YouTube videos help MET professor reach global audience
Mark French has added another element to his teaching arsenal – YouTube videos. He created a PurdueMET YouTube channel, and in less than a year, he has posted more than 70 videos. The postings explain mechanical engineering concepts such as Mohr’s circle, thin wall pressure vessels, and cantilever beams.
The audience for these specialized videos reaches around the globe. He has 280 subscribers, and collectively the videos have been viewed more than 80,000 times.
“One of my students asked if I would post videos explaining the concepts,” French said. “I tried to videotape lectures, but that didn’t work well. Students seem to want short, specific pieces, not a 45-minute lecture that they have to search through.”
So he picked a problem to illustrate from his MET211 course, set up a camera in his office, recorded himself explaining the process of solving the problem and posted the video online. Within a week, the video had been viewed about 500 times.
“I had about 73 students in the two sections of my class, so I knew others had to be watching it,” he said.
The first response to the video was from a viewer in Austria. Throughout the year, French has heard from students from Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Australia, England, Singapore and more.
French has received positive feedback from people who view the videos. They appreciate his teaching skills and his ability to succinctly and thoroughly cover a concept. Many mention that his videos helped with their tests or explained ideas better than their own professors.
He has been surprised by the popularity of some videos that cover concepts he thought were simple ones, such as Mohr’s circle (see video below). The two videos on that topic have garnered the most views – 22,000.
“Here’s my theory. We as professors forget what it feels like to be a student. I know I’ve forgotten,” he said. “I’ve taught this stuff so long, it’s second nature to me. But it’s what the students are looking for.”
And the viewers of YouTube channel send in requests as well. Most recently, they’ve been asking for help with 3-D Mohr’s circles. French doesn’t teach about them in his classes, but he has been reading up on the topic. He plans to post a video on the topic soon.
“If people around the world are asking for it, let’s give it to them,” he said.
The global nature of his audience has excited French. He knows the University is interested in addressing global challenges on many levels. Providing easy-to-grasp explanations of these topics is one way he is able to have an impact.
In the coming months, he will be working with the college’s Office of Marketing and Communications to help associate the videos more with Purdue and the College of Technology, enhance the editing and production values, organize the videos for easier retrieval, and to spread the word for maximum reach.
French provided some tips for other professors who may want to explore YouTube videos for their classes:
- Keep them short, 5-10 minutes, certainly not more than 12 minutes
- Don’t get too fussed on production quality; getting information out is more important than the video quality
- Watch how big you write on the board; YouTube is low quality, and things get blurry.
- Turn off the camera’s autofocus or it will continually try to focus on you as you move around instead of on the explanations on the board.