Teacher’s Extra Credit – 10 Steps to Create Your Educational Channel on YouTube : The EDU Playbook

Teacher’s Extra Credit – 10 Steps to Create Your Educational Channel on YouTube : The EDU Playbook

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YouTube recently released a new playbook, the YouTube EDU Playbook Guide.  They are beginning to narrow down their playbooks into more specific areas.  The last one was for brands, and it was a sort of mini-Creator Playbook.  All playbooks are going to take pages from the Creator Playbook, but the EDU Guide is definitely a more specific look into the genre.  Since much of YouTube’s appeal comes from “How-To” and education in general, it’s not surprising they’ve released a guide to help educators use video effectively, and we’re going to break it down here.

YouTube EDU Playbook: How To Create An Educational Channel

Where do you start?  Well, you have to know who your audience is and what you hope to teach them.  So, first things first:

1. Pick an Education Channel Category

YouTube divides education channels into four different categories:

Here is a video from Khan Academy concerning simple Algebra, and if you want to learn about Algebra, there’s oh, 186 videos in a playlist right now:

This is finding your target audience, no different than if you’re a brand or a business trying to gain more customers.  You have to know who you want to teach before you ever get into your lessons.  You’re not going to make Calculus videos for the Pre-K crowd, unless they are a very special group of prodigies.

2. Pick an Educational Content Style

Are you going to make your educational video more entertainment based, where it’s accessible to everyone, a la VSauce, or are you going to make it very straightforward, like a regular class (but hopefully, still kind of entertaining, right?)

  • Edutainment.  For this style, YouTube picks “SciShow” as an example, which is run by Vlogbrothers Hank and John Green:

  • Academic.  YouTube provides “UC Berkeley” as an example.  Here’s a video from their psychology courses:

Finding your approach is essential to reaching the audience you want to reach.  Channels like VSauce, CGPGrey, Minute Physics, etc. are educational but are produced to be consumed by as many people as possible.  An Academic channel like UC Berkeley has a very specific audience in mind who are deeply trying to learn a subject.

3. Pick a Content Scope

You might be interested in making videos that enhance your lessons, or creating videos for a comprehensive understanding.  Really, you can do both, but figuring out how far you want to go with your video instruction is important.

  • Supplemental videos are not tremendously detailed, but offer added understanding on a particular subject or concept.  YouTube offers this Pre-K video from Super Simple Songs as an example:

  • Full Lesson videos are where you’re going to build a course brick by brick and offer as much instruction as possible.  What’s great about full lessons is that you can build playlists where you can put the videos in a certain order from beginning to end.  People can just click on the playlist, lean back, and learn some serious trigonometry.

4. Pick an EDU Programming Strategy

You may want to make each video cover a different topic, or a series of videos explaining the whole topic.  It’s usually those “edutainment” videos that go from topic to topic, while academic videos will cover a whole lesson.  Here’s how YouTube breaks it down:

  • Single, self-contained videos touch on one topic and then move on.  As an example, the Playbook provides this nifty video on oxygen from Nascent Paradigm:

  • Course/Lesson series are when you really want to get deeper into a subject, and you’ll be making multiple videos to break down the lesson into parts that are easier to digest.  As an example, the Playbook mentions the Harvard CS50 course, which is an intro to computer programming.

5. Optimizations for Your EDU Programming Strategy

If you are using single, self-contained videos, YouTube says you should follow these suggestions for optimizing your content:

  • Make sure your videos are topical or are taking advantage of “tent-pole” opportunities (a tent-pole event is any major event happening in the world, whether it is a holiday, a festival, a major movie release, a historical date, etc.).

If you are doing a course or lesson series, you’ll want to keep these things in mind:

  • Organization is key.  You want your viewers to be able to navigate your channel and playlists so that your courses are easy to follow.  If you’re doing a whole section on math, then you want to make it easy for people to find the first video in that section, order the playlist correctly, and provide annotation links to key videos in the series on each video so that people can find what they need if they happen to need to go back or forward or wherever they may need to go.  Creating specific metadata for your playlists is a plus and will make finding your videos and each lesson easier.

