How YouTube is changing education

Jelissa Burns, News Writer

YouTube has just about any video you could think of, from cooking videos to gameplay walkthroughs and everything in between. Since the creation of the website in 2005, people are now uploading 500 hours of footage every minute, and the website is generating over 1 billion video views daily.

“How-to” searches on the video platform grow over 70% each year. Viewers use the website not only to learn, but to teach. With the number of videos on the site used to instruct and teach viewers varying skills, it is possible that YouTube could replace skill classes and even some educational classes.

Since YouTube was created in 2005, the website has evolved into more than a platform for entertainment including a wide variety of educational videos. (April Lee / Advance-Titan)

YouTube has opened up the tools for education in many ways. Students often use YouTube as an alternate form to learning about a subject.

“YouTube is my go-to when I don’t understand something from a class,” Katey Counts, a graphic design undergraduate at UW-Parkside, said. “As a design student who frequently uses the Adobe Creative Suite, I find the most informational tutorials on this subject on YouTube. Over my college years, I would attribute a large chunk of my Adobe skills to YouTube.”

Channels like Khan Academy, Edutopia and TED-Ed are all dedicated to teaching students different curricular and lessons throughout all grades. Yet, these channels don’t even scratch the surface of the list of channels dedicated to virtual teaching.

However, academic education isn’t the only way that YouTube has provided its users with more skills. In fact, when it comes to learning about new products, users are three times more likely to prefer watching a YouTube video tutorial than reading the product’s instructions. Videos like product unboxing, first tries and product reviews are popular because the viewers get a real person’s opinion on the product they’re interested in.

The beauty category on YouTube is one of the most popular categories on the entire website. In 2016, beauty-related video views increased by 80%.

In fact, one of the highest paid YouTubers is Jeffree Star. Star is a YouTuber who focuses on beauty, makeup and cosmetics. In 2019, Star made $17 million from YouTube alone, making him the fifth highest paid YouTuber of that year.

Young adults and teens have been using YouTube to learn cosmetic skills for years. Users age 18-24 make up 96% of YouTube’s demographics.

Counts, who watches about six to eight hours of YouTube a week, is one of the many young women who use the site for the beauty and cosmetic community.

“Makeup has been a big hobby of mine since I was a teenager,” Counts said. “I feel like a lot of people who are starting to get into makeup turn to YouTube.”

Users who are starting to get into any new hobby often use YouTube. In fact, 70% of millennial YouTube users used the site to learn how to do something new or learn more about something they’re interested in.

Nick Maas, a 22-year-old frequent YouTube user, admits that he has used the website in the past to help him in multiple aspects of his life. Maas said he watches about two hours of YouTube every day.

“A few months ago I needed to change a headlight on my car, and instead of bringing my car in, I figured I could save time and money by watching a how-to video on YouTube,” Maas said. “I’ve also watched ‘tips and tricks’ videos about serving and bartending that have helped me to learn and become better at my job.”

Counts said that YouTube has been a medium for her to gain knowledge on hobbies that she’s already picked up.

“I have used YouTube to expand some of my hobbies,” Counts said. “Recently I’ve gotten really interested in interior design and I have watched a ton of videos relating to that. I have learned a lot about interior design from YouTubers. I also enjoy cooking and YouTube has such a wide variety of culinary tutorials.”

When it comes to education, YouTube has long been integrated into lesson plans and curriculum for teachers to help explain their lesson topic more thoroughly. In a survey conducted on participants aged 14-23, YouTube ranked the highest as a preferred learning tool, with 59% of participants choosing the website.

Lillianna Fowler, an early childhood/elementary education major at UW Oshkosh, said that YouTube has assisted her in her teaching.

“I use YouTube very often myself to guide teaching,” Fowler said. “As an education major, I use YouTube a lot for looking up certain types of lessons and different types of lesson planning. There are a lot of people on YouTube who record how they are planning lessons, what they use to plan lessons, how to make students more engaged in learning, etc. And I use those videos a lot to help integrate better materials into my own learning.”

From cosmetic looks, cooking tutorials, instructional videos on how to build an Ikea bed frame, to learning how to play the guitar or figuring out a math equation, YouTube has a video for you.
When it comes down to it, YouTube is evolving to be more than a social media app or video platform for entertainment. The user-generated website is slowly making its name in the world of education. The site can even be used as a reference or source for essays and reports.

While it’s already starting to evolve into more than a platform for entertainment, is it possible that YouTube could replace some aspects of education, be it in the classroom or even just at home?
Fowler seems to believe that, in some ways, YouTube is already doing this.

“Absolutely,” Fowler said. “There has not been a single class I have been in that doesn’t use YouTube in their instruction. Teachers/professors pull up YouTube videos in every class to help what they are teaching. It’s a resource that many people use.”

Other users agree that YouTube has the ability to be an educational platform.

“I think with this enormous pool of information that YouTube has, it has ways to enhance education and in some ways replace it,” Mass said. “Many topics learned in school could be learned from the comfort of your bed.”

“YouTube and media in general play a big part in what keeps students engaged and helps students understand in a different way,” Fowler said. “Some students like watching videos more than students who like reading out of books. If we have a resource like YouTube, it allows for us to move a little bit past the curriculum and look at it in a different and sometimes better way.”

It’s hard to tell what direction the site may take in order to keep up with its increasing popularity.

Since Google purchased the site in 2006, the website has seen many changes, such as the addition of Youtube Premium, which gives users the ability to purchase a monthly membership that allows them to watch videos without advertisements.

Stricter guidelines and rules have also been placed on videos being uploaded and even comments being made. With the introduction of monetized videos, sponsorships and advertisements, YouTube has also become a means of income for a lot of people.

Despite all the changes, one thing remains the same. YouTube continues to be a free-access website for users to view and upload video content of their choice. While some channels get paid to upload videos, a majority of the channels do not.

The idea that users are uploading content for the simple fact that their video is going to help someone out there, with little to no gain in return, is what makes YouTube so special.

For some users, YouTube is just an app used to find out the newest features on the newest phone or how a foundation will look on certain skin. But for others, YouTube has become a home and a place of comfort. There are so many communities throughout the website, so there is a place for everyone to fit in.

“I would say YouTube has made a large impact on my life,” Counts said. “It’s comforting knowing that if there’s something I want to accomplish, someone has likely already made a YouTube tutorial for it.”