YouTube in the College Classroom: History, Impact, and Curriculum Enhancements
By Reed Markham, Faculty, Daytona State College
Peter Drucker, author of Managing the Future observed: “We live in a very turbulent
time, not because there is so much change, but because it moves in so many different
directions.” (Drucker, 1993) Effective college and university instructors have to be able
to recognize and run with opportunity to learn, and to constantly refresh the knowledge
base.” The complexity of rapidly changing teaching technology makes it a critical
objectives for practitioners to learn about the latest tools to enhance presentations in the
classroom. YouTube has proven in the last two year to be an emerging technology with
strong potential for enhancing classroom discussions, lectures and presentations.
The following paper discusses the history of YouTube, the impact of YouTube on
today’s public speaking audience, and the use of YouTube to enhance public speaking
curriculum. As part of the research 77 undergraduate students taking the introductory
speech course at Daytona Beach College (DeLand, Florida campus) were surveyed about
the use of YouTube technology in the classroom.
YouTube, the latest gift/threat, is a free video-sharing Web site that has rapidly
become a wildly popular way to upload, share, view and comment on video clips. With
more than 100 million viewings a day and more than 65,000 videos uploaded daily, the
Web portal provides teachers with a growing amount if visual information share with a
classroom full of young multimedia enthusiasts. (Dyck, 2007) Based in San Mateo,
YouTube is a small privately-funded company. The company was founded by Chad
Hurley and Steven Chen. The company raised over $11 million of funding from Sequoia
Capital, the firm who also provided initial venture capital for Google, The founders
initially had a contest inviting the posting of videos. The contest got the attention of the
masses and Google, Inc. In October 2006, Google acquired the company for 1.65 billion
in Google stock.
Since spring of 2006, YouTube has come to hold the leading position in online video
with 29% of the U.S. multimedia entertainment market.YouTube videos account for 60%
of all videos watched online . . . The site specializes in short, typically two minute,
homemade, comic videos created by users. YouTube serves as a quick entertainment
break or viewers with broadband computer connections at work or home. (Reuters, 2006)
.In June (2006), 2.5 billion videos were watched on YouTube. More than 65,000
videos are now uploaded daily to YouTube. YouTube boasts nearly 20 million unique
users per month, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. (Reuters, 2006) Robert Hinderliter,
Kansas State University developed an interesting video history of YouTube.com. The
segment can be found on the YouTube.com website.
Impact of YouTube in the classroom
“The growing adoption of broadband combined with a dramatic push by content
providers to promote online video has helped to pave the way for mainstream
audiences to embrace online video viewing. The majority of adult internet users in
the United States (57%) report watching or downloading some type of online video
content and 19% do so on a typical day. (Madden, 2007). Daytona Beach College
students surveyed indicated that a majority of the students watch videos on a weekly
basis. College instructors can capitalize on the surge in viewing online videos by
incorporating their use in the classroom.
Communication research on using visuals as an enhancement to presentations is
supported by early researchers including Aristotle. “Although ancient orators weren’t
aware of our currently research on picture memory, they did know the importance of
vividness. They knew that audiences were more likely to pay attention to and be
persuaded by visual images painted by the speaker. In his Rhetoric (Book III, Chapters
10-11) Aristotle describes the importance of words and graphic metaphors that should
“set the scene before our eyes.” He defines graphic as “making your hearers see things.”
“Today’s audiences expect presentations to be visually augmented, whether they are
communicated in the guise of a lecture, a business report, or a public speech. What’s
more, today’s audience expects the speaker to visually augment such presentations
with a level of sophistication unheard of even 10 years ago.” (Bryden, 2008)
The use of visuals increases persuasive impact. For example, a University of
Minnesota study found that using visuals increases persuasiveness by 43 percent
(Simons, 1998). Today’s audiences are accustomed to multimedia events that
bombard the senses. They often assume that any formal presentation must be
accompanied by some visual element. . . Presenters who used visual aids were also
perceived as being more professional, better prepared, and more interesting than those
who didn’t use visual aids. One of the easiest ways you can help ensure the success
of a speech is to prepare interesting and powerful visual aids. Unfortunately, many
speakers either don’t use visual aids or use ones that are overcrowded , outdated or
difficult to understand. (Ober, 2006)
“The saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” is usually true. . . A look at
right brain/left brain theory explains why visuals speed listener comprehension.
While the left hemisphere of the brain specializes in analytical processing, the right
hemisphere specializes in simultaneous processing of information and pays little
attention to details. Speakers who use no visual aids or only charts loaded with
statistics are asking the listeners’ left brains to do all the work. After a while, even a
good left-brain thinker suffers from information overload, begins to make mistakes in
reasoning, and loses interest. In computer terminology, “the system shuts down.”
The right brain, however can quickly grasp complex ideas presented in graphic form.”
