Young, J. (2009) YouTube Creates New Section to Highlight College Content Chronicle of Higher Education, March 27

Extract: ‘The new YouTube EDU page includes only material submitted by colleges and universities. Spencer Crooks, a spokesman for YouTube, said in a statement that the site now features complete lectures for some 200 full college courses.’

Comment: Don’t get excited – yet. A random trawl through the different college sites showed that more than half are institutional promotional or sports videos. I did find some interesting lectures – such as Tom Friedman at his alta mater, Brandeis University, lecturing about his book, ‘Hot, Flat and Crowded’ – but there is not a proper catalogue yet by topic, so it’s a little bit frustrating and so far not a useful tool for instructors looking for material to add zap to their courses.

One other comment. There is a role for talking heads video, but why can’t we see some actual production values and proper use of the television medium rather than just relaying boring old lectures? Even a ‘pushy’ news-style interview might elicit more interest than someone droning on for nearly an hour. Remember: this is the public face of your university.

For an example of what I mean by decent production values, see the short (2 min. 38 sec) video of Boston University’s Professor James McCann’s research on the relationship between maize growing and malaria in Ethiopia. However, it would be much more useful if there was a direct link from the video site to his academic papers, and other resources, that could form the basis of a teaching module.

I think institutions – and especially the professors contributing their material – need to think a lot more carefully about the purpose of making videos freely available. At worst, it is nothing more than vanity publishing; at best, it could be an extremely valuable resource for many learners who do not otherwise have access to the top research and thinking. However, the latter will not happen just by making videos of classroom lectures. It needs to be thought through as a separate, specially designed, activity if it is to be really useful.

[Note: this is an up-date and expansion of an earlier posting on this topic]


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