6. Pick A Strategy For Instruction

There are a number of ways you can teach people.  You might be particularly irked about certain myths that seem to have permeated society, and you want to correct that thinking.  Or, you might want to teach a certain topic, but find that there are many examples that get the point across, and you might want to do each one to bring a better understanding.  Let’s take a look at the different forms of instruction:

  • Address misconceptions.  Some of the best videos on YouTube address misconceptions, providing evidence that your firm belief on a topic might be erroneous.  For example, the Playbook offers this video on falling objects from Veritasium:

  • Use different approaches and examples to teach the same concept.  You might have an idea of how to explain something, but it might not get across to everyone, so you’ll want to approach it from different angles.  One channel that is really good at this, and YouTube provides as an example, is Minute Physics.  Here’s a video on the speed of light in glass:

  • Use visuals to support learning.  There are a number of channels that might be talking about something rather complex, or confusing.  One of the greatest videos created this year is by CGP Grey, who talks about the very strange, very confusing (at least to us Americans) City of London, which is different from London:

I can’t rave enough about CGP Grey and how he uses his visuals, and excellent narration, to make a video you can’t take your eyes away from.

7. Producing Better Videos

In pretty much all videos, it’s important to let the viewer know right away what they’re getting into, so that they will want to stay around, and know what kind of video it is.  This section of the EDU Guide is not much different from the Creator Playbook’s “First 15 Seconds” section.  So let’s take a look at what you need to do when making educational videos.

  • Hook the viewer early.  You can ask an intriguing question, or tease the final product of a lesson.  Either way, it’s giving the viewer something to chew on, or pique their interest, to watch the rest of the video.  I especially like the way VSauce does this.  They usually have intriguing titles, but within the first few moments, they suck you into their videos, and it is usually worth your time:

For academic videos, you’ll want the viewer to know right away what they are going to learn, and where it fits into the course.

  • Packaging & Graphics.  Anything you can do to visually enhance, or provide evidence for, your lesson is good.  If you’re talking about the human brain, it’s good to have a visual insert that clarifies the audio of the piece.  Title cards can help dissect the video into mini-sections.  And descriptive graphics can help bring more understanding to a topic.  For instance, if the instructor casually brings up a term that you may not understand, it is helpful to have a graphic defining it.
  • Editing.  If you have a boring ol’ classroom lecture, it helps to have supplemental footage so that you can cut away and break up the likely “static one-camera shot” of the class.  Being able to cut away to important visuals, such as a close-up of the chalkboard, or a picture, or anything that enhances the lesson, will make the video more watchable.  YouTube also suggests creating extra footage with the speaker/educator in the video that you can use as intros and outros.
  • Calls-to-Action.  Calls-to-action are anything that gets a viewer involved beyond watching the video.  Asking them to do an experiment on their own, asking them to comment on the video, or ask questions, or stir debate.
  • Multiple Camera Angles.  You may have the ability to shoot a classroom with multiple cameras.  This is a good way to be able to choose footage and break up the monotony of a single-camera shoot.  The EDU Guide provides MIT as an example, if you’re ready for some Physics:

  • Long Form Content.  You might want to make a long video about a particular topic, but maybe you can condense it into a smaller video filled with highlights, or the most important parts.  Now, I don’t really consider Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address really educational, per se, but YouTube provides the example that you can watch the one with the President’s intro, or you can watch strictly Jobs’ speech, which is what most people have done:

The point is, you can have different versions of the same thing, and the shorter version can act as a sort of “trailer” for the longer version.

8. Tent-pole Programming

We talked about tent-pole programming a bit earlier in the article, and we have a whole article dedicated to it in the Creator Playbook coverage.  What could you possibly use as a tent-pole event in education?  Well, there’s always something being discovered by science, as with the Higgs-Boson hoopla awhile back.  Or there’s a historical event, or a holiday.  Anything that might be on the minds of many as we head towards certain dates or events can be considered tent-pole, and if you’re shrewd enough to know what those are going to be, or be able to be quick enough to turn around a video in time for something that is trending, you can use that buzz to gain viewers.

