Survey Research on Motivational Elements of YouTube:
Age and Education Matter
Department of Educational Technology
University of Hawaii
Georgette M. Michko
Educational Technology and University Outreach
University of Houston
Curtis J. Bonk
Professor, Department of Instructional Systems Technology
Indiana University, Bloomington
Alex J. Bonk
Indiana University, Bloomington
Department of Human Resource Education
YouTube has become one of the top attractions on the Web and in life in general. This study explores issues of why people create, comment on, share, and watch shared online video such as YouTube. In this survey study, 1008 respondents were sent to one of 60 surveys with embedded YouTube videos representing some of the most popular videos. Our study revealed those under age 35 create YouTube videos because they are bored, whereas those older than 35 tend to do so to experiment, share knowledge, teach a class, or globally enhance the world. Those with master’s degrees or higher tend to watch YouTube videos to obtain knowledge, while those with less education do so for fun or are bored.
YouTube, a popular video-sharing site with a fast growing
stock of videos and ever increasing users, showcases one example of the
adoption of Web 2.0 technologies that allow sharing, commenting and networking
based on user-generated content. Many higher education institutions, such as the
YouTube was created in February 2005 by Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim to share videos with their friends. Employees of Paypal at the time, the three 20-somethings built a site that was bought by Google in 2006 (Google, 2006) and quickly named “invention of the year” (Grossman, 2006). Nearly 20 million people now visit the site monthly, with approximately 100 million videos viewed daily, and about 65,000 videos uploaded daily.
YouTube is one of the fastest growing websites in terms of
visitors, easily beating the competition, including Yahoo! MSN, MySpace, and
Google Video (USA Today, 2006). According to a March 2008 report by comScore,
YouTube accounted for one-third of the video sharing market in the
Educational Use of YouTube
Also called the Read-Write Web, Web 2.0 has changed the teaching and learning landscape by empowering learners to generate ideas and comments online, rather than simply reading or browsing someone else’s materials (Downes, 2005). Instead of passive consumption-based learning, we are living in a participatory age where learners have a voice and potentially some degree of ownership over their own learning (Brown, & Adler, 2008). At the start of the twenty-first century, emerging technologies, such as online photo albums, blogs, wikis, podcasts, online videos, massive multiplayer online games, and virtual worlds, are generating waves of new opportunities in higher education, K-12 schools, corporate training, and other learning environments.
Gomes (2006) reported that people spent the equivalent of
9,305 years on YouTube between its inception and August 2006. While the news
media often highlight the use of YouTube for entertainment, politics, and
self-promotion, an increasing number of educational, informational, and
technological videos are posted to the site. Such videos might be incorporated
into face-to-face class instruction, as well as into supplemental activities outside
class (Bonk, 2008; Downes, 2008). In addition, students might be assigned to
create a YouTube video as a class project. Shared educational videos have
already created YouTube “stars”, such as Karl Fisch, a director of technology
Given the educational potential of YouTube videos, this study explores motivational and participatory learning aspects, asking to what extent users share, watch, create, comment on, and subscribe to YouTube videos.
Using an online survey tool called SurveyShare, survey participants were randomly assigned to one of 60 video surveys where they answered a total of 41 questions anonymously, including demographic and general questions about YouTube videos. In the middle of the survey, they watched one of 60 randomly selected YouTube videos. Each of the 60 YouTube videos was selected based on its popularity, content, length, and overall appropriateness for the study. After the participant watched the video, he or she responded to more questions about that particular video, as well as to more general questions about emerging technologies, and the impact such online videos might have on education and training.
An assortment of techniques was employed to solicit survey respondents (e.g., Google ad words, iPods drawings, blogs, online newsletter announcements, and free membership in the survey tool). Data was analyzed using SPSS 16. Survey responses on demographic items were grouped into categories for statistical analysis and to enable comparisons with previous studies. For age, the categories were “35 and under” and “over 35.” For education, the categories were “four years of college or less” and “masters and doctorates.” The Pearson’s chi-square test was used to determine statistical significance between categories.
