Criticisms of YouTube as a Teaching Resource…

I’ve been updating my A-level teaching resources on social class recently and have found it challenging to find valid and reliable sources of documentaries on YouTube.

There are SEVERAL problems you need to be aware of…

Outdated Videos presented as contemporary…

The first problem is with old documentaries being uploaded several years after their original release.

For example: School Swap: The Class divide was uploaded to YouTube by an account called ‘Our Stories’ in 2021…

The problem with this is that the original documentary aired in 2015 on Channel 4, which means that this isn’t necessarily a valid reflection of what is going on today.

The same can be said for a second documentary: Posh and Posher which was uploaded to YouTube by in 2021 despite being aired originally on the BBC in 2011.

To my mind the former is more worrying as the account has almost half a million subscribers with the video having received 4 million views, meaning that’s a lot of people with a misleading impression of when it was shot.

The second example at least has many fewer views and is just on someone’s personal account which makes the credibility of it easier to dismiss.

Beauty verses Expertise…

As a teacher I’m not against non experts having a go at explaining concepts they are not qualified to explain, encouraging students to do this is part of teaching after all, and there’s nothing necessarily inaccurate about what the person in the video below says….

But I can’t help but think the the number of views in this case is due to the pretty face rather than depth of subject-knowledge?

And there are just so many of these videos from non experts – not necessarily in the ‘speak to the camera’ format, some in cartoon format and it isn’t necessarily the case that the person with the most knowledge is going to get the most views….

That which is the most fun to watch isn’t necessarily the most valid!

Incomplete videos

I actually found the video below interesting – and it’s recent – post Jubilee from June 2022, and one of the subjects even references a book on social class directly.

The problem is I think it cuts off early!

The tendency to focus on the ‘Upper Class’

I get it: posh people are interesting, but I guess they are interesting because they are different, rare, unusual. And there are a lot of videos about posh people on YouTube – but in sociology we are usually more interested in how class affects the masses – so the working classes, middle classes, but there is something of a saturation with the minority class that you need to filter through…


You might think using YouTube’s Filters would help to get some useable material…. especially if you search by date

However, I personally found this revealed how biased many of the videos are – and NB there is nothing inherently wrong with people uploading videos with bias, stating their opinions on social class in the UK, and it’s maybe even more useful than you think seeing how obvious this is when you get your search returns contrasted with each other.

And that of course reminds us that even a well researched, well formatted documentary that has been professionally produced has its biases, as does the most professional sociological academic lecture that might appear on YouTube too.

And something else you’ll see more of if you search by date is students own work and exam advice on ‘social class questions’ from teachers, all of which may be more useful to students than ‘regular documentaries’ or educational videos from teachers.

Using YouTube as a Teaching Resource: Final Thoughts..

While I wouldn’t dismiss YouTube out of hand, as a teacher it is your responsibility to double check your sources – and be especially wary of well branded accounts such as ‘Our Stories’ which appear to be legitimate educational accounts but in reality may well be just hack accounts which cut and paste anything for the views and advertising revenue.

Having said that – you can still use the whole YouTube ‘educational’ experience as a good example of hyperreality – what you get is a timeless mis-match of documentaries some contemporary, some presented as contemporary but actually 10 years old; and some based on legitimate research and worth watching, others put together by amateurs with little critical attention.

And very final word, maybe, just maybe, this whole experience shows us that there is something in the Postmodern view that there really is no way of telling what is ‘true’ anymore, if, indeed, there is any such thing as truth – all you get with YouTube is a confusing mix of timeless resources with different biases and no way you can ever review them all or dig-down into the validity, or lack of validity, for every single video that’s been uploaded!

Maybe it’s best just to rely on your Text Books – if you believe they are any less hyperreal than YouTube.

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2 thoughts on “Criticisms of YouTube as a Teaching Resource…”

  1. Ha. The problem with the textbooks is that they are as old as some of those You Tube videos. We’ve only had one OCR textbook for the new specs and that came out at least five years ago. A lot of the content is rehashed from previous books. Little wonder that we scout You Tube for something more up to date.

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