From Print to Digital: The Medium of Online Video

With the steady shift society is facing from print literacy to digital literacy there is a growing emergence of new ways to discover information. Among them is the medium of online video, which is easily accessible through the video-sharing website, YouTube. Where do you go when you want to learn how to do something? Your first instinct may be to go onto YouTube and type in ‘how to…’ YouTube is the destination many people rely on when they are looking for tutorials on how to do a plethora of different things that can be entertaining, mundane or quirky, but above all, helpful. The popularity of these tutorials comes from “the vast and marvelous breadth of human curiosity,” (LaFrance, 2015), and the convenience of the medium as 91% of smartphone users go online for ideas while completing a task (Mogensen, 2015). Does this new way of easily accessible knowledge through the medium of online video cause society to ‘obtain’ information, rather than learn it, and is that a negative impact?

The more society becomes technology-driven, the more accustomed we are to getting answers quickly and effortlessly. This wasn’t entirely possible in print literacy and its society, but it is now possible in media literacy and its digital society. With tutorials on YouTube, its accessibility can have benefits and setbacks. Being able to watch a tutorial at any time with Internet connection and being able to find videos within seconds are definitely benefits. “With the emergence of YouTube as a key educational resource, it’s understandable that people are naturally turning to video tutorials.” (Philips, 2015). It gives us the opportunity to pick up new knowledge about things we normally wouldn’t have. For example, one of the more popular types of tutorials on YouTube is gaming videos. Some people may watch them for entertainment, but others may watch these videos to learn how to play the certain game. Since these videos are at our disposal, it can affect the way we comprehend them. When watching a tutorial, it’s possible that since you have the ability to access it all the time, you may just be temporarily ‘learning’ the knowledge you watch. This means that you can follow along with the tutorial while you watch it, but after, your memory may not store it for long-term retention without watching the video again.

However, YouTube tutorials aren’t specifically all for entertainment. From the print literacy to digital literacy transition, “blended learning is the ‘in-thing’ in [the] current teaching trend” (Razali et al., 2012). Blended learning is essentially incorporating a digital media delivery aspect of learning with traditional teaching; it’s popularity comes from accessibility, flexibility and cost-effectiveness. (Razali et al., 2012). Examples of tutorials on YouTube that are academically related are CrashCourse, which is a channel on YouTube that posts educational videos with a variety of humanities and science courses, and Khan Academy, a channel that posts math and science related videos. In Perfecting the Culinary Arts via the YouTube Way, students of a blended learning culinary program found that learning via YouTube allowed them to be “able to imitate and enhance their understanding of a certain technique portrayed […] due to the nature of the videos – the playback, feedback and comment features” (Razali et al., 2012). This realization can be applied to many other tutorial videos in other categories that require physical techniques like makeup/hairstyling tutorials, and even tutorials on how to twerk. Personally, I search for software tutorials on YouTube in order to learn how to do specific concepts for course projects; they’re really helpful because I can easily follow along and I can also pause or rewind if I’m learning at a slower pace. As a result of YouTube’s playback, comment, and feedback features, it allows more interactivity between the viewer, the creator of the video and the other viewers also watching it. The ability to have access to these elements “provides anyone with an outlet to speak, to inquire, to investigate, without need to access the resources of a major media organization” (Benkler, 2006).

With the increase of more Web 2.0 tools like YouTube being integrated into learning, the more they evolve. The videos being produced now are more enjoyable and easier to watch, which can be a key element in how you retain the knowledge from them. Though they might not be specifically entertainment, learning how to do things on the Internet by watching videos can be considered entertaining; they can aim to be fun and satisfying because they can provide greater insight and meaningfulness for the individual watching (Oliver & Raney, 2011). Since YouTube tutorials are easily available, the big advantage to not fully recalling a specific tutorial is that you have the ability to access and watch it again, or however many times you need. The digital transition is all about efficiency, adaptability and interactivity; with those factors in mind, the shift from print to digital society should be a positive thing.



Benkler, Yochi. 2006. “The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom.” New Haven: Yale University Press.

LaFrance, Adrienne. 2015 February. “How to Do Everything on YouTube.” The Atlantic.

Mogensen, David. 2015 May. “I Want-to-Do Moments: From Home to Beauty.” Think With Google.

Oliver, Mary Beth & Raney, Arthur. 2011, October. “Appreciation as Audience Response: Exploring Entertainment Gratifications Beyond Hedonism.” Human Communication Research.

Philips, Casey. 2015 September. “Homeowners say YouTube tutorials are a boon for DIY projects; experts recommend exercising caution.” Times Free Press.

Razali, M., Tazijan, F., Rahim, S., Zulkifli, F., Isa, N., and Hemdi, M. 2012, June.”Perfecting the Culinary Arts via the YouTube Way.”  IJEEEE International Journal of E-Education, E-Business, E-Management and E-Learning2.3.



One Reply to “From Print to Digital: The Medium of Online Video”

  1. […] the essay “From Print to Digital: The Medium of Online Video” by Iris Wong, I found it to be a very informative and fairly well written piece. It was […]

Leave a Reply