Archival Opinion: YouTube’s Educational Program Crash Course is Incredibly Important in Our Media Age — And Here’s Why

Archival Opinion: YouTube’s Educational Program Crash Course is Incredibly Important in Our Media Age — And Here’s Why


Originally Written in 2016 and posted on LinkedIn.
Revisited in 2018 with updated information.

Not Sponsored by Crash Course or its parent company, Complexly. 



Six years ago, YouTubers John and Hank Green came together with others to create innovation. A free, easily accessible, learning program. It taught you the basics of American History, World History, English Literature, and much more. This wasn’t the first time someone had made a channel or website that allowed free education. Khan Academy had been around since September of 2006, but at the time, they only taught math. John and Hank Green began to make what education was available online more accessible and more varied, proving that education can be completely free.


The business is mainly funded by voluntary donations. Through the service, Patreon, subscribers can give as much money as they want towards Crash Course, allowing the company to continue going. In late 2014, they also became partnered with PBS Digital Studios, allowing them a bigger budget, which then allowed for them to have more and more content as the years have gone on. As of the writing of this article, Crash Course has gathered over 5 million YouTube subscribers, and over 450 million views. They’ve also created Crash Course Kids, aimed at younger viewers.


As of 2018, Crash Course broke off from PBS Digital Studios and is not under the parent company Complexly, run by the Green Brothers themselves. 


The videos Crash Course provides are used in various schools around the world. They have also begun to create worksheets to go along with their curriculum, and those are slowly coming out to help schools teach along with their programming. Including the one show produced on Crash Course Kids, there have been twenty-one different seasons of Crash Course, all varying in topics.  


All of the aforementioned information explains just the beginnings of why Crash Course is so important in our day and age. It is using a medium of innovation, allowing free education to anyone who has access to the internet. With its colorful cast of hosts, it’s amazing graphics team, Thought Café, and its topics of huge interest, it makes learning fun, easy, and most importantly, available to nearly everyone. 


From public and private schools, to those who are homeschooled, to those who haven’t had a formal education in any form. Education, in many cases, can be very inaccessible. From public schools that are shutting down, to incredibly expensive colleges that put people into debt, to places in the developing world who don’t even have access to schools in some cases. Crash Course is doing what it can to provide for the needs of those who can have access to the internet. Of course, this doesn’t account for everyone, but it is a huge step in the right direction.


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So, if Crash Course has been going on for this long, why are we bringing it up now? The company was under a little bit of fire in 2016 (when this article was originally written). A course by the name Human Geography came out on the channel, and after two episodes were released, the season was promptly removed from YouTube. Why? Inaccuracy. Now — before you think I’m about to debunk everything written above, I’m not. In fact, this is another reason why Crash Course is so important in this digital age.  


In a small video released on October 31st, 2016, John Green addressed the controversy. He said that Crash Course was “hitting the pause button” on the Human Geography course in order to re-work it. Without hesitation, Green went on to explain how the company attempted to grow Crash Course’s video content, and curriculum, without raising their budget and without increasing their staff.  “That,”  John Green said, “was a mistake.”  


This lead to factual mistakes, poor editing, and rushed production. John Green also said that the tone of the episodes were “too strident”, or harsh. Green went on to mention some specific mistakes made in the episodes. This mistake resulted in a product that hadn’t been as good as Crash Course’s previous series. 


“Crash Course needs to have a point of view, but it also needs to be intellectually rigorous and to acknowledge the diversity of opinion and research within a field, and we didn’t do that.”  - John Green

John Green went further to explain how they would address the problem. They’d work with more experts on the courses, and spend more times on the scripts. He then acknowledged that this change would slow down their production — and then he said something I found key. “Ultimately, I think it will also improve our videos.” 


This is exactly why, in this world where education comes along with greed, Crash Course is so important. Green admits to the flaws within their system with no defense and no poor attitude. They brought down the videos and explained how they were going to fix the problems. They also say they’re going to take their time.  


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Assuming this rings true, and Green and the rest of the staff at Crash Course do just this, what we’re seeing is rare. An apology without an excuse, and without a political answer. If this is true, we’re seeing a company put their product before their profit, and more importantly, we’re seeing a company put education before profit. This is rare, which is sad and frankly sickening, but it seems to exist somewhere, at least. That somewhere is Crash Course.


