YouTube for How To’s: Just-In-Time Learning

January 13, 2011

By Marilynne Rudick

Learn anything online, 24/7, in under 10 minutes for free

My husband was standing on my desk, replacing the dead ceiling light fixture in my office. He’d taken down the old fixture, and two frayed wires were sticking out. The new fixture had a third wire—the ground. “What do I do with the ground?” he asked.

With electricity, there’s a potentially high price for getting it wrong. He’d already nixed the “call an electrician” option. I was sitting in front of my computer, so I immediately went to YouTube and searched for “installing a ceiling fixture.” The search turned up 44 how-to videos. We quickly chose from a variety of videos by home fix-it gurus and learned what to do with the ground wire.

Even if you’ve never posted a video on YouTube, someone’s probably forwarded you a link to a cat video, Christian The Lion, a political ad, or a video of a new grandchild. But my favorite YouTube app is just-in-time learning. There’s a how-to for just about anything you’d like to learn. Even better, it’s available 24/7.

Learn Anything 24/7

I’m a novice knitter. Every time I start a new project, there’s something new that I have to learn (most recently how to use double-pointed needles). I have a lot of how-to-knit books, but I find the pictures in the books hard to follow. So, when I have to learn a new skill, I do a YouTube search on that topic. I can sit there, knitting needles in hand, and follow the video, pausing and replaying something that I didn’t get. I don’t have to put my knitting aside and wait until I can find a more experienced knitter to show me how.

I recently had a work project that involved using an Excel spreadsheet for a database. My Excel skills are rudimentary. So, I searched “Excel+how tos.” Near the top of the 8700 results was an entire Excel course (59 videos) by Highline. Class 14 was How to Setup Data in Excel.

YouTube videos are short (mostly under 10 minutes). Therefore, learning is presented in short bites. That means you don’t have to go through a complete course in electrical wiring to find out what to do with the ground wire, or view an entire how-to-knit video to see a demo of knitting with double pointed needles.

With YouTube you learn whatever and whenever you choose. And it’s free.

Marilynne RudickAbout the Author: Marilynne Rudick writes about web tools and technologies in her WebOver50 blog.  She believes the web is wasted on the young, and her blog explains web apps– social networking, blogging, YouTube, and the treasure trove of new web tools—for people like herself: an over50 history major.

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