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1 YouTube

Keith Pender, Memorial University of Newfoundland

2 Definitions and background

YouTube is a database platform on the Internet for users to upload, share, and watch videos (Snyder and Burke, 2008). It was first launched in 2005, and, since then, has become one of the most popularly visited website platforms for sharing and viewing videos on the Internet (Courtois, Merchant, Ostyn, and Marez, 2013). On the YouTube platform, individuals or groups subscribe to a channel, allowing the user permission to create user-generated content for uploading videos, providing personal information, linking to other websites, or providing links to other video content and subscriptions (Tímár, Kárpáti, and Kokovay, 2011). The video platform is considered to be part of the Web 2.0 family, a development of the World Wide Web where information is shared collaboratively through social networking (Krauskopf, Zahn, and Hess, 2012).

YouTube is a free emerging media that allows learners to create videos that demonstrate understanding of knowledge on a topic (Tímár et al., 2011). Engaging students in their understanding of a topic through video supports constructivist learning (Tan and Pearce, 2011). Lee and Lehto (2013) found that “the popularity of YouTube hinges on its ability to create social and digital community of individuals interested in a specialized topic and expertise” (p. 203).

3 Affordances

One of the affordances of YouTube is, as Seilstad (2012) noted, that it does not require extensive training to become proficient in its use. A single click allows users to share files on social networking sites and embed files on websites (Courtois et al., 2013). Using the YouTube search engine, visitors can browse through videos from the database (Snelson, Rice, and Wyzard, 2012). There are also an online help center, tutorials, and resources to help individuals use the platform (Bromley, 2008). On each page, users can take advantage of the interactive features by sharing the videos on social media, providing comments, and giving their opinion of the video by selecting the like/dislike button (Koh, 2013).

Abendroth, Golzy, and O’Connor (2011) found that user-generated content published on YouTube by pre-teachers, afforded the opportunity to engage participants in conceptual learning, thus improving the candidates' readiness for teaching. In an online course, microteaching videos allowed pre-service teachers to receive constructive feedback on their teaching performances (O’Connor, 2011). Keegan and Bell (2011) found the creative process of making films for YouTube was an enjoyable learning experience for students. Keegan and Bell also observed many of the students continuing their participation as producers of content on YouTube beyond the module completion date. Viewing content from YouTube can also provide the flexibility to learn something procedurally, which can improve the learner’s understanding in how to do something (Lee and Lehto, 2013). Instructional videos enable participants in learning skills in physical education (Tímár et al., 2011), a music instrument (Kruse and Veblen, 2012), and writing skills (Seilstad, 2012).

Snyder and Burke (2008) found that students reported that watching YouTube videos enhanced their learning. Seilstad (2013) found that responses from students enrolled in a writing course indicated that YouTube videos were a new way for learning the content, by watching the videos before or after class.

Affordances also include the opportunity to interact socially in an online community by sharing videos (Tan, 2013). Snelson et al. (2012) concluded that YouTube is a “constantly evolving mixture of interactions” (p. 127). Tan and Pearce (2011) found that sharing videos enabled students to start conversations, interact and build relationships. Koh (2013) argued that the potential of videos related to interacting through discussion and debating moral issues. For users with disabilities, or parents of children with disabilities, YouTube can be used for educating the global community about disabilities, sharing experiences, giving practical tips, and providing emotional support to people who share similar circumstances (Bromley, 2008).

4 Constraints

Lee and Lehto (2013) noted the perception of YouTube as a medium for entertaining, resulting in the platform not being recognized for its educational content in motivating student learning. Krauskopf et al. (2012) found that students considered YouTube “as a tool for entertainment and taking a break from learning” (p. 1204). Krauskopf et al. (2012) also indicated that participants considered the entertaining function of the video to be of higher importance than the material. Tan and Pearce (2011) reported that participants interacting on YouTube often view and rate videos based on their entertainment value, which may not always align with the educational value of the content.

An additional constraint related to the use of YouTube for learning relates to Bromley's (2008) observation that searching for an appropriate learning resource relevant to a specific teaching outcome involves a considerable amount of browsing time. Tan and Pearce (2011) found that students felt professors should be cognizant of the video’s length and appropriate inclusion of resources, indicating that the selection of shorter videos may be better suited for learning as well as ensuring the video’s content is relevant to course materials. Regarding searching for information on YouTube, Tímár et al. (2011) indicated that videos are sometimes tagged inappropriately, suggesting that programmers revise tagging protocols and include guidelines for users when uploading videos to the platform. In an analytical study of videos about disabilities, Bromley (2008) used thirteen key word tags for searching the YouTube database and observed examples of videos containing inaccurate content and unsupported evidence. Snyder and Burke (2008) identified that inappropriate content is uploaded to YouTube and instructors should preview any video before sharing it in the classroom.

