Many people feel that lectures are boring, and the truth is they often are.
And if you ask me, the only thing worse than having to sit through a boring lecture is to watch one thinking it’s going to be amazing only to find that it leaves you feeling completely uninterested in what could potentially have been something you could really get into and be passionate about.
And what if you want to use YouTube lectures for homeschooling? If the students are not engaged in the lecture, they’re just not going to learn anything.
You can also listen to some of the universities like Columbia University, Massachusetts Institute, Harvard University, and Princeton University, and some online course providers like Khan academy.
But being able to watch good quality, stimulating, engaging educational lectures for free on YouTube is something that no one should miss out on.
That’s why I’ve put together a brief shortlist of some of the best lectures to be found on YouTube.
I will give you a quick review of each of them, noting their various pros and cons, and after that, I’ll provide you with a quick guide on what to look for in a YouTube lecture.
Then, I’m going to top that off with a section where I answer some of your most frequently asked questions on the subject.
And without further ado, let’s get straight to it!
(A quick note before we start – the lectures aren’t listed in any particular order.)
Public Lecture: Can We Upload Our Mind To The Cloud? With Neuroscientist Anthony Zador
In this lecture, neuroscientist Anthony Zador discusses whether it’s possible for a human mind to be uploaded into a computer, robot, or the cloud.
The argument that it is possible, stems from the idea of the mind being simply a network of 100 billion brain cells and their connections to one another, much like a computer’s neural network and physics.
As for whether it is possible, I’m not providing spoilers!
The lecture references famous people and TV shows in popular culture to make the material more relatable and attention-grabbing.
This is all done in the introductory section of the lecture before delving into more detail later.
But there is little in the introduction to provide the answer to the question, which consequently keeps the audience hooked right to the very end.
The lecture has been designed for any layman to understand and is almost completely void of unfamiliar rhetoric or foreign jargon.
And he uses helpful analogies, such as comparing a DNA sequence to a barcode.
Zadar explains the latest techniques and technologies to determine the electrical circuits of brain cells, and even how you can use DNA sequencing to this end.
The lecture is 48 minutes long, which is long enough to provide a thorough explanation of the topic, but isn’t so long that viewers will lose interest.
The video is sharp, and the diction is clear.
- Very interesting topic, with much human interest (immortality)
- Visually interesting, complete with photos, diagrams, graphs, and bullet points
- Address both past thinking and thoughts on the future, and reach a conclusion
- Not many likes at this stage (but well over 1000 views)
- Although the topic is put across well, it is possibly too complex for children to understand
Game Theory Of Economics With Ben Polak
The content of this lecture is game theory, which is basically the study of strategic thinking, is something that’s particularly valuable to learn, and can be applied to a wide range of scenarios.
It covers strategies, actions, outcomes, and payoffs, and demonstrates the value of putting yourself in others’ shoes.
The lecture moves away from the standard lecture format.
The video is of a live class, in Yale, no less, where the participants actually play certain games as a means of hands-on experience, and as they learn from each other, the audience at home does too.
What’s more, many of the scenarios covered are things that may arise in the real world, in economics, politics, the movies, and more.
There are subtitles, which is great in case you mishear any of the words.
And the lecturer moves around a lot and gesticulates, rather than staying in one spot, making the lecture more visually stimulating.
The lecture is about an hour and 10 minutes long, which is long enough to provide a thorough explanation of the topic, but isn’t so long that viewers will lose interest.
- Useful – relevant to scenarios in the real world
- Incredibly engaging and stimulating, where the audience (in the lecture hall) participate
- The course is taught over a series of 24 lectures, not just the first one
A Brief History Of Humankind With Dr. Yuval Noah Harari
This course comes to you directly from best-selling non-fiction author, Dr. Yuval Noah Harari. He is the author of several books, the most well-known of which is Sapiens.
And in this series of lectures, he goes over the material covered in this book (so you don’t have to read it and the content reaches a wider audience).
These lectures summarize the history of the whole of humankind history and answer some very significant questions along the way.
