University of Oxford

Youtube in the Classroom

YouTube in the College Classroom:  History, Impact, and Curriculum Enhancements

By Reed Markham, Faculty, Daytona State College


     Peter Drucker, author of Managing the Future observed: “We live in a very turbulent

time, not because there is so much change, but because it moves in so many different

directions.” (Drucker, 1993) Effective college and university instructors have to be able

to recognize and run with opportunity to learn, and to constantly refresh the knowledge

base.”  The complexity of rapidly changing teaching technology makes it a critical

objectives for practitioners to learn about the latest tools to enhance presentations in the

classroom. YouTube has proven in the last two year to be an emerging technology with

strong potential for enhancing classroom discussions, lectures and presentations.

     The following paper discusses the history of YouTube, the impact of YouTube on

 today’s public speaking audience, and the use of YouTube to enhance public speaking

curriculum.  As part of the research 77 undergraduate students taking the introductory

speech course at Daytona Beach College (DeLand, Florida campus) were surveyed about

the use of YouTube technology in the classroom.


     YouTube, the latest gift/threat, is a free video-sharing Web site that has rapidly

become a wildly popular way to upload, share, view and comment on video clips.  With

 more than 100 million viewings a day and more than 65,000 videos uploaded daily, the

Web portal provides teachers with a growing amount if visual information share with a

classroom full of young multimedia enthusiasts. (Dyck, 2007)  Based in San Mateo,

YouTube is a small privately-funded company. The company was founded by Chad

Hurley and Steven Chen.  The company raised over $11 million of funding from Sequoia

Capital, the firm who also provided initial venture capital for Google, The founders

initially had a contest inviting the posting of videos.  The contest got the attention of the

masses and Google, Inc. In October 2006, Google acquired the company for 1.65 billion

in Google stock.

     Since spring of 2006, YouTube has come to hold the leading position in online video

with 29% of the U.S. multimedia entertainment market.YouTube videos account for 60%

of all videos watched online . . . The site specializes in short, typically two minute,

homemade, comic videos created by users. YouTube serves as a quick entertainment

break or viewers with broadband computer connections at work or home. (Reuters, 2006)

     .In June (2006), 2.5 billion videos were watched on YouTube.  More than 65,000

videos are now uploaded daily to YouTube. YouTube boasts nearly 20 million unique

users per month, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. (Reuters, 2006) Robert Hinderliter,

Kansas State University developed an interesting video history of  The

segment can be found on the website.

Impact of YouTube in the classroom

     “The growing adoption of broadband combined with a dramatic push by content

providers to promote online video has helped to pave the way for mainstream

audiences to embrace online video viewing.  The majority of adult internet users in

the United States (57%) report watching or downloading some type of online video

content and 19% do so on a typical day. (Madden, 2007).  Daytona Beach College

students surveyed indicated that a majority of the students watch videos on a weekly

basis.  College instructors can capitalize on the surge in viewing online videos by

incorporating their use in the classroom.

     Communication research on using visuals as an enhancement to presentations is

supported by early researchers including Aristotle.  “Although ancient orators weren’t

aware of our currently research on picture memory, they did know the importance of

vividness.  They knew that audiences were more likely to pay attention to and be

 persuaded by visual images painted by the speaker. In his Rhetoric (Book III, Chapters

 10-11) Aristotle describes the importance of words and graphic metaphors that should

“set the scene before our eyes.”  He defines graphic as “making your hearers see things.”

 (Hamilton, 2006)

     “Today’s audiences expect presentations to be visually augmented, whether they are

communicated in the guise of a lecture, a business report, or a public speech. What’s

more, today’s audience expects the speaker to visually augment such presentations

with a level of sophistication unheard of even 10 years ago.” (Bryden, 2008)

     The use of visuals increases persuasive impact.  For example, a University of

Minnesota study found that using visuals increases persuasiveness by 43 percent

(Simons, 1998).   Today’s audiences are accustomed to multimedia events that

bombard the senses.  They often assume that any formal presentation must be

accompanied by some visual element. . . Presenters who used visual aids were also

 perceived as being more professional, better prepared, and more interesting than those

who didn’t use visual aids.  One of the easiest ways you can help ensure the success

of a speech is to prepare interesting and powerful visual aids.  Unfortunately, many

speakers either don’t use visual aids or use ones that are overcrowded , outdated or

difficult to understand. (Ober, 2006)

      “The saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” is usually true.  .  . A look at

right brain/left brain theory explains why visuals speed listener comprehension. 

While the left hemisphere of the brain specializes in analytical processing, the right

hemisphere specializes in simultaneous processing of  information and pays little

attention to details. Speakers who use no visual aids or only charts loaded with

statistics are asking the listeners’ left brains to do all the work.  After a while, even a

good left-brain thinker suffers from information overload, begins to make mistakes in

reasoning, and loses interest.  In computer terminology, “the system shuts down.” 

The right brain, however can quickly grasp complex ideas presented in graphic form.” 

(Hamilton,  2006)

     “Most people process and retain information best when they receive it in more

than one format.  Research findings indicate that we remember only about 20 percent

of what we hear, but more than 50 percent of what we see and hear.  Further we

remember about 70 percent of what we see, hear, and actually do.  Messages that are

reinforced visually and otherwise are often more believable than those that are simply

verbalized. As the saying goes, “Seeing is  believing.” (O’Hair, 2007)  The majority

of students surveyed at Daytona Beach College indicated a preference for

audio/visual supplements to oral presentations.

     YouTube videos can speed comprehension and add interest. Effectively

integrateing a YouTube video can assist in audience understanding and

comprehension of topics under discussion.  YouTube videos can also improve

audience memory. Communication research findings indicate that visual images

improve listener recall.  YouTube videos can decrease your presentation time.  An

effective use of a YouTube video can help audience members to understanding

complex issues and ideas.  Utilizing YouTube can also add to a speaker’s credibility.

