Even more so than Millennials, Gen Z prefers watching a YouTube tutorial over other learning tools such as a lecture or reading, according to a study by Pearson. They appear to be particularly attached to YouTube as a brand and provider of tutorials: “When younger learners are looking for answers, they’re going to the most straightforward, familiar force, and for them that’s YouTube”, says Peter Broad, the director of Pearson Education. However, Gen Z is less convinced than Millennials that technology will transform how college students learn in the future. This might be because they grew up with this kind of technology, and consider the use of it in education as standard already.
What does this mean?
For a long time, it was believed that, since different people have different skills and preferences, they also have different learning styles. Some people, for example, prefer doing over thinking (kinesthetic learners), and others prefer listening over reading (auditory learners). The fact that the next generation of learners prefers video over books could therefore point to an increase in visual learners and a decrease in auditory learners. However, although the idea of different learning styles was broadly endorsed, no scientific evidence was ever found to support the idea that some people just learn better through, for example, doing and others through thinking. However, there is evidence that some specific topics are better taught by means of (video) demonstration than individual reading, especially practical or procedural techniques.
In order to anticipate the preferences of young students, some schools have already started an education channel on YouTube for their students, a tendency that might continue on a global scale. However, the fact that there is no evidence that some students actually learn better from video, but merely that they prefer it over other learning tools is reason for caution; not every topic might be suited for being taught through video. Another concern is that YouTube is a commercial platform with different aims than a school. Only recently, it was accused of targeting children with ads. To prevent us from becoming too dependent on one commercial platform, other platforms might arise in order to fulfill the need for video education.