I’ve been following Crash Course since day one. I have not watched all their series, but the ones I have, I have enjoyed thoroughly. I have gained much knowledge from their videos, and I am thankful for them, too. It’s more engaging than an expensive textbook, and it encourages me to learn more. I’m not learning to pass a test — I’m learning for the sake of learning.


One of the series I did not see was Crash Course Human Geography. However, I’m glad I’ve yet to view it. With Green and the Crash Course team re-working the series, I have faith that it will come back as factual and much better. It’s not a blind faith, either, from viewing their other series.  


Green also thanked everyone who gave him and the team constructive criticism.  “You make the channel better for us and for all those who watch it,” Green said. “Snarky or abusive comments that don’t come from a place of generosity are really hard to respond to with anything but defensiveness, but we’ve been really lucky at Crash Course that there are so many kind and careful critiques, and we’re very grateful for them.”


It’s also worth noting that John Green only blamed himself. He said that if we’re mad at anyone, we should be mad at him. He didn’t blame anyone else for his mistake, and made sure to note that the presenter of Human Geography was not blamed for his misstep.


You can check out Crash Course on their YouTube Channel, here.



Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of She studies English and is a huge fan of all things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.


If You're not Watching Emily Graslie, You're Missing Out


Emily Graslie, of YouTube’s The Brain Scoop, only has a little over 300,000 subscribers, and in this day-and-age of the internet, that isn’t a lot. However, she’s not lacking the viewers because her content isn’t great — it is great. Her educational content, backed up by the Chicago Field Museum, is something worthwhile. Educators on YouTube have made more strides to make the internet more than just jokes and cat videos, and Emily Graslie is one of the best out there.


Her channel started from very humble beginnings. Emily Graslie was discovered by Hank Green, a man who is known for his innovation on YouTube with the help of his brother. Hank Green visited a little museum in Montana called the “Phillip L. Wright Zoological Museum”, where Graslie volunteered. Green, who runs a vlog channel with his brother, recorded the experience and the tour Graslie gave him on camera for his viewers to see. Green was taken by Graslie’s comfort in front of the camera, and the loyal vlogbrothers subscribers loved her, too. Green began to back up Graslie in making a YouTube channel of her own, where she would be educating people on animals, taxidermy, and how museums were run. Soon enough, she was contacted by the Chicago Field Museum, and she was offered a job there.


Now, The Brain Scoop is run out of the Field Museum.


Nearly four years later, though, and not enough people have payed attention to the strides her channel is making. From encouraging young women to join in STEM fields, to keeping people up to date on scientific news (in her new segment called “the Natural News”), to using her time and energy to educate as many people as possible. I don’t think she’s getting the attention she deserves.


Before reaching the Field Museum, Graslie was worried she’d have to shut down the show. They weren’t receiving the funding they needed. A lack of viewers left them unable to pay the small team behind the camera, and even Graslie herself.


Some of the problem may lay with the fact that she wasn’t doing weekly videos. Even with a small team behind her, doing the editing and whatnot, it takes a lot of time and effort to come out with these videos. Between doing all the research, the shooting, the editing, and the processing, a small team can only handle so much. However, Graslie has stated recently that they will be back to making weekly videos soon, and hopefully this will help up their viewer count.


Graslie’s videos cover a wide range of topics that can appeal to many different audiences. She’s gone so far as to skin a wolf on camera for people to watch how taxidermy works. She also goes into more simple subjects, such as the difference between horns and antlers, that can appeal to younger viewers. She has humor thrown throughout to keep viewers entertained, and her quirky personality is something that’s enjoyed by all. She’s extremely intelligent, and she showcases this without being in your face about her knowledge. Her only goal is to educate people as much as she possibly can.


It should be noted that it’s not as though Graslie has gotten no attention for her channel. Early on in the channel’s life, she was featured on the Scientific American website for her work.

  “I mean …that’s pretty awesome,”  — Emily Graslie about being featured on Scientific American


She has even had the opportunity to give a TEDtalk (which you can view here), all about the value of curiosity — a topic she holds dear.


Considering the small size of her channel, it has done well, regardless. However, it still deserves more attention. The Brain Scoop proves to be everything education should be. Free, allowed to the public, easily accessible, fun, worthwhile, and engaging. If you enjoy learning and science, you’re really missing out if you’re not watching The Brain Scoop.

Originally Posted on LinkedIn by Mariah Loeber



Mariah Loeber is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of She studies English and is a huge fan of things STEM.  Find her on Twitter.