Professional looking visuals can enhance any verbal presentation.

Curriculum Enhancement

     “YouTube” allows users to post videos on the site for anyone to view. Most

of the material on the side is entertaining or just odd, but some important videos have

found their way onto this site. YouTube is a great source for finding video material 

for use in speech or as background material. . . Just as with Wikipedia and other

sources where the content is not screened for accuracy, the videos you find on

YouTube are only as valid as the original source (Bryden, 2008)

     All too frequently beginning speakers fail to consider the details of using video in

a speech.  Simply because they have access to a means of showing video, beginning

speakers should consider the following issues:

*Cueing video segment before beginning the presentation

*Checking room lighting, visual distance, and acoustics

*Evaluating the time it takes to introduce, show, and integrate the video segment with the

  remaining content of the presentation

     The value of YouTube technology for public speaking courses falls into three

categories:  lecture presentations,  integrated use in student speeches, and sample

speech evaluation.

     YouTube has value for enhancing lecture discussions of various public speaking

topics and issues. 74% of the students surveyed indicated that they prefer to watch a

video during a presentation.  Public speaking instructors struggle to find timely

examples and illustrations.  I recently utilized a speech found on YouTube that was

delivered to Columbia University students by Lee Bollinger, the president of the

university.  President Bollinger gave speech introducing the President of Iran, Mahmoud

Ahmadinejad on September 24, 2007. I utilized this YouTube speech as a case study to

analyze speech ethics. President Bollinger was involved in a number of ethical issues in

the selection of a controversial speaker for the university and his use of vitriolic language

in his presentation introducing the Iran’s president.  My classes enjoyed a lively

discussion about speech ethics following his presentation.

     YouTube has value for integration in student speeches. Daytona Beach College

students were asked: “What is the greatest value of using an internet video during a

speech?  Summary responses included the following:

*It gives the audience a better visual and can help them relate to the topic.

*It makes the audience more interested.

*Some audiences need visuals to understand the topic.

*It helps you to connect to the audience.

*puts some “umph” into the speech..

*its good for proving arguments.

*can say something better than you can.

Students are required in basic public speaking classes to utilize visuals to enhance the

quality of information shared and to capture the attention of their audience.  A brief

YouTube segment can enhance the quality of a presentation. For example, I recently

listened to a speech on global warming.  The student speaker located a brief segment

on YouTube from Al Gore’s well known video “An Inconvenient Truth.”  The video

segment helped to audience to visual the impact of global warming on our environment.

YouTube has video segments on a wide array topics from Affirmative Action to Zoology.

     YouTube also has value for sample student speech evaluation.  It is challenging

for public speaking instructors to located timely sample student speeches.  Some

publishers provide instructors with DVD/CD speech samples. But these samples become

outdated quickly.  YouTube has recent speeches delivered by students for online college

public speaking courses.  Also, YouTube features speeches delivered by many

business professionals and educators.  For example, last semester my public speaking

classes viewed a speech by the Toastmasters International World Champion, Darrin

LeCroix.  The speech is more than entertaining.  The speech provided my students with

insight into effective oral delivery.

     Bill Gates observed: “The really interesting highway applications will grow out of the

participation of tens or hundreds, or millions of people, who will not just consume

entertainment and other information, but will create it, too. (Gates, 1995).  YouTube is

providing educators an opportunity to apply this technology to improve classroom



     The recent Pew Foundation Internet and American Life Project observed: “Online

video has been a central feature in a growing discussion about the impact of

user-driven “Web 2.0” technologies.  YouTube and other video sharing sites are often

held up as powerful examples of both the social and monetary value of applications built

around user contributions. And as users have realized the unlocked potential of online

video, a new channel of interactive mass communication has started to emerge in daily

life.” (Madden, 2007).

     YouTube technology can assist both students and educators in developing effective

presentations. This technology can also provide college instructors with timely

 information and examples. Gardner Campbell, a professor of english at the University of

Mary Washington concluded: “We’re witnessing not just the now routine Internet

phenomenon of major new resources but also massively and unpredictable scaled

repositories of public domain materials that are vital information resources for ourselves

and our students. As the information abundance spreads, and if we are brave and curious

enough to embrace  it, we will find our own serendipity fields dramatically expanded.

(Campbell, 2007)


Aristotle, Works of Aristotle.  (translated by W.R Roberts) London: Oxford University Press, 1971, pp. 663-664.

Campbell, Gardner, “Have You Tried YouTube?” Education World, May 1, 2007.

Drucker, Peter, Managing the Future. Plume: New York. 1993. p. 351

Dyck, Brenda, “Have You Tried YouTube?” Education World. . May 1, 2007.

Gates, Bill, The Road Ahead. Viking: New York City. 1995., p. 1

Hamilton, Cheryl. Essentials of  Public Speaking, 3rd edition. Thomson: Belmont, CA) 2006, p. 185.

Hinderliter, Robert, The History of YouTube. Kansas State University: Manhattan, Kansas. Spring 2007.

Madden, Online Video, Pew/Internet and American Life Project: Washington, D.C., July 25, 1007. p. 1.

Markham, Reed, “YouTube in the Classroom Survey.” Daytona Beach College. November 2007.

Ober, Scot, Contemporary Business Communication, 6th edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006. p. 505.

O’Hair, Dan, A Speaker’s Guidebook, third edition. Bedford/St. Martins: Boston. 2007. p. 282.

Reuters, “YouTube Serves Up 100 Million Videos A Day Online. USA Today, June 16, 2006.

Simons, Tad, “Study Shows Just How Much Visuals Increase Persuasiveness,” Presentations Magazine, March 1998, p. 20.

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