The 1,008 survey participants consisted of 54% females and
46% males from 27 different countries, with 57% from the
Reasons cited for watching YouTube videos ranged from entertainment (71%) and fun (58%), to a need for knowledge (52%), personal or professional research (43%), sharing knowledge (34%), learning about other people and cultures (34%), and class requirements (15%). Based on education, eight statistically significant differences for watching were identified. Those with masters and doctorates selected the following reasons for watching more often: need for knowledge, 56% as compared to 46% of those with less education (p<0.01); recommendations from others, 53% to 46% (p<0.05); personal or professional research, 49% as to 33% (p<0.001); the potential of online video, 32% to 21% (p<0.001); and experimentation, 32% to 23% (p<0.01). Those with less education selected these reasons more often: fun, 62% as compared to 55% (p<0.05); boredom, 27% to 17% (p<0.001); and viewing favorite videos, 26% to 16% (p<0.001). Based on age, 10 statistically significant differences for watching were identified. Those over 35 selected the following reasons more often: need to know, 56% as compared to 46% (p<0.01); recommendation of others, 53% to 45% (p<0.05); personal or professional research, 48% to 35% (p<0.001); controversial topic, 32% to 24% (p<0.01); and experimentation, 33% to 21% (p<0.01). Those 35 and under selected these reasons more often: fun, 66% as compared to 53% for those over 35 (p<0.001); relaxation, 44% to 36% (p<0.05); boredom, 34% to 13% (p<0.001); watching favorite videos, 24% to 17% (p<0.05); and class requirements, 23% to 10% (p<0.001).
Although only 18% reported actually creating a YouTube video, participants identified reasons for creating YouTube videos, ranging from experimentation (50%) and fun (50%), to sharing knowledge (44%), sharing information (38%), educating a small class (32%), making a global contribution (26%), educating the people of the planet (23%), and class requirements (15%). Based on education, 10 statistically significant differences were identified. Those with masters and doctorates selected the following reasons more often: experimentation, 55% as compared to 42% of those with less education (p<0.001); sharing knowledge, 48% to 37% (p<0.01); sharing information, 41% to 33% (p<0.05); personal or professional research, 41% to 19% (p<0.001); educating a small class, 39% to 20% (p<0.001); the potential of online videos, 34% to 21% (p<0.001); making a global contribution, 29% to 22% (p<0.05); educating the people of the planet, 27% to 16% (p<0.001); and building their resumes, 14% to 8% (p<0.05). Only one statistically significant difference was selected more often by those with less education, namely, boredom, 12% as compared to 8% of those with masters or doctorates (p<0.05). Based on age, 12 statistically significant differences for creating videos were identified. Those over 35 selected the following reasons more often: experimentation, 54% as compared to 43% (p<0.01); sharing knowledge, 47% to 39% (p<0.05); personal or professional research, 35% to 27% (p<0.05); educating a small class, 36% to 25%, (p<0.01); making a global contribution, 28% to 22% (p<0.05); and educating the people of the planet, 25% to 18% (p<0.05). Those 35 and under selected these reasons more often: fun, 59% as compared to 43% for those over 35 (p<0.001); class requirements, 23% to 10% (p<0.001); impressing others, 20% to 9% (p<0.001); boredom, 14% to 6% (p<0.001); love anything Google builds or owns, 9% to 5% (p<0.05); and seeking fame, 9% to 5 % (p<0.05).
Self selection resulted in an older and more educated group of participants who may have completed the survey because they are better able to appreciate the importance of such research, and who may have been more likely to be attracted by the offer of a free survey tool. Although participants in this survey may not be representative of a typical YouTube user, this older, more educated group appears to be using YouTube for educational purposes.
The fact that 60% of respondents identify the 6 pm to midnight time frame as the time when they are most likely to watch YouTube videos suggests that viewing YouTube videos is not done during the working day, but is rather an after-hours pursuit or a hobby or perhaps a class assignment. But, only 15 percent report they watch YouTube videos for class assignments. This viewing pattern coincides with reasons given for watching YouTube videos, including entertainment, fun, and relaxation. About a third of respondents watch less than one video per week, while another third watch one to three videos per week, and only 12% watch more than one per day. This again suggests a hobby or a diversion rather than a passionate pursuit for the majority of respondents. Education and age seem to be factors influencing motivation to watch and create videos.
A plethora of implications for educators can be derived from this study. First, educators might select short one to four minute videos for class presentations, with a maximum of seven minutes. Such videos can help anchor lecture material and other content. Second, these videos should be informative, interesting, and original. Instructors, therefore, might include activities where students select the videos to be watched to start or end each class (Bonk, 2008). Such a technique also empowers students and brings in personally meaningful and free resources to the classroom. Third, instructors might assign students to create a YouTube video, allowing them to be more creative and to participate in their own learning.
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