YouTube vs. Textbooks - A Zero-Sum Game?

I am not the first to suggest that demand for digital learning is growing. Educational institutions worldwide have for several years adopted digital platforms to engage learners - Open Yale is a prime example.

Today, such initiatives are not confined to the (virtual) walls of renowned educational establishments. Udemy, for example, is a 'marketplace' for e-learning, with over two million enrolments across 12,000 courses. In its TMT Predictions 2014 report, Deloitte predicts that registrations in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in 2014 will increase by 100% compared to 2012, reaching 10 million courses. While completion rates are low (less than 0.2% of all tertiary education courses completed in 2014 will be MOOCs), by 2020 this may rise to 10%.

Equally, if not more innovative are the free, crowdsourced and peer-to-peer platforms as a means for education. For example, Duolingo is a language-learning web application, paid by organisations to translate websites and documents. As learners progress through lessons, they translate snippets of said content or vote for the best translations. Since launching in June 2012, Duolingo gained 25 million users, half of which are active. Memrise offers a similar service, however learners create and share their own lessons on any topic. I began transferring my 'beginners Greek' vocabulary from my course textbook to the site and use its iPhone app during my commute, allowing me to revise lessons in a more convenient and effective way.

A potentially unlikely contender to this list is YouTube. According to, YouTube was motivated by an online dating site - - one of the first to allow users to upload their own content (and rate the attractiveness of potential mates). Today, YouTube allows anyone to teach everyone how to do anything, from dancing 'Single Ladies' to quantum physics.

Needless to say, I did a fair bit of cramming at university (in no way a result of sub-optimal time management...

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