Wednesday, May 13, 2009

YouTube goes educational

Uncomfortable desks, crowded classrooms and inflexible schedules may be a concern of the past as the popular Web site YouTube recently launched a new section of its site that is strictly dedicated to helping users get free access to educational content that is uploaded by universities and students. With more than 100 schools involved in the new YouTube EDU project, the public can easily scan through videos that range from entire lectures to college events and are categorized by the most viewed clips, most subscribed and are also organized through the directory for each college and university.

“If teaching was just content delivery then we wouldn’t need faculty,” Harding said. “I’m not saying there’s not a place for lecture because they are an important tool, but just videotaping a 50 minute lecture and putting it up doesn’t necessarily cause an increase in learning.”

Assistant professor Steven Hart is one that follows this teaching philosophy and has used TeacherTube as a resource to instruct his students for the past three years.

“It was initially designed for teachers because of all the content that’s on YouTube that may not be appropriate for schools,” Hart said. “So these are teachers who could upload videos to share with colleagues or if they come across an interesting video they’d like to share.”

Hart believes that using video and online sources as supplemental teaching aides allows his students to become more interactive with the content as well as provide a visual model that can physically demonstrate techniques through the videos. He also explained that the hybrid approach of incorporating the lecture aspect and technology-enhanced methods into his classes is the best option for all learning styles, which isn’t necessarily true for his past courses that were strictly online.

Students that signed up for online courses weren’t basing their decision off the idea that it would be a great learning tool, but because of the convenience and flexibility it allowed, Hart said. And although the classes are taught void of the person-to-person contact, he explained that students could still communicate with their peers and the instructor through discussion boards, which may pose as a problem for YouTube EDU viewers.

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