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YouTube and the Classroom

YouTube and the Classroom

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 ableto 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 withstrong potential for enhancing classroom discussions, lectures and presentations.

The following paper discusses the history of YouTube, the impact of YouTube ontoday’s public speaking audience, and the use of YouTube to enhance public speaking curriculum. As part of the research 77 undergraduate students taking the introductoryspeech 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 onvideo 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 byincorporating 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.” (Hamilton, 2006)

“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.” (Hamilton, 2006)

“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.

Curriculum Enhancement

“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 havefound 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 speech evaluation.

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 recentlylistened 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 instruction.


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. (Campbell, 2007)


Aristotle, Works of Aristotle. (translated by W.R Roberts) London: Oxford University Press, 1971, pp. 663-664.
Campbell, Gardner, “Have You Tried YouTube?” Education World, educationworld.com. May 1, 2007.
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Gates, Bill, The Road Ahead. Viking: New York City. 1995., p. 1
Hamilton, Cheryl. Essentials of Public Speaking, 3rd edition. Thomson: Belmont, CA) 2006, p. 185.
Hinderliter, Robert, The History of YouTube. Kansas State University: Manhattan, Kansas. youtube.com. Spring 2007.
Madden, Online Video, Pew/Internet and American Life Project: Washington, D.C., July 25, 1007. p. 1.
Markham, Reed, “YouTube in the Classroom Survey.” Daytona Beach College. November 2007.
Ober, Scot, Contemporary Business Communication, 6th edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006. p. 505.
O’Hair, Dan, A Speaker’s Guidebook, third edition. Bedford/St. Martins: Boston. 2007. p. 282.
Reuters, “YouTube Serves Up 100 Million Videos A Day Online. USA Today, June 16, 2006.
Simons, Tad, “Study Shows Just How Much Visuals Increase Persuasiveness,” Presentations Magazine, March 1998, p. 20.