Flipped and blended classrooms integrate online instructional videos with traditional classroom activities. Sometimes, students watch videos for homework before engaging more deeply with the content during class. YouTube, which launched in 2005, is the most common video sharing app because teachers can create and upload custom instructional videos. And, in 2021, YouTube launched YouTube Shorts - vertical format videos for cell phones less than 60 seconds long. Since the launch of Shorts, YouTube viewership has increasingly shifted to YouTube Shorts, and students generally prefer short cell phone videos instead of long-form videos more commonly used in blended classrooms. So, how does a chemistry course keep up with this new trend?
I started uploading my own chemistry tutorials and problem walkthroughs to YouTube almost ten years ago, and at that time, 6-10 minute long videos were standard. Until 2021, my YouTube channel grew consistently; however, near the end of 2021, I noticed a significant decrease in viewership. Views of longer YouTube videos were considerably less than shorter videos. And, since most of my videos were 6-10 minutes long, my YouTube channel declined quickly.
There are likely many factors contributing to the popularity of shorter explanatory videos. Over 60 percent of online video content is now viewed on a smartphone instead of a computer or television (see figure 1).1 Because it is more natural to hold cell phones vertically, video formats favoring the vertical aspect ratio have exploded in popularity. For instance, the social media video app TikTok uses a vertical aspect ratio and limits videos' length to 3 minutes. Since its global release in 2017, TikTok has grown more quickly than any other video app, with almost 1 billion installs in 20202. In 2021, in response to TikTok, YouTube launched a new video format called YouTube shorts. YouTube shorts also use the vertical aspect ratio and limit video length to 60 seconds, and in 2022, YouTube Shorts videos had more views than traditional long-form YouTube videos.
Figure 1: Digital video usage by device in the US in 20221
In 2022, I decided to experiment with the two different YouTube formats. I began uploading two versions of every video: A 3-minute traditional horizontal YouTube video and a condensed 1-minute vertical YouTube shorts video. Not surprisingly, the YouTube Shorts version consistently outperformed the longer standard video.
It's clear that TikTok and YouTube Shorts are the preferred online video format, and here are some ways I've incorporated them into my chemistry course.
Figure 2: Example Content Review worksheet including QR code directing students to YouTube video playlist. A printable version is available in the Supporting Information below.
I often use TikTok and YouTube Shorts style videos to help students with exam review. Since students already have a foundational knowledge of the content, I can cut to the main ideas for solving a particular problem and keep the videos short. On YouTube, videos are easily organized into a playlist, so I can design custom sets of videos for each exam. As an added benefit, students are much more likely to watch review videos if they are short and can be viewed easily on their phones. Figure 2 shows a review worksheet I provide with the questions and a QR code that will take students directly to a playlist with videos that walk through each question. A printable version of this worksheet is available in the supporting information below this article.
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) focus on helping students explain and make sense of phenomena. Phenomena are typically used to introduce a new unit of study as students work towards explaining the phenomena through their newly acquired knowledge. When introducing phenomena, it's essential to leave out the scientific explanation because students should be permitted first to wonder and ask questions. TikTok and YouTube Shorts are ideal for introducing a phenomenon because the short-form nature of the videos doesn't allow for a detailed explanation. Teachers can use their cell phones to capture an exciting phenomenon and then ask a few guiding questions within the 60-second clip. Since the video is easily accessible on a cell phone, students can continually revisit the phenomenon throughout the unit of study. Tommy Technetium is one of my favorite YouTube channels for chemistry-related phenomena.
Common chemistry laboratory techniques are often unfamiliar to chemistry learners. Minor errors in lab technique can negatively impact results and take away from the learning outcomes. A video glossary demonstrating typical lab techniques may prove beneficial for students and help them avoid small mistakes. For example, the glossary could include YouTube Shorts videos that demonstrate correctly reading a meniscus on a graduated cylinder or how to properly fold weigh paper and tare a balance.
These are a few ways that I've used short-form vertical aspect videos in my chemistry class, but surely there are others. How are you using TikTok or YouTube shorts in your class? Leave a comment; I'd love to learn more about this new video format.
- Statista. (November 28, 2022). Digital video usage by devices in the U.S. in 2022 [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved January 17, 2023, from https://www.statista.com/forecasts/997109/digital-video-usage-by-devices-in-the-us
- DIW. (January 17, 2022). Number of first-time TikTok installs from 2017 to 2021 (in millions) [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved January 17, 2023, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/1089420/tiktok-annual-first-time-installs/
- Bloom, D. (2022, August 16). YouTube video shorts see Giant Jump in views in past year. Forbes. Retrieved January 17, 2023, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/dbloom/2022/08/11/youtube-video-shorts-see-giant-jump-in-views-in-past-year/?sh=5895475333fc