Skip to main content
Wasting time on YouTube? Watch out, you might learn something

Wasting time on YouTube? Watch out, you might learn something

The world’s biggest video site, YouTube, is like a public library. It contains pretty much every kind of video, just as a library contains pretty much every kind of book. YouTube gets a lot of stick about funny cat videos and other amusing fluff, but this is no reason to avoid it as a low-brow site. Who would avoid visiting their public library for serious research just because it also contains tacky romance novels and ghost-written celebrity autobiographies?

We tend to forget that YouTube’s output has traditionally been largely didactic. How-to videos have been staple fare since its early days. There’s even a time-honoured format for how-to YouTube videos: slowly and patiently narrated, often tongue-in-cheek, and featuring an obligatory ‘You will need ...’ segment showing the required tools and materials being laid out. The people were given YouTube, and they used it to explain things. That’s how it evolved.

Educators and entrepreneurs have realised this and created educational channels on which they broadcast weekly or monthly videos with an educational angle. Here are some of the best you can find on YouTube today.

Crash Course

Tagline: “Raising nerdy to the power of awesome.” Two brothers have been filling this channel with humorous, engaging crash courses for over two years now and are so good at it they have built up nearly 10 million followers. Their enjoyment and sense of fun are obvious, and the quality of their work is high. You don’t always get that level of enthusiasm from your school teachers, so these are absolute nuggets of edutainment. Crash courses include History, The Gene, Civil Engineering, Greek Comedy and too many to list here.

Smarter Every Day

This channel takes a more casual and unstructured approach, exploring the world using science. There’s no real sense of ‘course’ here, crash or otherwise. Rather, the enthusiastic channel owner explores curious and everyday phenomena in bite-sizes science-based chunks. One of his most popular videos is about how cats always land on their feet and involves dropping a cat in slow motion. What is it with YouTube and cats?


Epipheo’s statement is bold: extract a monthly life-changing epiphany from one of the world’s top thought leaders and make it accessible to everyone. Whether each these well-produced and funny videos will always produce a gasp of revelation from every viewer is debatable, but they are certainly engaging and compelling. Less hard science and more humanities-based, we can say this about Epipheo: somewhere on this channel there’s an epiphany for everyone.


“The truth, with photons” is one of Veritasium’s pithy slogans. This one-man-band YouTube channel has achieved huge popularity by posting science explainer videos that convey excitement and wonder while getting the underlying science across effectively. From chucking a basketball off the Hoover Dam to finding out whether silence can drive you crazy, Veritasium has that must-watch factor that draws people in by the scruff of their neck – and teaches them something.

There are plenty more educational channels to explore on YouTube. You probably couldn’t watch them all in a lifetime. But you can drink your fill of knowledge. And who knew we’d all been eating pineapple wrong our whole lives?