eLearning has been around for quite a while now. It's not like the '90s were yesterday, is it? The pattern that online courses follow often is the same as it was in the early days — a chapter or two from the textbook, a few additional readings, threaded discussion, a written assignment, and perhaps an exam. For the most part there's nothing wrong with this; it's a pattern through which many people have learned many things. But it also misses a more active element that typically comes with a campus based course, that of having something to watch.
Similarly, Internet technology has come a long way since the '90s. Back then most people connected to the Internet through dial-up, and courses had to be based on text and a few images because it wasn't really practical to expect students to be able to access anything else. Nowadays, of course, video is all over the Internet, and people all over the world routinely watch video without thinking twice about it.
Now, when you hear the phrase "video on the Internet", what do you think of first? If you're like many people, the answer is YouTube. Fortunately for eLearning, it turns out that YouTube is good for more than funny videos of people's pets. It's part of Google, and Google is pretty good at putting together resources that are useful for education. Proving that their video repository is no exception, there's YouTube EDU, which organizes educational videos from universities and other organizations on almost every conceivable topic and makes them really easy to find.
Because these videos are free to view, they're a great choice for instructors who are putting together an online course, because there's no question about whether there would be any bother with copyright infringement. This means that even those instructors who design courses for institutions that don't have the resources (or the will) to provide them with access to video still have options for including something with a little pizazz into the courses they build.
But YouTube EDU is more than just a boon to instructional designers. It's a great resource for students as well. Some students may want to use them to get a "second opinion" on the material they're covering in a course — whether online or on campus. And some may see this as a way they could learn new material independently, whether to try to test out of course, or just for the joy of learning.
After all, there's only so many new things you'll learn from those funny pet videos.