Teaching Youtube to teach

Leigh BlackallCurrent thinking in learning design, Examples of practice, Experience, Featured, Flexible learning, Global, How to, Learning analytics, Learning design, Learning Management Systems, Open education resources, Portfolios, Professional development, Project types, Research and innovation, Resources, Social learning, Solution development, Strategic alignment, Systems, Video learning7 Comments

We’ve been helping Andrew Robinson develop a Youtube channel and videos that assist in the teaching of shoe making in the footwear studio in the Fashion School.

robinsons footwear channel

A screengrab of the Robinson Footwear Youtube channel

The aim is to provide video-based instructions on the use of studio tools so that more students can learn at a time and pace that better suits them. Andrew will continue to give formal instructions as well as observe class use. These videos are to augment that activity.

The few videos that are so far public on Andrew’s channel are examples of our exploration of the techniques and limitations of recording with a phone and editing the footage with the Youtube editor. We’re trying to get Andrew as self sufficient as possible, using readily available technology, within the time available, ideally so he can keep developing the techniques from now on, and help others in his school.

So far the work has developed two main approaches:

  1. QR codes to playlists
  2. Refining Youtube data

QR codes to playlists

Andrew with the Maurser Spezial machine and a QR code that links to a Youtube playlist

Andrew with the Maurser Spezial machine and a QR code that links to a Youtube playlist

We’re using Google’s URL shortener service to generate QR codes for Youtube playlists for each machine and tool in the footwear studio. Google URL shortener is a quick way to get QR codes, and gives us a basic amount of usage data to review. The QR codes are stuck on the machine or in the work area with text alongside to indicate what the code is for, such as “How to use the Mauser”. When the code is scanned with a phone a Youtube playlist loads, listing a range of instructional videos to choose from. Linking to a playlist gives us the flexibility of adding and changing videos without having to update the QR code or lose the usage statistics.

Refining Youtube data

Andrew editing the auto-generated closed captions. We've found that the use of a microphone greatly enhances the accuracy of the auto-generated captions; and that accurate captions improves the relevance and quality of content recommended by Youtube

Andrew editing the auto-generated closed captions. We’ve found that the use of a microphone greatly enhances the accuracy of the auto-generated captions; and that accurate captions improves the relevance and quality of content recommended by Youtube

The other part of the project has been to pay attention to the sorts of data that impacts on how the videos are displayed in Youtube. For example, we’re observing how the titles, descriptions, tags and closed captions of a video or a playlist impact on the sorts of other videos that Youtube recommends and associates along side. We’re finding that these recommendations are made more relevant and useful if care is taken with the meta data, especially the closed captions. Longer term we’re interested to find out what happens when students subscribe and interact with staff channels. We expect such interaction will have a rapidly useful impact on the usefulness of Youtube to student’s networked learning.

This approach to using Youtube to try and establish a School wide learning networke is lead by some of our thinking described in Can we teach the machine to teach, where we are keen to find out if there are things we can do – activities we can undertake, that all together improves the usefulness of Youtube to the user – both teacher and learner.


We’re planning to evaluate this project through the extensive usage statistics that Youtube records, as well as trying to record and observe the impact that that usage has on the gradual establishment of a Youtube learning network in the school. This network will take some time to develop, as it will require a wider adoption of Youtube by staff and students in the school, and a relatively sophisticated use and understanding – akin to how people use and understand Facebook (viewing, subscribing, liking, commenting, creating). Our hope is that we will be able to establish an informal and formal learning network in Youtube, and start discussing and developing activities that enhance the usefulness of that network for people’s research, learning and longer term professional learning.

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Talking the Walk: Innovating in footwear, Step 2 | Digital Learning TeamYoutube, machine learning and professional networks in Fashion | Digital Learning TeamYouTube at the School of Fashion and Textiles: Teaching YouTube to Teach | Digital Learning TeamCollecting distributed network data for analysis of learning | Digital Learning TeamHow to create a QR code with Google URL Shortner | Digital Learning Team Recent comment authors
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Kevin Francke

Some great tips there Leigh. Especially the one about the importance of metadata in Youtube recommending associated videos.
I also found that the more accurate your closed captions are the better the results from Youtubes fantastic auto-translate feature. It’s turning out to be very useful for the growing number of Mandarin speaking students at RMIT.


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[…] In an attempt to address this plaintive refrain and reduce the number of times Andrew needs to repeat standard demonstrations, basic machine and technique procedures have been filmed and edited into sequences of short videos, assembled into playlists in YouTube and linked to the relevant machine or tool by QR code. The hope is that this will help streamline the wait times for students requiring help with work that requires more personal attention. As this work was already in progress when this project began, the nuts and bolts of the idea are discussed in Leigh’s post here. […]