As the educational landscape around us continues to transform, the usefulness of YouTube continues to impress. Today I read about a Harvard and MIT graduate, Salman Khan, who has focused his passion and talent for math tutoring into creating 8-minute video math lessons — ranging from adding decimals to calculus, trigonometry and physics — hosted on YouTube. Presented officially by the Khan Academy, the videos are intriguing for educators for many reasons.

First, college students around the nation are using them. As university students leave their classrooms bleary eyed they are able to dig into the treasure chest of math videos to fine tune their understanding of specific mathematical concepts. Further, the videos can be played over and over again without the fear of feeling “stupid” in a class of judgmental peers. Are these videos really being viewed? Well, their basic trig video, posted about a year ago, currently has over 72,000 views.

What’s the motivation for the Khan Academy? Well, according to their YouTube channel their missing is simple. They’re a “not-for-profit organization with the mission of giving access to knowledge to anyone, anywhere.”

This topic reminds me of the student’s comment I posted yesterday in which one of my online student critically scrutinized whether linear, lecture-based content should require students to attend face-to-face classes. Can’t lectures all be deployed through podcasts or streaming video presentations? Hmmm. What I sense here is a generational shift in how face-to-face time is valued. Younger students have regular, immediate and frequently mobile access to high-quality content — you name it, it’s there. When Millennials attend class they want more then what a video can give them. They want interactivity. They want passion. They want a show. If they don’t get more, the experience isn’t going to hold their attention. It isn’t going to engage them. And we know what happens when a Millennial isn’t engaged … later!

This is really an exciting moment in teaching and learning. We, as educators, now have a phenomenally effective way to channel our regular, consistent content that is typically delivered through lectures and deliver it through web-based technologies. What this does for a face-to-face class is free up time with students for the things that education is truly about — debate, reflection, discussion, active inquiry, problem solving. Instructional technologies hold the key to unlock the pressures of “getting through content” and return the classroom time to teaching students how to think, how to innovate, how to create, how to be effective 21st century contributors.

Of course, in order for this significant change to occur, our institutions need to support faculty with training, strong IT support, accessibility needs (video captioning) and provide increased computer lab access for students who may not have internet access at home.

As for me, I know I would have used a Khan Academy video or two if I could have.

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