Friday, April 03, 2020

Chen & Hurley – YouTube as a learning platform

Chad Hurley and Steven Chen are the founders of YouTube, one of the most successful and remarkable websites ever created. Hurley studied Fine Art, Chen Science and Maths. Chen who was born in Taiwan met Chad Hurley when they both worked at eBay’s PayPal,  three years later they founded YouTube in 2005. It was sold to Google for £1.65 billion in 2006. 

Use by learners

Studies Moghavveni (2018) show that teachers, but especially learners, make enormous use of YouTube. It is used both as a complementary method for teaching and on a massive scale by learners on almost every imaginable subject. In one study 86% of users reported using YouTube to learn new things. In one study both  Millennials and Gen Z stated that YouTube was their preferred learning method.

Education and training possibilities

YouTube is a huge repository of video clips. It experienced massive growth, not only in the number of videos uploaded but on the number of videos watched. Its staggering success came on the back of word of mouth and word of mouse recommendations, starting with Saturday Night Live’s Lazy Sunday clip.

Although set up to share entertainment, often funny and surreal, it now has thousands of education and training videos. It has become the go to video website for many learners. YouTube shows that searchable repositories need not be confined to text and images. Its mass appeal has allowed it to build and support a service that has a strong brand and a robust infrastructure. It has grown as a bottom-up repository and now contains a huge wealth of useful content in almost every imaginable subject.
Its power comes from the sheer size of the repository and range of content. Like Wikipedia it is growing exponentially and as more serious content appears, teachers, trainers, lecturers and learners can use this content as a free resource. It has also influenced the way video appears and is shown on the web. Most of the clips are short, avoiding overlong instructional content and cognitive overload. These short clips are often low on production values but high on creativity and fun.

Learning platform

YouTube is the new television, the largest audio-visual channel in history and the second largest search engine, after Google. It has uncovered new ways of watching, patterns of attention and new ways of interacting with an audience. In short, it is a new learning platform that breaks many of the old rules around learning. 
Creatively, YouTube has spawned lots of new genres of video instruction:
Khan blackboard and coloured chalk – simple but effective as the learner’s mind is not cluttered with seeing Khan – it is the semantic content that matters, not talking heads.
Thrun’s hand and whiteboard – again it is not Thrun’s head that matters but seeing worked problems and solutions.
RSA animations – clever animations that end up as a single infographic.
TED talks – shows how lectures should be – passionate experts, no notes, no reading, little PowerPoint and short.
Software demos – just show me the steps one by one.
Physical demos – point the camera at the engine, radiator or whatever I need to fix and show me how to do it, with commentary. 
Sports coaching – wayward tennis serve? Watch an expert coach you in slow motion.
If you can video it, it’s somewhere on YouTube. Features such as captioning, automatic generation of transcripts and editing features have increased its usefulness for educators.

Learning by doing

Learning by doing has always suffered in the unreal world of the classroom and school. An important advance has been made through YouTube in vocational and practical learning, where real tasks are shown on video. These often involve the manipulation of real objects and the demonstration of processes, all of which can be seen full screen, increasingly on portable tablets and mobile devices. The pedagogy of ‘learning by doing’ can be brought into the learning environment via YouTube. Even sports and other motor skills can benefit from video coaching. Musical education has been revolutionised by the demonstration of fingers on chords and other techniques. Sports coaching in almost every imaginable sport, is commonplace


Easily denigrated, the talking head is still popular on YouTube. The video blog, expert talk and many other examples of someone giving their all, is still there. TED is perhaps the most interesting example, a respected brand that focuses on the expert speaker to deliver punchy sessions that eschew traditional lecturing for short, passionate and informative talks. TED gives strict instructions to their speakers and understands that video and lectures are not about the transfer of knowledge but the passion of the expert and a vision. Lectures, interviews, drama and other learning formats are also common.


YouTube has the advantage of being a powerful global brand. The fact that video cameras have become cheap and embedded in phones, has meant the massive, popular creation of content, as well as watching. It is shaping the way video is created, distributed and watched on the web. It has the potential to act as a vast education and training resource of free content, lowering costs for learning. More than this, it has introduced pedagogic changes around the use of video; its length, quality, format and breadth of uses. As a pedagogic approach it is clearly useful in both formal and informal learning, an enduring massive, open, online pedagogy pushing the creation of video for learning as bandwidth increases and more devices can handle the delivery of video.


Beyond Millennials: The Next Generation of Learners (2018).

Moghavvemi, S., Sulaiman, A., Jaafar, N.I. and Kasem, N., 2018. Social media as a complementary learning tool for teaching and learning: The case of youtube. The International Journal of Management Education, 16(1), pp.37-42.

1 comment:

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