Another constraint relates to the anonymous nature of YouTube (Halpern and Gibbs, 2013). Halpern and Gibbs (2013) found that the fact that subscribers are not required to provide personal information, often results in impolite behaviors by users with anonymous profiles in this environment. Koh (2013) also identified the problem related to anonymity that participants potentially exhibit unfriendly behaviors.

A further constraint of learning pertains to, as Krauskopf et al. (2012) indicated, the training in technologies to support the participant’s professional content knowledge. Snyder and Burke (2008) identified that instructors should request professional development practices in learning how to use YouTube in order to develop the technological content knowledge for participants to feel comfortable with developing and incorporating video resources in their courses and lectures.

5 Links

About YouTube

Official YouTube Blog

Engaging the YouTube Google-Eyed Generation

Educause - 7 Things you should know about YouTube

YouTube Pedagogy: Finding Communities of Practices in Distributed Learning World

6 Works Cited

Abendroth, M., Golzy, J., O'Connor, E. (2011). Self-created YouTube recordings of microteachings: Their effects upon candidates’ readiness for teaching and instructors’ assessment. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 40(2), 141-159. DOI:

Bromley, B. (2008). Broadcasting disability: An exploration of the educational potential of a video sharing web site. Journal of Special Education Technology, 23(4), 1-13.

Courtois, C., Mechant, P., Ostyn, V., and De Marez, L. (2013). Uploaders' definition of the networked public on YouTube and their feedback preferences: A multi-method approach. Behaviour & Information Technology, 32(6), 612-624. DOI: 10.1080/0144929X.2011.586727.

Halpern, D., and Gibbs, J. (2013). Social media as a catalyst for online deliberation? Exploring the affordances of Facebook and YouTube for political expression. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(3), 1159-1168. DOI:

Keegan, H., and Bell, F. (2011). YouTube as a repository: The creative practice of students as producers of open educational resources. European Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning. Date of publication 20 December 2011. Retrieved October 3, 2013 from

Koh, C. (2013). Exploring the use of web 2.0 technology to promote moral and psychological development: Can YouTube work? British Journal of Educational Technology. Article first published online 6 June 2013. DOI: 10.1111/bjet.12071.

Krauskopf, K., Zahn, C., and Hess, F. (2012). Leveraging the affordances of YouTube: The role of pedagogical knowledge and mental models of technology functions for lesson planning with technology. Computers & Education, 58(4), 1194-1206. DOI:

Kruse, N., and Veblen, K. (2012). Music teaching and learning online: Considering YouTube instructional videos. Journal of Music, Technology & Education, 5(1), 77-87. DOI:

Lee, D., and Lehto, M. (2013). User acceptance of YouTube for procedural learning: An extension of the technology acceptance model. Computers & Education, 61(2), 193-208. DOI:

O'Connor, E.A. (2011). The effect on learning, communication, and assessment when student-created YouTubes of microteaching were used in an online teacher-education course. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 39(2), 135-154. DOI: 10.2190/ET.39.2.d.

Seilstad, B. (2012). Using tailor-made YouTube videos as a preteaching strategy for English language learners in Morocco: Towards a hybrid language learning course. Teaching English with Technology, 12(4), 31-47. Retrieved October 3, 2013 from

Snelson, C., Rice, K., and Wyzard, C. (2012). Research priorities for YouTube and video-sharing technologies: A Delphi study. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(1) 1, 119–129. Article first published online 4 March 2011. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2010.01168.x.

Snyder, S., and Burke, S. (2008). Students’ perceptions of YouTube usage in the college classroom. International Journal of Instructional Technology & Distance Learning, 5(11). Retrieved October 3, 2013 from

Tan, E., and Pearce, N. (2011). Open education videos in the classroom: exploring the opportunities and barriers to the use of YouTube in teaching introductory sociology. Research in Learning Technology, 19(1). Published: 31 August 2011. DOI: 10.3402/rlt.v19s1/7783.

Tan, E. (2013). Informal learning on YouTube: Exploring digital literacy in independent online learning. Learning, Media and Technology, 38(4), 463-477. DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2013.783594.

Tímár, S., Kárpáti, A., and Kokovay, Á. (2011). Teaching with YouTube: Quality assessment of English and Hungarian videos in physical education. European Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning. Date of publication: 29 September 2011. Retrieved October 3, 2013 from