YouTube in the Classroom

Decorative: The logos of YouTube and Vimeo


A. "Top 20 Ways to Use YouTube in the Classroom" (post) lists a number of ways to use YouTube (or Vimeo etc.) and other online content to "turn a one-dimensional lesson into an interactive discussion that really taps into the imagination of students."

  • This post outlines the necessary copyright concerns and then lists 20 in-course uses for the online "treasure trove of educational content."

B. First, Copyright Issues: "Can I Play Videos in Class?" (from the University of Waterloo)

"You may play videos in class in the following circumstances":

1. "You may show a film or other cinematographic work in the classroom as long as ..."

  • "[T]he work is not an infringing copy"
  • "[T]he film or work was legally obtained"
  • "[Y]ou do not circumvent a digital lock to access the film or work."

2. If you want to show a television news program in the classroom ..." 

  • "[U]nder the Copyright Act, educational institutions (or those acting under their authority) may copy television news programs or news commentaries and play them in class."

3. "You may perform a work available through the Internet, e.g. YouTube, videos, except under the following circumstances":

  • "The work is protected by digital locks preventing their performance."
  • "A clearly visible notice prohibiting educational use is posted on the website or on the work itself."
  • "You have reason to believe that the work available on the internet is in violation of the copyright owner’s rights."

4. See also

C. 20 Ways to Use YouTube (or Other Videos) in the Classroom

1. "Trigger interesting and unique discussion."

  • Use "topical videos surrounding current affairs, such as clips from news stories, and ask the class what their thoughts or opinions are."
  • "News reports, especially the same story reported by two different news stations, can be a great way for students to deconstruct the motives and impact of competing broadcasters."

2. "Use videos to inspire themed reflections in form time."

  • "[E]ncourage students to reflect on topical issues."
  • "YouTube has lots of clips you could use to generate topical discussion."

3. "Access high quality educational instruction videos for free."

  • This is a useful way to provide remediation and/or necessary background to students who may have a weak foundation in your subject.
  • "[H]undreds of high quality videos ... are short, snappy, entertaining and educational."

4. "Play videos of poets [authors, public intellectuals, etc.] reading their own works."

  • "[A] writer reading their own work can breath life into the lines."
  • "Stress, intonation and tone are far more effective when performed by those who wrote the lines."
  • Such videos can also be embedded in D2L to help weak readers with texts they find challenging.
  • See also Librivox for a wide range of free audio versions of books in a variety of languages as a similar aid for readers. 

5. "Use short clips from documentaries to provide context to a topic."

  • "The BBC, Channel 4, and many other large broadcasters upload small parts of documentaries to their own YouTube channel."
  • "These ... help to bring a ‘real world’ element to the class."

6. "Take advantage of YouTube [Learning]."

  • "These videos are specifically created for educational purposes and are often concise and professional."
  • Check out their 360 Video, virtual reality videos as well.

7. "Find clips to use as an archive resource."

  • "Great for contextualising historical context, there are plenty of clips ... that feature archived footage from as early as the 1920’s."
  • "There are also plenty of ‘local’ clips that may show your city or town from decades before."

8. "Create playlists to help with future lesson planning and share amongst your department."

  • "Once you have made an account," "create ... playlists ... to archive your favourite videos and locate them easily in the future."

9. "Engage visual learners with your lesson content."

  • Use videos to offer "a visual explanation" of your content.

10. Create "[e]xtension opportunities."

  • Use "[a] video introducing a more complicated area of the current topic ... as homework for students who consistently overachieve in class."

11. "Set an assignment that requires students to research and make their own videos to be later played in class."

  • "[S]tudents can be set an extended assignment to write, produce, and edit videos on a specific topic."
  • Students can use "video editing apps ... to create their final video before uploading it to YouTube, with a ‘screening’ of these videos at the end of the task."

12. Use video infographics as a compelling way to introduce a lot of information in a short amount of time.

13. "Demonstrate experiments."

  • "If you don’t have the means to create large scale experiments, you can bet someone on YouTube has done it for you."

14. "Set a ‘video watch’ homework to prepare students for new material in the classroom."

  • "[S]et ‘video’ homework" as a precursor to a "flipped" class.

15. Provide "[a] step-by-step explanation of problematic equations."

  • "Companies like the Khan Academy upload step-by-step equation solution videos onto YouTube, which is great for those looking to find resources."

16. "Use videos as a writing prompt."

  • "An emotive video can be an invaluable resource when planning a creative writing lesson."

17. "Hon[e] listening skills."

  • "[T]here are plenty of interview videos on YouTube that you can use, asking the class to note down key pieces of information in a ‘journalism’ style task."
  • This could also be a useful tool in language classes. using videos in French, German, Spanish, etc.

18. "Deconstruct adverts" or analyze longer video texts.

  • "YouTube can be used as a resource in practice ‘analysis’ tasks." 

19. "Use YouTube as a reward."

  • "[C]arefully selected [a]\ video that’s fun, yet educational ... as a treat but also as a learning resource."

20. "Set a research assignment."

  • "[S]tudents can use YouTube to increase their knowledge of a topic whilst making notes to share with the class."
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