YouTube as an Instrument of Learning in Higher Education: Opportunities and Challenges

Rudenkin D., Grushevskaya V. YouTube as an instrument of learning in higher education: opportunities and challenges // Proceedings of the European Conference on e-Learning, ECEL-2019. P. 684-686.


Dmitry Rudenkin, Veronika Grushevskaya

Ural Federal University, Yekaterinburg, Russia

Abstract: Fashion for using video resources of the Internet and especially YouTube in the educational process is becoming more and more noticeable in universities and colleges around the world. Perhaps, there is nothing strange in this trend. Contemporary students are used to spending a lot of time in the Internet every day. Besides, it is true, that YouTube contains a significant amount of useful information for learning. This information is presented on various popular science and educational channels. So, using of YouTube allows to conduct learning in a familiar and comfortable form. Therefore, the fashion for using of YouTube resources in the educational process is hardly surprising. But an understanding of the true opportunities of using of YouTube in this area still needs a clarification. Is there a real need to using of YouTube in the education process? What are the specific opportunities of it’s using in education? And what are the challenges of it’s using in education? This paper is devoted to the description of the research, which was started by authors for clarification of these complicated questions. The initial goal of the research is to clarify the specific opportunities and risks of using of YouTube as an instrument of learning in higher education. The authors focus their interest on the analysis of particular case of using of YouTube resources in educational process at the Ural Federal University (Ekaterinburg, Russia) during one educational cycle in the 2019 academic year. The authors rely on several research methods: sociological survey, discourse-analysis and content-analysis. The authors not only describe specific examples of using video content from YouTube for solving of educational tasks, but also analyze in detail the students’ reaction to the using of such content. The key hypothesis of the research is that the potential benefits of using of YouTube resources in the educational process are significantly overvalued. YouTube is useful as an auxiliary and illustrative source, but its excessive using in the educational process does not match with the needs of students and leads to a decrease in the quality of education.

Keywords: YouTube, higher education, social media, sociological survey, Russia

  1. Introduction

High popularity of new information technologies in modern society raises many challenges for educational institutions. The percentage of active Internet users in different countries is variable, but almost everywhere it is used by most of the people every day. Moreover, recent studies show that schoolchildren and students use Internet even more often than other social groups: almost 100% of them do it every day (Ivanova et all, 2018). Of course, educational institutions and organizations cannot ignore this important social trend. Refusing to use Internet resources in the educational process creates risks of degradation of educational programs and deterioration of quality of education. But at the same time, using of Internet resources can make the process of learning more flexible and relevant to the students’ habits. So, the notable interest of schools, colleges and universities to the using of Internet resources doesn’t look strange. But an important and very complex research question is related to the problem of optimal mechanisms and extent of the use of Internet resources in the process of learning. How does the using of Internet resources in the process of learning correspond to the real needs of students and how do they see it? What specific problems of learning can be solved by using of Internet resources? What are the certain ways of effective using of Internet in the process of learning? Aiming to understand such issues, we decided to implement our own research project on the basis of the Ural Federal University in Russia.

  1. Purpose and assumptions

In our project we focused on a certain case of using Internet resources in the process of learning. Our focus was on the use of YouTube in higher education. The focus on analyzing of YouTube was not occasional. On the one hand, YouTube is one of the most popular Internet resources and it is actively used by schoolchildren and students around the world. On the other hand, the YouTube content is very diverse: it includes not only entertaining videos, but also educational ones. Moreover, recent researches describe specific cases of using YouTube specifically as a useful resource of learning. (Moghavvemi et all, 2018; Jackman, 2019). So, the analysis of YouTube provides an opportunity of exploration of a private, but very informative and illustrative case of using Internet resources for learning.

