Days ago YouTube launched a new “channel” or sub-site—YouTube EDU. The site gathers thousands of free lectures from over a hundred universities across the country and offers them online for free. The site doesn’t just have scattered videos—it has hundreds of full courses, too.

As some have been quick to point out, this isn’t “as good” as actually paying thousands of dollars a year to go the universities so you can get interaction with the professors, have a human touch, ask questions and so forth. You also can’t get a certified degree through YouTube EDU.

But as many others have pointed out, you often cannot get that personal touch in many large lecture classes anyway, and what’s more, many people can’t pay the high tuition rates at these universities or gain admission to them. YouTube offers it all online for free—thereby bringing the opportunity to learn from the leading academics to anyone at any time nearly anywhere. It looks like disruption at its finest—and if someone like the University of the People, which is opening in just days, wraps this in a new business model and offers certification and a degree or perhaps a service like StraighterLine offers access to human beings to answer questions, who knows where this all could go and how it might improve over time to meet these initial shortcomings.

There are other players out here playing in this game as well, such as Academic Earth, which offers better navigation features to find the lecture in which you’re interested and so forth, but reportedly has fewer videos up at the moment.

Who knows how it will evolve, but here’s a guess that the disruption will improve in a myriad of unforeseen ways and will come to benefit the lives of many more people who couldn’t access the original expensive and inconvenient offering.

– Michael B. Horn


  • Michael B. Horn
    Michael B. Horn

    Michael B. Horn is Co-Founder, Distinguished Fellow, and Chairman at the Christensen Institute.