Before YouTube, the audience for a college lecture was generally limited to the size of a room. Now, online video is expanding that audience.
Google recently made headlines for partnering with EdX to create what they call "a YouTube for MOOCs." But of course, there's plenty of educational content on YouTube itself — YouTube even has a page dedicated to the topic.
One interesting note: YouTube might be the pathway into students' homes, but only if those students are in countries that allow access to the site. Udacity, for one, is putting its videos on its own site, saying that not everyone can access the video sharing platform. (Iran often blocks it; China always does.)
With all of that in mind, here are five lecturers who have made a name for themselves on YouTube:
1. WALTER LEWIN
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Walter Lewin is an MIT physics professor who has made notable contributions to the field of astrophysics. He’s also the professor whose videos are among the most popular on MIT’s YouTube channel. You can watch him swing like a pendulum in front of his class and surprise his students by pulling an elephant femur from behind his desk. He was the subject of a 2007 New York Times article on his popularity. One thing is certain: He has theatricality nailed.
2. MICHAEL MALONE
Michael Malone was a writer for the soap opera "One Life to Live." (When the soap opera ended, Malone gave an interview looking back over his time there and the soap genre in general.) His academic specialties include TV writing and theater studies. In an interview posted on YouTube, Malone answers questions about storytelling. You can also watch him appearing in character as Charles Dickens to read from the author's works at a 200th birthday celebration.
3. ROBERT SAPOLSKY
Robert Sapolsky's lecture on depression has garnered nearly half a million views on YouTube. Other intriguing and popular YouTube videos of his include "Are Humans Just Another Primate?" and "Schizophrenia." In 2009, Sapolsky gave a TED Talk on the uniqueness of humans and the human behaviors that the rest of the animal kingdom would consider strange.
4. SHELLY KAGAN
Shelly Kagan specializes in moral philosophy and some of his most popular YouTube videos are lectures from a course titled simply "Death." His book of the same name was adapted into an essay that explored the question "Why is death bad?" Other lectures in the class cover the topics of suicide and the fear of death.
5. MICHAEL SANDEL
You know you've made it when you earn the moniker "moral rock star." Michael Sandel has taught political philosophy at Harvard since 1980. In the '90s, he began teaching his class "Justice," which has since been turned into a co-production with Boston television station WGBH. His course explores topics such as putting a price on a human life and murder.