Transforming YouTube into a powerful study tool

Our Accommodations in the Digital Age webinar series got under way with an exploration of YouTube as a powerful study tool. Find out what we uncovered.

Clock 2 min read Calendar Published: 27 Oct 2023
Author Jacob Goodwin
Transforming YouTube into a powerful study tool


In the first instalment of our new webinar series, Accommodations in the Digital Age, the Glean team dived into how YouTube can be used as a powerful study tool.

The session included the emergence of YouTube as a learning tool, an exploration of the collective power of videos and interactive notes and the opportunities YouTube presents, for professors and students alike, when it comes to learning on their own terms.

Here are three of the key takeaways from the webinar…

Students are using YouTube for learning

There can be no doubt that the learning landscape has changed, with recent studies showing that over 90% of students turn to YouTube for supplemental education outside of class.

In total, that amounts to over 1 billion hours watched daily, with 91% of Americans between the age of 18 and 29 watching videos and engaging in informal learning (Perrin and Anderson, 2019). These methods of backchannel learning help students to clarify, connect and form opinions on the material they are presented within more traditional, formula environments.

And it’s not just in higher education that YouTube is becoming increasingly  popular. A 2022 survey of over 1,500 middle school students found that 68% watch YouTube videos to supplement what they are learning in school.

With this swell of usage, YouTube is clearly cementing its place as part of the fabric of modern learning.

Normalise studying wherever learning is happening

The true value of harnessing YouTube as part of the learning experience is to ensure students have the opportunity to learn in a number of ways and environments.

YouTube can provide instruction in visual, auditory, and kinesthetic formats, catering to a diverse learner set thus improving retention.

This is backed up by the International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education which found that 95% of college student participants used YouTube for learning, citing reasons such as accessibility, visual components, and ease of understanding content.

Likewise, a McGraw Hill Education survey reported that over 60% of students frequently use YouTube videos to improve understanding and study efficiently.

In effect, thoughtfully integrating YouTube, both in and out of class, significantly improves learning outcomes.

How institutions can support learning via YouTube

Whilst acknowledging the potential, the challenge for educators lies in how to use their expertise to place guardrails around student activities, ensuring using YouTube is framed as a learning experience.

CJ Brame of Vanderbilt explored how to effectively leverage these new behaviours, discovering that success is often rooted in the learning experience being active, prompting recall and embedding knowledge.

As such, professors can utilise YouTube through techniques such as uploading weekly summary videos that recap lectures. This is supported by the Khan Academy research which found that short instructor-created videos help to boost performance.

Educators can also build course-specific, invite only YouTube channels with supplemental tutorials expanding on difficult topics or curate existing playlists aligned to learning objectives.

There are also opportunities to pose analysis questions at the end of videos and have students post responses in the comments. Replying drives discourse, shows digital presence and helps build stronger study habits both inside and outside the classroom.



Evidently, YouTube, when harnessed correctly, can have a hugely positive impact on the student learning experience. To learn more about the topic, click the button below to rewatch the session in full.

Rewatch the webinar in full here
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