Educational Content on YouTube

YouTube is well known as the website that hosts illegal music videos and cats, and while the cat videos are abundant and adorable, there's been a new trend on YouTube toward channels and videos that offer viewers educational content as well as entertainment.

My introduction to educational videos started with the general "How To" theme. I was able to find solutions to every question I had, from building a website, to fixing the settings on my computer, or to doing my own laundry. (Sorry Mom, but I totally learned that from the internet.) After spending years on YouTube mostly watching comedy bits and the aforementioned cat videos, I was finally introduced to the Vlogbrothers through their human sexuality video.

In my mind, John and Hank Green (of the Vlogbrothers) revolutionized education content on YouTube. Their channel started in 2007 with Brotherhood 2.0 as a experiment for the brothers and entertainment for their viewers. As time went on, their videos started including more educational materials about history and current events. In 2011, the brothers started what would become a long list of educational channels each with a different theme. At the time of writing this, the Vlogbrothers have produced:

  • SciShow - a channel about all things science
  • SciShow Space - a channel about all things astronomy
  • Crash Course - a series of playlists for topics at the level of high school course,
  • Brain Scoop - a channel from the Chief Curiosity Correspondent of The Field Museum in Chicago about animals, biology, and other parts of science
  • Healthcare Triage - a channel that focuses on providing health information where research is the main source
  • How to Adult - a channel that teaches basic thing they don't teach in school about being an adult

Outside of the family of the Green brothers' (and related) channels, I also recommend:

While it's easy for everyone to have a YouTube channel, many of these educational channels have large operating costs which make them difficult to fund through advertising revenue alone. SciShow and CrashCourse were originally funded by a YouTube grant. They are both currently supported mostly through fan donations on Patreon. Patreon allows for fans to support their favorite creators directly, and for creators to have a regular income for their projects.

The popularity of these educational channels has not gone unnoticed by YouTube. The video hosting site recently put a great deal of advertisement backing behind SciShow causing the channel to grow substantially in viewership.

As educational content videos become more popular with viewers, educators are beginning to look to YouTube for supporting materials in the classroom and as study materials. CrashCourse viewership counts grow exponentially on old and new videos during AP exam season, and both SciShow and CrashCourse are used in hundreds of classes around the world. Personally, I tried to bring a short Minute Physics video to my Introductory Astronomy classes whenever possible. The structure and content of these video series allow the students to be entertained in the subject and for educators to expand upon their students' interest with activities related to the videos.

I spend more time on YouTube then I care to admit, but through my love of online video I have found a community of people who create great things and I'm happy to be a part of it. In 2014 I was lucky enough to attend Vidcon, the annual online video convention. I was pleasantly surprised that the educational content panel was one of the most packed panels. I think this speaks to what creators want to create and what viewers want to watch. I hope to see more educational based content being created in the near future.

To summarize, there are hundreds of wonderful educational channels out there and I encourage you to go look for them or to start your own.

I have produced one video on my YouTube channel so far, which you can watch here! I hope to one day return and post more.

Written on February 15, 2015