Ease your student supervision speed bumps.

How YouTube is Impacting Current and Future College Students

“YouTube is an art medium; a technology which allows listeners to become singers, watchers to become actors and consumers to become producers creating new original works and supplementing existing ones.  It allows everyone to have a voice that can be heard and face that can be seen” (Cayari, 2011, p. 24).

 YouTube is changing the landscape of the digital world.  This video sharing site receives billions of viewers daily, the latest reports show that more than half of viewers are students.  “Teens constitute the dominant demographic on YouTube in terms of their viewership, comments, rating and other feedback mechanisms” (Chau, 2010, p. 65).

YouTube, created in 2005 is now the third most visited website in the world (Cayari, 2011).  From how-to and music videos to daily vlogs and live concerts, all levels of engagement are being activated.  Being part of the YouTube community crosses all forms of social media, as users are active contributors on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine and blog sites, in addition to YouTube.  These virtual communities are shaping and affecting what could be the future of college campuses.
A good majority of the most widely viewed video content on YouTube is created artists/personas called “YouTubers”  or “YouTube Stars.”  These individuals use their videos as a main source of income.  These artists now have access to an audience which could never be reached before.
From my observation and experience, YouTube and Youtubers can teach educators many things.

  • Tips and effective practices for those that want to use and/or create YouTube content in their classrooms or programs.
  • Further understanding of student technology trends.
  • Insight into student interests (what’s popular).
  • Teens  and young adults personal struggles, as shared with the YouTube artist.
  • Online community building behavior.
  • Social media communication and marketing methods.

A YouTube channel owner is placed in a unique perspective, as they interactive with their fans, many of who are teens and young adults. The method that viewers comment, message, share and in-person interact with a YouTuber tells a story of future and current behavior as college students.  Based upon the nature of YouTube, these content creators must be significantly connected to their viewers.  This was found also by Cavri (2011),

“The users of technology shape the technology’s purpose of the technology, which shapes the user’s culture” (p.2).

Through this online activity, young viewers are building the capacity to navigate communities, in addition to exploring their identity.  “Youth gain new skills and explore their identity as they navigate the community and participant in its activities” (Chau 68)  Uniquely, they forge affinities for certain YouTubers whom may become idols or mentors to them.

EpicLloyd with young fans at VidCon

Very little research exits on YouTube, especially based in education nor with young viewers.  Because my life uniquely orbits around the YouTube community, I have always been fascinated with the behind the scenes communication of a YouTuber with their fans.  If you haven’t read my twitter bio or other personal blogs posts, I am married to YouTuber Lloyd Ahlquist, co-creator of the series Epic Rap Battles of History, known as EpicLLOYD.
By merging my personal and profession realms, next week at the NASPA Western Regional Conference I will be facilitating a a session called “Behind the Scenes with YouTubers: How their Channels are Impacting Current & Future College Students.
This session will utilize Google+ Hangouts technology, as the YouTubers will be streamed in live  into Salt Lake, UT from the comfort of their home/studios in Los Angeles.  I am thrilled to announce the following panelist will be part of this inaugural educational session.  I have included a video from each of them at the bottom of this post.

  • Mike Tompkins.  Acapella musician.  1 Million Subscribers.  64 Videos totaling 157,545,132 views.  Recently toured with the Jonas Brothers, has collaborated with such artists as Timbaland and Karmin and has been sponsored by major brands such as  Pepsi.


  • Mary Doodles.  “Makes things” as an artist. 141,965 subscribers.  114 uploads with 12,015,518 views.  Sells works on Deviant art, and has collaborated with Disney and countless YouTube artists.

Mary Doodles

  • EpicLLOYD.  Emcee and Comedian.  7.7 Million Subscribers on Epic Rap Battles of History (ERB), 400,000 subscribers on Epiclloyd page.  Epic Rap Battles videos have been viewed 741+ Million times.   Collaborations on ERB include Snoop Dog, Key and Peele (from Comedy Central), and many other YouTube personalities like Jenna Marbles and Rhett & Link.

Each YouTuber fits what author Clement Chau (2010) described, “YouTubers who consistently read and respond to their ‘fans’ are more likely to retain subscribers and gain more views.” (p. 71).  I am eager to hear each panelist perspective and experience with young people on YouTube; the opportunities for connection, the challenges from negative communication and suggestions for future digital engagement with future and current college students.
In addition to hearing the unique stories from three popular YouTubers, it is important to ground the session in research.  In preparing to submit this proposal six months ago I dug deep into the literature to find best practices and trends.  To my disappointment I found very little.  With this session coming up quickly, I have continued to keep my eye out for recent publications.
Below are the cliff notes to what you can take away from the research, which I will also highlight in my session.   I have found the following categories/outcomes of YouTube related studies: Usage by teens/college students, Community building, Social connection and Educational use.
Teens & College Student Use

  • Teens find YouTube to be more entertaining than any other source.   They are active contributors through comments and creating their own channels (Chau, 2011).
  • College men were more likely than women to watch YouTube, with all logging on for entertainment, information-seeking, co-viewing and social interaction (Haridakis & Hanson 2009).

