By Abigail Hummel
Sophomore, biology major
Like most college kids, I spend a lot of time on the Internet. In particular, I watch a lot of YouTube. And I mean a lot—almost an embarrassing amount.
YouTube often gets dismissed by adults as a time-wasting tool, the place where productivity goes to die. But let’s run through some numbers real quick. I follow a whopping 110 channels on YouTube, about 20 of which can be qualified as educational. In other words, almost 20 percent of the content I watch on YouTube is in fact productive, furthering my education in some way. And I can say with complete certainty that I have learned far more on YouTube than I did throughout my four years of high school—and in far less time.
YouTube is changing the market for educational materials, and educating yourself has never been so cheap and easy! Here are five important YouTube channels that are making it even easier:
Average video length: 9 to 15 minutes
How it’s changing the world: Crash Course is just that—a crash course in a host of academic subjects…sort of similar to high school. Already, high school teachers are using Crash Course videos to supplement their curricula. Does Crash Course hold the potential to put public schools out of business? Maybe!
Why you should care: There’s something for everyone in the Crash Course repertoire—currently, the team has series on world history, US history, biology, chemistry, ecology, psychology, and literature! The videos, while mostly basic, are nevertheless sharp, witty, and entertaining. Refer your younger siblings/cousins/nieces/nephews/family friends!
Average video length: 5 to 7 minutes
How it’s changing the world: Unlike most science courses in middle and high schools, SciShow emphasizes the ongoing nature of scientific discovery, giving equal weight to well-established theories and new, groundbreaking research.
Why you should care: By focusing on research that’s happening right now, SciShow keeps the study of science exciting! The SciShow team does a great job of pulling in multiple scientific perspectives in order to answer questions that are relevant in our daily lives. Plus, their more gimmicky videos (experiments, quiz shows, and a bimonthly talk show featuring exotic animals) are super fun!
Average video length: 8 to 10 minutes
How it’s changing the world: The next generation of Jeopardy winners will all be teenagers who watch Mental Floss. I guarantee it.
Why you should care: Mental Floss is like BuzzFeed’s nerdy older brother—it’s the ultimate brain food. The rapid-fire list format is engaging and accessible to everyone and results in maximal information uptake with minimal effort on your part. Plus, you’ll totally impress your friends with how much useless trivia you know!
Average video length: 3 to 5 minutes
How it’s changing the world: This country is seriously lacking in comprehensive, non-fear-mongering sex education. Sexplanations aims to change that, one video at a time.
Why you should care: There are some questions that you just can’t ask your parents. That doesn’t mean it’s not important to know the answers. Dr. Lindsey Doe, host of Sexplanations, is a clinical sexologist dedicated to educating the public about issues that typically get overlooked in traditional sex education classes. Not only is Dr. Doe incredibly knowledgeable, but she also addresses sexuality with refreshing frankness, honesty, and overwhelming positivity.
Average video length: 4 to 6 minutes
How it’s changing the world: How to Adult is probably the most important channel on this list. For us college kids on the cusp of true adulthood, it’s a blessing. The hosts of How to Adult have the potential to cultivate the most prepared and capable group of rising adults this world has ever seen. Will you stand on the right side of history?
Why you should care: If you’ve ever wished that high school had taught you about taxes and leases instead of geography and trigonometry, today is your lucky day. Emma Mills and Mike Martin hold the keys to the kingdom—and, thankfully, they are willing to share. Even though the channel is brand new and only has a few videos, Emma and Mike have already proven themselves to be engaging and knowledgeable hosts who can somehow make even the dullest adulthood topics into truly enjoyable videos.
WARNING: There is a 100% chance that this channel will make your parents complain even more about “how easy kids these days have it.” Ignore them. They’re just jealous because they had to learn all this stuff the hard way.
Not only is YouTube a hub of culture and entertainment, but it is also changing the game in terms of how educational content is produced and consumed. So go forth and learn, my friends! You’ll be glad you did.