The initial goal of our project is clarification of specific opportunities and risks, related to using of YouTube in the process of learning. Opinions about these opportunities and risks can be different. Some researchers like the idea of using of YouTube in the process of learning and describe many potential effects of its realization: the use of visual video material, the availability of the learning data, the simplicity of organizing of interaction between learning participants, etc. (Perrett and Minhas, 2016; Shoufan, 2019). Other authors, on the contrary, are quite skeptical about YouTube and mention important problems: the risk of losing emotional contact between the teacher and students, potential possibility of spreading of incorrect learning data, the loss of professionalism in the learning process, etc. (Jung and Lee, 2013; Reynoso and Aguirre, 2016). That is why our initial hypothesis was the assumption that YouTube can be used in the process of learning as an effective auxiliary and illustrative tool, but its careless using can cause important risks and even problems.

  1. Project design

We have started the project in April 2019 and plan to complete the work by early 2020. We expect to perform several tasks during the project. Figure 1 illustrates the stages of the project.

The first stage has been finished already: we have conducted a sociological survey among students of two academic groups who will later become participants of the project in a period between September and December 2019. The purpose of this survey was to understand the opinion and expectations of students about using of YouTube in the process of learning. The next step of the project will start in July of 2019 and will be performed as an analysis of university educational programs, intended to clarification of the best mechanisms for using YouTube within the process of learning. The third step of the project will be the selection of proper video content on YouTube: basing on the techniques of discourse-analysis and content-analysis, we intend to find videos that are appropriate to the objectives of the educational process and adequate to students’ needs. The fourth (and the most important) phase of the project will start in September and will be performed as a series of test learning sessions, which will be built on the intensive use of YouTube resources. Conducting these test sessions and gradually measuring students’ feedback, we plan to get a detailed description of the specific opportunities and risks related to using of YouTube in the process of learning.

  1. Current results and prospects.

At the time of preparation of this paper we are only at the beginning of the journey and have completed only the first stage of the project. So, now we must be very careful about the conclusions about the project in general. And we can only afford preliminary conclusions. But at the same time, available data allows us to describe

the specific of students’ expectations about the directions of using YouTube in the l process of learning. And the responses received from students indicate that the use of YouTube inf this area needs to be careful and deliberate.

In total, 98 people from 2 academic groups were interviewed during the survey. Their answers show that the basic idea of ​​using YouTube in the process of learning looks really promising. 83.3% of respondents use YouTube almost daily. 85.7% of them have already watched an educational video on YouTube that helps them to master the skills useful for their future profession. And 64.7% of respondents confirm that they would like to use YouTube more actively during their studies at the university. Most of them even see clear opportunities of using of YouTube. 85.7% of them think, that using of YouTube can make a process of learning simpler. And 76.3% of them suppose, that YouTube can make process of learning more modern and actual. So, probably we can conclude, that students have a strong request for using of YouTube in the process of learning.

However, there is also another important trend in the data. Most of the interviewed students are not ready to consider YouTube as an alternative to more traditional formats of learning. As can be seen in Figure 2, most of them clearly do not like the idea of using of YouTube as a replacement for lectures and seminars. They are ready to consider YouTube only as an additional tool for learning.

Figure 2: Opinion of students about using of YouTube in the educational process (% of total number)

More than half of them are convinced that excessively intensive introduction of YouTube into educational work will lead to negative results: decline in interest of learning process (70.6%), disappearance of emotional contact with teachers (56.7%) and raising of risk of getting incorrect educational information.  In other words, students are interested in using YouTube more actively in the process of learning. But they want this tool to complement the traditional forms of learning, not to replace them.

However, we emphasize again that now we are only at the beginning of the project and we can rely only on the opinion of the students. Real opportunities and risks, related to using of YouTube in the process of learning, have to be identified and described during the next stages of the project.

  1. Conclusions

The initial goal of our project is to evaluate the opportunities and risks, related to using of YouTube in the process of learning. Now we are only at the beginning of this complex project, and this forces us to be extremely careful in our conclusions. However, available data shows that using of YouTube as a learning tool requires caution and deliberation. YouTube can be a promising tool that can make the learning process more interesting and visual. But excessively intensive use of this tool can generate significant risks: breakdowns in students’ contact with the teacher, facilitation of transmission of too low-quality information, etc. During the further stages of the project, we are going to deepen and specify this preliminary conclusion.


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