Vice President of Content Partnerships Malik Ducard confirmed in a blog post, “[…] we’ll be investing $20m to expand this initiative as we strive to make YouTube even better for educators and learners."

There is still respectable and helpful information available outside of these verified playlists. It does take extra effort on the part of a student to make sure they aren't being duped (such as double-checking the content against their lecture notes and textbook). But it should be noted that there is value in supporting small, individual creators interested in exciting people about their preferred subject of choice.

Inspired by this mission, shared by big and small creators, I thought it'd be fun to boost the voices that have helped me on my academic journey. To broaden the scope, I'll also be sharing the channels that fellow tutors and students such as myself were happy to depend on. From a survey I conducted, I was able to hear about many useful suggestions, so students of all trajectories could benefit. I was also able to identify features that make for a great video watching experience, enhancing comprehension or simply making the experience more enjoyable!

According to the 27 people who responded to the survey, the top three video categories used when people were scouring YouTube for edutainment were:

1) recorded lecture [from a professor or otherwise], 2) video essays by enthusiasts, and 3) conversational content such as podcasts or interviews. This is particularly interesting, as it suggests different levels of comprehension; sometimes, we want to be lectured. Other times, we want to feel apart of a social understanding of a topic. The great thing about YouTube is the collection of these various modes all in one place.

The most widely recognized and used names were CrashCourse, KhanAcademy, and TedEd, to very little surprise. These channels are certainly the face of YouTube as an educational platform; they're still the most prominent leaders today.

Personally, as a film lover and a tech geek, educational content-creators such as CGP Grey, CrashCourse, and Ryan Hollinger were essential to forming that connection made between study and fun. The best part, in my experience, was finding out about how all these notes from lecture and textbook reading sessions could connect to the topics I genuinely enjoy. Beyond that, I respond well to great storytellers and narratives. CGP Grey, in particular, is gifted in this sense, making his most complicated videos easy to digest for me.

It's already exciting to share a great video with a study-buddy or a friend, which is why I'm so glad to be able to share these lists of content creators! The survey responses generously provided many to choose from, so take your pick.

Happy learning!

Works Cited

1Veritasium, director. This Will Revolutionize Education. Performance by Derek

Muller, YouTube, Screen Australia's Skip Ahead, 1 Dec. 2014,

Ducard, Malik. YouTube Learning: Investing in Educational Creators,

Resources, and Tools for EduTubers. YouTube, 22 Oct. 2018,

Hua, Karen. “Education as Entertainment: YouTube Sensations Teaching The

Future.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 23 June 2015,

Lee, Dami. “YouTube Is Launching Educational Playlists That Won't Include

Algorithmic Recommendations.” The Verge, The Verge, 11 July 2019,

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