YouTube’s priority in 2018: education, education, education

From hate speech to vloggers blundering into suicide forests, YouTube has been fielding plenty of criticism in recent months of the videos uploaded to its service. Cracking down on extremist content and reminding eejit ‘influencers’ of their responsibilities are part of its response. But the good news for parents is that YouTube’s plan to restore its reputation will also involve throwing its weight behind educational videos and channels.

The CEO of its parent company Alphabet, Sundar Pichai, talked about it last week in a financial earnings call with analysts last week, citing educational channel SciShow – with its 4.5 million subscribers – as one of the positives on YouTube in recent times.

“In fact, there are over one billion learning-related video views everyday on YouTube. I learned that this week,” said Pichai. And YouTube’s CEO Susan Wojcicki repeated the stat while expanding on how it’s changing the company’s plans in a blog post this week.

“Learning and educational content drives over a billion views a day on YouTube. That is a remarkable statistic, and to me, it represents the incredible work our creators have done to help usher in a new way of learning,” wrote Wojcicki.

“I’m passionate about education because it’s an area where YouTube can be transformative and really benefit the world. It can help people who don’t have the time, money, or access to take a class to still learn something new. And it can help transform learning from something we only invest in when we’re young to something that becomes a lifelong pursuit.”

She cited her own experience watching videos about how to repair a dishwasher or choose the best laying chickens to answering her children’s questions about black holes and dark matter as examples.

(My kids still tend to focus on ‘When’s dinner?’, ‘Can I have a biscuit?’ and ‘If dinner’s that far away why can’t I play more Rocket League? And have a biscuit?’ so I’m suitably envious here…)

Anyway, for YouTube ‘education’ doesn’t just mean for children, but the company’s keenness to get behind this overall video category should be a good thing for parents wishing our children could widen their viewing on the service beyond Minecraft, vlogs and old Vine clips of people hurting themselves.

“The potential of our creators to enhance education and learning is incredible, so we’re going to do more to take advantage of the massive, modern-day video library that YouTube has become,” wrote Wojcicki. “That includes working with our educational creators to bring more of their content to the platform as well as expert organisations like Goodwill to provide and feature even more high-quality job skills videos on YouTube.”

The first part of that last sentence is what’s encouraging for me: SciShow is a really good example of an engaging, fact-filled channel that’s great fun to watch with your children. But I’d love there to be a lot more of these, covering all manner of subjects. I’m looking forward to seeing how YouTube bumps up the quantity and quality of this kind of video in 2018.