Dr. Hari also aims to be very controversial, which should help garner more interest, in that he discusses how he sees history as opposed to how other historians might see it.
What’s more, Dr. Hari actively encourages viewers to think for themselves and even to challenge their previously held views on an array of topics.
The course assumes no prior knowledge of human history, which means that both historians and laymen or beginners can understand and learn from it.
As Dr. Hari speaks, he gestures with his hands, and different camera angles are used. This helps to make the lecture more visually stimulating.
- An interesting and varied selection of topics, with controversial opinions
- The course is delivered in lots of short segments that you can easily fit around your day or even view on the go
- The course is taught over a series of 62 videos, not just the first one
- There are Spanish subtitles throughout, which some viewers may find annoying
What Darwin Won’t Tell You About Evolution – With Jonathan Pettitt
Most adults these days feel that they have a fairly good grasp of Darwin’s theory of evolution, in that it is commonly accepted that humans and monkeys may have had the same ancestor…
But fewer people know about the recent advances in genetics, and what this means for us, but here lecturer Jonathon Pettitt comes to the rescue with all you need to know, through a crash course in population genetics and the evolution of the trans-splicing.
He even explains how non-coding DNA is suspected to come about through interruption by group II introns, and why non-coding DNA is in fact important.
In this lecture, Pettitt makes himself appear more personable to his audience through his rather casual attire. You can see that Pettitt tries to engage with the live audience through direct eye contact.
He gesticulates with his hands and moves around a little (not too much), and he supplies photos to make the lecture more visually interesting.
Despite the nature (pun intended) of the topic, Pettitt makes his lecture easy to understand and follow.
And despite the subtopic of population genetics having much to do with numbers, this is all demonstrated in graph form rather than droll lists of numbers, giving a more impressionable impact for the audience.
When the lecture concentrates on the information in the PowerPoint, the video of Pettitt talking is visible in the top right-hand corner of the whole video, which is great.
He also says things like “you’re probably wondering ‘why should I care?’” before giving 3 reasons why you should care.
The lecture is about 43 minutes long, which is long enough to provide a thorough explanation of the topic, but isn’t so long that viewers will lose interest.
- Interesting topic going into the frontiers of genetic science
- The lecturer’s enthusiasm for the subject is audible in his voice and intonation
- Although the topic is put across well, it is possibly too complex for children to understand
- The details do get a little more complex as the lecture goes on
- Although the lecturer offers to take questions at the end, this is omitted from the YouTube video
Steven Pinker: Linguistics As A Window To Understanding The Brain
This lecture is delivered to you by none other than Steven Pinker, a renowned best-selling popular science author, and cognitive psychologist with a particular interest in psycholinguistics.
Pinker makes his most important points incredibly clear, for example by differentiating between spoken language, thought, written language, and proper grammar.
The lecture is easy to follow and understand and does not require any previous knowledge of the subject.
Pinker looks directly at the camera the whole time. He gesticulates with his hands, and there are different camera angles to make the lecture more visually stimulating.
The majority of the video features Pinker simply saying what he has to say, but this is interspersed with effects, and top-notch animated sequences.
He also makes reference to quotes from well-known personalities, such as Darwin, and Mick Jagger, which serves to give the content a more familiar feel. He even describes language as the original Wiki.
There are subtitles available throughout, which some viewers may find useful.
The lecture is about 50 minutes long, which is long enough to provide a thorough explanation of the topic, but isn’t so long that viewers will lose interest.
- Easy to follow and understand, suitable for beginners
- Subtitles available throughout
- Provides a great overview of the language
- TBH, my only problem with this lecture was choosing which of the lecturer’s books to read first!
What To Look For In A YouTube Lecture
Here’s a quick guide to the factors taken into consideration when making the above checklist. These are some of the key factors that make a good YouTube lecture a great one.
Obviously, the most important thing to consider when choosing a lecture to watch is the topic being discussed.
For example, if you’re interested in a specific event in history, such as President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, then a lecture on the periodic table is completely irrelevant, and may even be considered a waste of valuable time.
