How YouTube creates a community of learners amid controversy

The education channels thriving out of the spotlight

Students watching a Crash Course video.

Over the past year, it’s been hard to escape the detriments of YouTube. 

From videos of suicide victims to parents sharing videos of child abuse through “pranks,” it’s been easy to lose hope in humanity’s use of the internet video service. 

Despite all of the controversy and negativity surrounding YouTube lately, all hope isn't lost. YouTube still thrives in its creation of supportive communities who continue to share their love for learning everything about anything.

In a 2015 TEDTalk, author and vlogger John Green discussed how, as someone who always found passion in learning, he felt lost after graduating university until he discovered YouTube. For all of the terrible, abusive videos on the platform, Green was able to see there are even more videos that strive to cultivate a love of learning.

In 2007, John and his brother Hank launched their now-famous YouTube channel, Vlogbrothers. Through Vlogbrothers, John and Hank were able to share their passion for education, creating two videos a week that covered almost every topic imaginable; from life with a chronic illness to how giant tortoises mate. Over 11 years, Vlogbrothers has continued to grow in fame, creating a community known as the Nerdfighters and even launching Vidcon, a conference for YouTubers and their fans to come together and discuss their platform.

In 2012, John and Hank further committed to the expansion of the YouTube learning community by launching CrashCourse, an educational YouTube channel dedicated to creatively teaching a range of topics typically covered in school including psychology, world history and effective study skills. 

Hank Green, the science-focused co-founder of Vlogbrothers and Crash Course, also launched the YouTube channel SciShow in 2012. Hank, who hosts the show with Michael Aranda and Olivia Gordon, uses the platform to make quick, fun videos that break down all topics of science. The channel’s success led to numerous spin-offs like SciShow Space, SciShow Kids and SciShow Psych.

With the success of CrashCourse to build upon, YouTube’s learning communities have become a safe space for vloggers to teach about their various passions. Vlogger Kati Morton, a licensed marriage and family therapist, started her channel in 2011. With a current subscriber count of over 250,000 ever since, Morton devotes herself to breaking down stigmas surrounding mental illness through education and sharing her experiences working in the mental health field. 

With hundreds of videos, Kati works to answer questions many people have about mental health. Her videos outline mental disorders ranging from the more common, like anxiety disorders and depression, to the less common, including schizotypal personality disorder and binge eating disorder. She also addresses prevailing concerns about therapy, with videos titled, “What happens during a first therapy appointment?” and “Your confidentiality in therapy.”

YouTube comments, notorious for being a venue for hatred and ignorance, are a prime example of the sense of community created by these vloggers. On Kati Morton’s videos, the comments are filled with stories from her “Kinions” about their experiences with mental health and what has aided their recovery. 

Despite this past year exemplifying how YouTube can be used for evil and profit, vloggers and their fans remain dedicated to their passion for learning and have maintained a quiet but supportive YouTube community.

And if that community sounds like something you want to be a part of, there are a lot of options just a few clicks away. Between popular educational channels like Vlogbrothers, CrashCourse, Kati Morton, SciShow, Minute Physics, Veritasium, Smarter Every Day and Life Noggin, you’re bound to find an interesting educational topic that not only piques your interest, but also a supportive community waiting to welcome you. 


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