Wish you really did learn something new every day? Whether you’re looking to upskill your resume, get answers to a burning question, or dip your toe into a new field, the explosion of accessible, bite-sized online education means that you don’t need to pour time or funds into gaining some extra knowledge. YouTube has become the go-to edutainment platform for many, serving up mns of hours of online learning without charge. But the sheer amount of information (and misinformation) out there means it’s more important than ever to pick your sources wisely. To help orient you on your quest for online wisdom, we present our roundup of some of the most interesting and factually rigorous channels out there right now.
The old faithful: A YouTube classic and one of the most useful online tools for students, Khan Academy saved us from complete wreckage on tons of homework back in the day. But while the test prep videos come recommended, you don’t have to be preparing for a high school calculus exam to gain from this channel. Head here for reams of playlists with detailed lessons on topics ranging from the fundamentals of macroeconomics to cosmology, chemistry and computer animation.
Another of our favorite channels aimed primarily at high-school students is CrashCourse, which offers in-depth multi-episode classes on almost every subject you can think of and can be a helpful introductory resource for adults looking to learn the basics about something new. There’s an Arabic equivalent for CrashCourse’s world history series on DW Arabic, too.
Your basic gateway for fun facts: Why don’t we cover the desert in solar panels? Do you have a ghost twin? Why do cats have vertical pupils? On the TED-Ed channel, the people who reinvented the conference presentation answer questions you never knew you had in intricately animated, 5-10 minute clips. These videos are pitched to the absolute beginner and work for school-age kids, too – a good starting point for reliable (if at times basic) information from across the sciences and humanities.
On the quirkier end of the spectrum: Get your dose of pop-science with Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. The tone is humorous, the animated visuals are striking, and the topics are current: The Futurism playlist features videos on interstellar mining and how to terraform Venus, while the Existential Crisis section includes a clip on what dinosaurs probably looked like, and another on what would happen if Earth got kicked out of the solar system in 10 minutes or less.
Go beyond the headlines: If you’re looking to get a better handle on the drivers behind current affairs, news site Vox’s YouTube offering has you covered. From the war in Ukraine to the anti-vax movement, Vox’s videos use interviews with experts, rigorous research, and animation to help break down what’s happening in the world. (If you liked Netflix’s Explained series of short documentaries — produced in partnership with Vox — then this is the channel for you).
If you’re looking for hard science, check out Veritasium. Some of our fave eps include how to launch a nuclear missile, laser hair removal and the invention of video, and they also run a cool series about common scientific misconceptions that’s worth checking out. Bonus: Some — though not all — the videos published in the channel’s 10 year history are dubbed in Arabic. The videos made by scientific journal Nature also score high on our chart for visual representations of the most cutting edge scientific experiments and discoveries. Check out: How vaccines work, searching for supernovas and why leaky pipes can be better for moving water. Nature Arabic has some of the same content with Arabic subtitles.
For the number-crunchers: Want to know how to scientifically cut a birthday cake or the problems with zero? Numberphile’s rotating list of impassioned hosts will help guide you through some of the most fascinating and challenging concepts in the world of math.
For those who prefer their learning mediated through a familiar face: On Big Think, your teachers are high profile thinkers, academics, and public intellectuals. It’s a broad church, with some of the “expert” teachers perhaps more deserving of the title than others. Recurring personalities like Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Michio Kaku and Malcom Gladwell rub virtual shoulders with Ricky Gervais, Jordan Petersen, and Richard Branson. One caveat: the curators seem to lean male and white in their choice of speakers.
Searching for some guidance? The School of Life aims to address the day-to-day challenges school never prepared you for. The channel delves into the knotty emotional and psychological conundrums we face at work and in our relationships, using key concepts from the social sciences and humanities to try and unravel them. They typically publish a new video every week.
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