January 25, 2023
Arizona State University, YouTube and the video channel Crash Course announced a partnership this week that offers online, transferable, credit-bearing courses that begin on YouTube. The trio is championing the initiative as one that provides open, low-cost, flexible access to higher education. Students can sign up now for courses that begin in early March.
“We’re meeting learners where they are,” said Maria Anguiano, executive vice president of the Learning Enterprise at ASU. “Ultimately, they are on YouTube, and we’re excited to democratize the access to information and opportunity.” The new courses are a significant expansion of the current Study Hall platform, which is a collaboration between the three organizations and has nearly 42,000 subscribers.
A higher education cocktail that mixes a university known for innovation, an experienced provider of compelling educational multimedia content and a behemoth online video-sharing website holds promise. But bridging the divide between fun, free educational videos on YouTube and the assessment and learning verification needs of online college will be a nontrivial challenge for the partnership. As experts eye ASU’s latest initiative, they are watching with cautious optimism to see if the university has learned from some of its past efforts to counteract the intractable problem of engaging and keeping learners on the margins in online education, including high school graduates who decided not to attend college or those who dropped out of a two- or four-year college program. It also appears to be a twist on the strategy of free or low-cost content (like that on massive open online course platforms) as marketing channels or tasting menus for would-be for-credit students.
To be sure, a university could do worse than establishing a presence on the world’s second-most-visited website (Google ranks first). YouTube’s massive audience appears ravenous for content, including of the educational variety. Users watch more than one billion hours of video per day on the site. Among U.S. adults, approximately four out of five (81 percent) spend time on YouTube. But Americans comprise only a fraction of the audience, as more than 80 percent of YouTubers hail from outside the United States.