Community Building

  • YouTube offers an active participatory culture for young adults, as they are part of a large community (Chau, 2011).
  • YouTube is fostered & grown by content sharing, this gives power to the community members as they feel like they belong and will identify even stronger with a channel (Chau, 2011).

Social Connection

  • Haridakis and Hanson (2009) found YouTube use is directly link to social activities and interpersonal interaction.  “Users’ ability to share YouTube videos with others in their social circles suggests that the extent of their offline social activities and interpersonal interaction with others may influence their social use of YouTube” (p. 320).
  • Co-viewing in this same study was a distinct finding, highlighting again the ‘share’ feature of the platform.  In other words, they pass on videos to friends, which then will share in the experience of the content.  This study pointed to the fact that YouTube can actual enhance social circles and social interactions.
  • YouTube would be better described as a social networking site than a video network (Lange, 2008).
  • Sweeney (2009) found that users on YouTube were able to create a network identity.

Educational Use

  • Research on YouTube in education is a new field of study, with minimal publicized works available (Snelson, 2011; Roodt & Peier 2011).
  • Researcher Berk in 2009 pointed to use of video in a college class will improve presentations, since more sense are alerted.  This author further encourages faculty to add learning outcomes to their video use such as “grab students’ attention, focus students’ concentration, generate interest in the class, draw on students’ imagination, improve attitude toward content and learning and to make learning fun.” (p 2)
  • Video use for classes is universal when studying teachers use of YouTube in the classroom,  “More than 80% of survey respondents tapped into online sites such as YouTube for video to use in their teaching” (Tinti-Kane, H. 2013, p 2).  Respondents were enthusiastically using it.
  • Educators can create YouTube playlists that create a structure lesson plan for a topic (Snelson, 2011)
  • Roodt and Peier (2011) found YouTube use in class was for illustrating concepts.   In their study, 71% of students believed the use increased their attention and more than ½ of respondents agreed the usage of YouTube was overall successful, finally 65% would encourage usage in future classes.
  • Teaching math and history using YouTube videos is beneficial (Niess & Walk, 2009).
  • Teachers must educate students on how to seek information through YouTube.  This will develop them into lifelong learners (Cayari, 2011).
  • Integration of digital storytelling, through images, sound and video to create a story.  Seven elements: Point of View, A dramatic Question, Emotional Content, The Gift of your Voice, The Power of the Soundtrack, Economy & Pacing. (Dreon, Kerper & Landis, 2011).

YouTuber Panelist
Mike Tompkins @Mike_Tompkins

Mary Doodles @marydoodles

EpicLLOYD @theepiclloyd

Berk, R. A. (2009).  Multimedia teaching with video clips: TV, movies, YouTube, mtvU in the college classroom. International Journal of Technology in Teaching and Learning, 5(1), 1-21.
Cayari, C.  (2011).  The youtube effect: how youtube has provided new ways to consume, create, and share music.  International Journal of Education & The Arts, 12(6),  1-28.
Chau, C.  (2010).  Youtube as a participatory culture.  New Directions for Youth Development, 128, 65-74.
Dreon, O., Kerper, R. M., & Landis, J.  (May 2011).  Digital Storytelling: a tool for teaching and learning in the youtube generation.  Middle School Journal, 4-10.
Haridakis, P. & Hanson, G. (2009).  Social interaction and co-viewing with youtube: blending mass communication reception and social connection.  Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 53(2), 317-335.
Niess, M. L., & Walker, J. M. (2009).  This rock ‘n’ roll video teaches math.  Learning and leading with technology, 36(8), 36-37.
Tinti-Kane, H.  (April 2013).  Overcoming hurdles to social media in education.  EDUCAUSE review online, founding at www.educause.edu/overcoming-hurdles-social-media-education
Roodt, S. & Peier, D. (2013).  Using youtube in the classroom for the net generation of students.  Issues in Informing Science and Information Technology, 10, 473-487.
Snelson, C. (2011).  YouTube across the disciplines: a review of the literature.  MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 7(1), 159-169.
Sweeny, R. W. (2009).  There’s no ‘I’ in YouTube: social media networked identity and art education.  International Journal of Education Through Art, 5(2/3), 201-212.

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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Assistant Vice President, University of Iowa Center for Advancement

Rebekah Tilley is the assistant vice president of communication and marketing for the University of Iowa Center for Advancement (UICA). In that role she supports fundraising and alumni engagement efforts for the university, including its CASE Gold winning Iowa Magazine, and serves UICA in a variety of strategic communication efforts.

Previously she was the director of strategic communication for the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, and the director of communication for the University of Kentucky College of Law. She is a Kentucky native and a proud alum of the University of Kentucky.

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