To that end, it’s always good to narrow down your lectures by only searching for things you are interested in and want to learn more about in the search bar.
Another thing to consider is the potential usefulness of the lecture. If the lecture teaches you something you can use, like a skill, this generally makes it a better lecture than one on black holes in space, for example.
Number Of Views, Likes, And Youtube Channel Subscribers
The number of views a video has received speaks volumes about how many people want to watch it.
But, crucially, the number of views means very little if people don’t actually like the video enough to give it a like.
However, this needs to be balanced by the fact that viewers have to have a YouTube account before they can “like” a YouTube video.
But since you don’t actually need a YouTube account to watch a YouTube video, the likes don’t necessarily provide an accurate reflection of the number of viewers who enjoyed the video.
You may also be interested in the number of channel subscribers since this demonstrates how many people want to continually receive content from the Youtube channels, as this is a clear sign that after watching one video, they want to watch more from the same channel.
People also like to hear lectures from famous people. This is because the audience feels like they already know a lot about the person and that in itself is enough to garner more empathy from the audience.
This is particularly valuable when the lecture discusses the lessons learned by the speaker, what their experiences have taught them, and what they can teach the audience.
One-Off Versus Series
Sometimes a topic is best left as a one-off lecture video.
However, once your appetite is whetted for a particular topic, and you would love to learn more, you may prefer to watch a lecture series rather than just one.
Enthusiasm For The Subject
When a speaker is enthusiastic about the subject, it really shows, and it’s contagious, and learners will be excited, too.
Arousing Of Curiosity
A really good lecture doesn’t give too much knowledge away, instead, it keeps the subject alluring and mysterious, to prompt the learner to want to find out more.
Ok, so, in YouTube lectures you don’t get to do any hands-on learning per se. But that doesn’t mean you can’t watch a practical demonstration being carried out by the lecturer.
This is much more interesting than simply watching someone talk for an hour or so. And, what’s more, it is a proven method for better retention of learning than merely hearing someone talk.
If a demonstration is not possible or appropriate, it can also help to discuss an example.
Another thing that makes lectures more interesting is movement. If you watch news presenters or TED Talks speakers, you will notice small movements of their heads, and in some cases gesticulating.
This helps to keep lectures visually interesting so that the attention of the viewer is better maintained.
And to make a lecture even more visually stimulating, the curator could provide a PowerPoint presentation with effects, pictures, movement, videos, or animations.
Length And Pace Of The Video
The longer a lecture is, the more knowledge can be fit into it, and the easier it is to explain something in-depth and reiterate the most important points, which is important for retaining learning.
However, the longer the lecture is, the less likely it is that it will maintain the viewer’s attention.
What this means is that ideally, lectures should have a perfect balance between length and brevity. As a general rule, anywhere between 20 minutes and 1 hour is a good length.
If you wish to take notes throughout the lecture, you may wish the speaker to go at a suitable pace.
However, one of the great things about YouTube lectures is that you can pause videos at any point to take notes.
More Than One Speaker
Don’t get me wrong, you can have some excellent lectures where there is just one person talking. However, when someone is being interviewed, this gives the lecture a wholly different dynamic.
It becomes more of a conversation than a speech, and it makes the video not only more visually stimulating but also more intellectually stimulating, especially if there is a heated debate. And it still counts as a lecture.
Answers To Your Most Frequently Asked Questions
How Do I Get The Most Out Of Lectures?
Watching lectures on YouTube means that you get the best possible seat, so that’s one less thing to worry about.
You should stay focused, take notes, and actively listen. At the end of the lecture, try to summarize the key takeaways from what you’ve learned, and ask yourself key questions on the material.
Can You Upload Lectures To YouTube?
If a lecture is particularly interesting or moving, no one could blame you for wanting to share it with the masses.
You can upload lecture series to different attitudes and subject courses for example the Internet, literature, technology, engineering, economics, biology, management, psychology, mathematics, philosophy, science, and a lot more like these.
However, before you go ahead and do so, please ensure that you have permission from everyone taking part.
It’s free to upload videos, including lectures, onto YouTube, or you can even live stream for free.