  • Content for topical events and what’s trending.  We’ll go back to Minute Physics here, as they explain the Higgs-Boson in a video they capitalized on right at the time of its discovery:

  • From holidays to cultural events to topical stories.  Holidays and Presidents’ birthdays are easy ones to figure out.  One of the examples the EDU Guide provides is deconstructing “the physics behind fireworks” around July 4.  Or you can use math to explain an economic trend.  There are a number of ways to teach using the world’s current events.
  • Use tent-pole playlists to curate videos on a certain topic.  You might have made several videos that were not, in of themselves, made to capitalize on a tent-pole event.  But then something happens and you have all this content that directly addresses something happening in the world today.  So you can put those videos into a playlist and let multiple videos capitalize on that occurrence.
  • Core standards and courses.  For AP and IB classes, or national exams, there is a structure involved that is followed throughout the country and educators can tie in their video lessons into that structure.  For these types of academic courses, tent-pole events are the “ballpark” dates these students are expected to be at a certain level, and those who make videos can take advantage of that structure.

9. Curriculum

We have pretty much covered the steps of a curriculum earlier in this article.  For instance:

  • You need to make sure that you are ordering your videos properly so that a viewer can take in a course from start to finish without getting lost.  Creating playlists helps, and with YouTube’s EDU program, EDU-specific channels can create “course playlists.”
  • Providing annotations that viewers can click to either skip ahead or go back to certain videos helps out a lot.
  • Writing the proper metadata for each video so that they can be found and ordered properly by YouTube’s search engine is a big deal.  There is a big section on metadata in the EDU Playbook Guide, but if you follow the metadata sections we covered in the YouTube Creator Playbook here and here, you’ll be fine.

But under this section there are a couple of things YouTube didn’t cover that can enhance your curriculum.  For instance, the use of the Interstitial Creator.  You can use an interstitial in two ways:

  • Insert text cards between videos in a playlist, which can highlight details from previous videos while introducing the concepts you’ll learn in the next video.
  • When curating videos from other channels into your own playlists, you can highlight sections of videos by using the “start and end time” feature which allows you to use a section of a video, rather than using the whole video and telling people where they need to focus.

10. Interaction

Of course you want your viewers to interact, to learn more, to understand more fully.  Your video is the beginning.  You may think it’s the end-all to a topic, but everyone has questions, or has a different way of thinking.  It’s important to do the following things to make your video more than just a passive viewing experience:

  • Calls to Action.  We talked about these earlier.  It can be asking a specific question that people can answer down in the comments.  Or it can be to challenge someone to do something on their own, and hey, maybe even record it and send it in as a video response.  You can invite people to visit your Facebook page for a complimentary lesson or discussion, or hey, even provide a question that is going to be on the test, or at least a clue.  When people ask questions, or you challenge people to work something out on their own, or you provide “Easter Eggs,” you deepen the experience.
  • Interactive Videos.  You can also make it where you ask questions and take viewers to another part of the video if they click the correct or incorrect response.  Or you can take them to an entirely different video.  There are, of course, many “Choose Your Own Adventure” type of YouTube adventures you can take, but in an educational sense, you can make it where your students are thinking on their own, and not just passively watching the video.  They’re interacting with it and hopefully having fun.  Here’s an example of an interactive video from Myles Dyer:

  • Outside of YouTube.  Of course, you can use a whole bunch of social media outlets and websites to expand the realm of your teaching.  YouTube offers up Google Moderator, which can be used to gather questions and suggestions for the next video, and Google+ Hangouts, which allows a ton of people to interact with each other in a virtual meeting.  There are a ton of other places, like Facebook, your own website, a blog, and more.  It depends on how far you want to take this thing.

Give the YouTube EDU Playbook Guide A Look

This article is based on the new EDU Playbook Guide, which provides a lot more examples and things you can try if you’re an educator looking to make videos.  There are a ton of resources listed in the guide, further reading materials, that will help you create great videos however you’d like.  I highly suggest downloading it as it is a valuable resource.  It wouldn’t hurt giving the Creator Playbook a look either, as almost all playbooks will derive their information from that, and will give you even more detail and context.


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