“Most people process and retain information best when they receive it in more
than one format. Research findings indicate that we remember only about 20 percent
of what we hear, but more than 50 percent of what we see and hear. Further we
remember about 70 percent of what we see, hear, and actually do. Messages that are
reinforced visually and otherwise are often more believable than those that are simply
verbalized. As the saying goes, “Seeing is believing.” (O’Hair, 2007) The majority
of students surveyed at Daytona Beach College indicated a preference for
audio/visual supplements to oral presentations.
YouTube videos can speed comprehension and add interest. Effectively
integrateing a YouTube video can assist in audience understanding and
comprehension of topics under discussion. YouTube videos can also improve
audience memory. Communication research findings indicate that visual images
improve listener recall. YouTube videos can decrease your presentation time. An
effective use of a YouTube video can help audience members to understanding
complex issues and ideas. Utilizing YouTube can also add to a speaker’s credibility.
Professional looking visuals can enhance any verbal presentation.
“YouTube” allows users to post videos on the site for anyone to view. Most
of the material on the side is entertaining or just odd, but some important videos have
found their way onto this site. YouTube is a great source for finding video material
for use in speech or as background material. . . Just as with Wikipedia and other
sources where the content is not screened for accuracy, the videos you find on
YouTube are only as valid as the original source (Bryden, 2008)
All too frequently beginning speakers fail to consider the details of using video in
a speech. Simply because they have access to a means of showing video, beginning
speakers should consider the following issues:
*Cueing video segment before beginning the presentation
*Checking room lighting, visual distance, and acoustics
*Evaluating the time it takes to introduce, show, and integrate the video segment with the
remaining content of the presentation
The value of YouTube technology for public speaking courses falls into three
categories: lecture presentations, integrated use in student speeches, and sample
YouTube has value for enhancing lecture discussions of various public speaking
topics and issues. 74% of the students surveyed indicated that they prefer to watch a
video during a presentation. Public speaking instructors struggle to find timely
examples and illustrations. I recently utilized a speech found on YouTube that was
delivered to Columbia University students by Lee Bollinger, the president of the
university. President Bollinger gave speech introducing the President of Iran, Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad on September 24, 2007. I utilized this YouTube speech as a case study to
analyze speech ethics. President Bollinger was involved in a number of ethical issues in
the selection of a controversial speaker for the university and his use of vitriolic language
in his presentation introducing the Iran’s president. My classes enjoyed a lively
discussion about speech ethics following his presentation.
YouTube has value for integration in student speeches. Daytona Beach College
students were asked: “What is the greatest value of using an internet video during a
speech? Summary responses included the following:
*It gives the audience a better visual and can help them relate to the topic.
*It makes the audience more interested.
*Some audiences need visuals to understand the topic.
*It helps you to connect to the audience.
*puts some “umph” into the speech..
*its good for proving arguments.
*can say something better than you can.
Students are required in basic public speaking classes to utilize visuals to enhance the
quality of information shared and to capture the attention of their audience. A brief
YouTube segment can enhance the quality of a presentation. For example, I recently
listened to a speech on global warming. The student speaker located a brief segment
on YouTube from Al Gore’s well known video “An Inconvenient Truth.” The video
segment helped to audience to visual the impact of global warming on our environment.
YouTube has video segments on a wide array topics from Affirmative Action to Zoology.
YouTube also has value for sample student speech evaluation. It is challenging
for public speaking instructors to located timely sample student speeches. Some
publishers provide instructors with DVD/CD speech samples. But these samples become
outdated quickly. YouTube has recent speeches delivered by students for online college
public speaking courses. Also, YouTube features speeches delivered by many
business professionals and educators. For example, last semester my public speaking
classes viewed a speech by the Toastmasters International World Champion, Darrin
LeCroix. The speech is more than entertaining. The speech provided my students with
insight into effective oral delivery.
Bill Gates observed: “The really interesting highway applications will grow out of the
participation of tens or hundreds, or millions of people, who will not just consume
entertainment and other information, but will create it, too. (Gates, 1995). YouTube is
providing educators an opportunity to apply this technology to improve classroom
The recent Pew Foundation Internet and American Life Project observed: “Online
video has been a central feature in a growing discussion about the impact of
user-driven “Web 2.0” technologies. YouTube and other video sharing sites are often
held up as powerful examples of both the social and monetary value of applications built
around user contributions. And as users have realized the unlocked potential of online
video, a new channel of interactive mass communication has started to emerge in daily
life.” (Madden, 2007).
YouTube technology can assist both students and educators in developing effective
presentations. This technology can also provide college instructors with timely
information and examples. Gardner Campbell, a professor of english at the University of
Mary Washington concluded: “We’re witnessing not just the now routine Internet
phenomenon of major new resources but also massively and unpredictable scaled
repositories of public domain materials that are vital information resources for ourselves
and our students. As the information abundance spreads, and if we are brave and curious
enough to embrace it, we will find our own serendipity fields dramatically expanded.
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