Earlier this year, SAGE publications released a white paper titled Great Expectations: Students and Video in Higher Education.  The paper discusses why they watch videos for class and how they search for and access videos for learning.  One major yet unsurprising finding is that most students (71.2%) go to YouTube to search for videos needed for classwork.

Table 2: Where students search for videos

As the paper states, “some students have their favorite channels and regularly search that channel.”  I am curious about how Kirkwood Community College faculty and students use YouTube.  How many teachers purposefully integrate YouTube videos or even channels into their coursework?  Of those who do, how do they integrate them?  Are the videos used as part of the flipped learning environment?

More importantly, what are the YouTube video watching habits of our students for the purposes of learning?  How many students have favorite YouTube channels that help them with their coursework?  Do students or teachers recommend YouTube channels to one another?

Through educating my daughter and my own interests in science, I have learned that there are many great YouTube channels dedicated to getting people interested, curious, and excited about science.  I’d like to share some of them below:

Veritasium is a YouTube channel that describes its channel as “an element of truth – science and engineering videos.”  Most of these videos explore a certain scientific or mathematical concept by engaging others.  It demonstrates how science is alive.  Not all of Veritasium’s videos are about science.  For example, one of my favorite videos critiques my area expertise, the field of education.

SciShow is hosted by YouTube celebrity Hank Green, whose brother is behind another educational YouTube channel dedicated to world history.  SciShow is probably most famous for answering the most common science-related questions that are entered into Google searches.  The channel also provides scientific explanations to recent science-related news items, such as natural disasters and discoveries in space, in a timely manner.  Most episodes are under ten minutes, many of which are even shorter, within five minutes.

Vsauce is my favorite and my daughter’s favorite of these three science-related YouTube channels.  I enjoy most episodes for two reasons: 1) the flow of most episodes follow the seemingly chaotic pattern of curiosity rather than the linear narrative pattern of explanation and 2) the show cites all of its sources so learners can explore their favorite ideas covered in the video more in depth whenever they choose (and improve their digital and information literacy), even during the middle of a Vsauce episode.  My daughter enjoys Vsauce because she asks many of the same questions the host does, and she has a little crush on the host.  Her favorite Vsauce video that she never tires of is called “Travel INSIDE a Black Hole.”


Veritasium, SciShow, and Vsauce are just three of the many YouTube channels dedicated to science.  There are many more channels out there for math (such as Numberphile), social science (such as TestTube), economics (such as We the Economy), and more.

The SAGE white paper tells us a lot more than the fact that most students in higher education turn to YouTube for their video learning needs.  It also discusses student’s expectations, motivations, and attention spans for watching videos as well as the library’s role in providing access to videos, both online and physical (remember DVDs?).   It’s a short read, only 8 pages long, so it’s well worth the time to read if you are interested in how and why students use videos for learning.

If you’re interested in sharing and learning more about how Kirkwood faculty and students use videos for learning, please contact us at KCELT.


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