David Topps, MD, Joyce Helmer, EdD, and Rachel Ellaway, PhD
The means to share educational materials have grown considerably over the years, especially with the multitude of Internet channels available to educators. This article describes an innovative use of YouTube as a publishing platform for clinical educational materials.
The authors posted online a series of short videos for teaching clinical procedures anticipating that they would be widely used. The project Web site attracted little traffic, alternatives were considered, and YouTube was selected for exploration as a publication channel.
YouTube’s analytics tools were used to assess uptake, and viewer comments were reviewed for specific feedback in support of evaluating and improving the materials posted. The uptake was much increased with 1.75 million views logged in the first 33 months. Viewer feedback, although limited, proved useful. In addition to improving uptake, this approach also relinquishes control over how materials are presented and how the analytics are generated. Open and anonymous access also limits relationships with end users.
In summary, YouTube was found to provide many advantages over self publication, particularly in terms of technical simplification, increased audience, discoverability, and analytics. In contrast to the transitory interest seen in most YouTube content, the channel has seen sustained popularity. YouTube’s broadcast model diffused aspects of the relationship between educators and their learners, thereby limiting its use for more focused activities, such as continuing medical education.
Our experience offers an innovative approach to disseminating open-access clinical skills training videos. YouTube solved a number of our technical challenges in video publication. It secured a very large audience for the project and, by providing rich data on how the material was used, allowed the project team members to continue to refine the materials to meet the needs of users.