You’ve probably been told once or twice over the years that you should “never stop learning.” But day-to-day responsibilities, family obligations, and all those great shows on Netflix can make it hard to squeeze in time to head back to school—or even to get through that pile of books you’ve been meaning to read.
Fortunately, you’re living in 2018—and the Internet is here to help you. There is no shortage of YouTube channels offering fantastic and engaging educational content that you can actually use in your daily life—all explained in compelling, memorable ways so you won’t feel like you’re bored in class. Here are 15 of the best options out there. And looking to sharpen your noggin in other ways? Check out 13 Tips for a Sharper Brain.
This Central London college has been offering up free public lectures almost since its founding in 1597. While the medium has been updated to fit the times, the offerings on the college’s YouTube channel are no less insightful and fascinating than they were when it was just a dapper professor delivering them from a lectern. Among the topics you’ll find covered here are Shakespeare, heart transplants, Isaac Newton, and the Russian Revolution. And for more ways to boost your intellect, check out the 10 Amazing Facts to Make You Smarter This Week.
Another respected London institution, this 200-year-old charity dedicates itself to “inspiring people to engage with science” and does so with a steady stream of short films, panels, and lectures on some weird topics that you might not think about in your daily life, but will after you watch.
Want to learn about black holes and DNA and “The Science of Collaboration” and “The Apocalypse and How to Avoid it?” Head over there now. And for more brain boosters, here are 15 Over-the-Counter Drugs That Are Great for Your Brain.
This channel, from The Open University, offers bite-sized tastes of the 800+ courses the organization provides to remote-learning students, covering a vast range of topics—including nursing, languages, law, and management. While you won’t earn a degree after watching its YouTube channel’s videos (something you can do with some of its course offerings), you will get quick bits of interesting insight into topics like the history of the emoji, cultural views of death, and the history of the EU. Need an extra learning boost? Check out Bill Murray’s Secret Spotify Playlist Will Boost Your Productivity.
Similar to OpenLearn, this channel is ideal for the polymath or dilettante looking to get a little taste of a number of different fields. If you want to drill down into a particular topic, you can select from the handful of playlists with categories including Sociology, Computer Science, and World History—as well as “softer” subjects such as Games and Film History. Whether you do a deep dive or just watch a quick five-minute video, you’re likely to come away with a new outlook.
No roundup of life-changing YouTube insight would be complete without TED, which redefined the video lecture, thanks to its engaging and often brilliant speakers, simple concepts, and tendency to fit a lot of compelling information into less than 15 minutes.
With TED-Ed, it takes elements of this approach and spins them into short animations on a wide range of topics from how to manage your time effectively to why flu shots are good for you to the history of surfing. And if you’re 40 years or older, you’ll find 7 Ways to Boost Your Brain Power After 40 especially interesting.
Consider this your weekly self-improvement multivitamin. Offering bite-sized, animated clips that are five to 10 minutes in length, each will leave you with a solid takeaway or bit of insight about your behavior and how to improve it. Recent clips cover topics like “How to Find Your Passion,” “How to Recharge Your Willpower,” and “How to Quit Any Addiction.” Most of them are backed by credible science and all are highly entertaining.
Sometimes it’s the little things in life that can make the biggest differences in your level of life satisfaction or effectiveness. That’s the thinking behind this channel, which focuses on “soft skills,” offering up expert tips on areas of your life you probably don’t even think about—but could be doing a lot better. For example: “How to Plan a Successful Vacation from Work,” “How to Be Original and Not Fake,” and “How to avoid someone you don’t want to talk with.”
For those who like their self-improvement with a strong unpinning of science, this channel is the way to go. It offers up animated clips of about five minutes each, tackling topics like “How to Quit Your Job,” “How to Launch a Product,” and “How to Stop Worrying What People Think of You.” The information is straightforward and actionable, and will make you eager to go apply its lessons right away.
This channel is not concerned with science or data—its videos aim right at your emotions. Each brief video is like a high-production pep talk. Watch a four-minute clip that sums up why Muhammad Ali was the greatest of all time, or a five-minute clip of some of the biggest names in sports overcoming failure and beating the odds. Each one is carefully edited to pump you up and get you to want to go out and run a marathon, beat a world record, or go to the moon. There’s a reason this channel has more than 1 million subscribers.
As its name implies, this channel provides viewers with videos that sum up complex physics concepts in breezy, entertaining ways (though few of them take just a minute—most run in the three-to-10-minute range). This allows you to learn the physics of a car crash, how bikes work, and multi-video investigations of concepts such as black holes and the “Twins Paradox.” You won’t turn into Einstein by watching these video, but you might be comfortable at a cocktail party of scientists.
This channel features wildly entertaining videos about…numbers. Seriously, though, you’ll be surprised at how these engaging mathematicians, sketching formulas on white boards or on a roll of butcher paper in what looks like an empty church basement can be. They don’t shy away from their inner nerdiness, dropping phrases like “binomial coefficients” without batting an eye, but it’s all done in an accessible, entertaining way.
Host Destin Sandlin, an engineer by trade, lays out the mission of this channel as “I explore the world using science.” The result? Some wide-ranging but hard-not-to-watch clips that give viewers a chance to look at such phenomena as a hyper close-up of a tattoo being inked, or super slow-motion clip of an AK-47 being fired underwater, or a one-on-one sit-down interview with President Obama.
Dedicated to “great questions of emotional and psychological life,” this channel aims to tackle questions that might get overlooked in a typical college curriculum but that have wide-ranging importance for your life, relationships, and mental well-being. These cleverly constructed videos tackle such concepts as “The Dangers of Thinking Too Much,” “Why We Should Not Watch Quite so Much News,” and “How to Lose the Fear of Being an Idiot.”
Delving into neuroscience and psychology, host Vanessa Hill uses stop motion and paper craft animation as her tools, making some weird connections and unexpected discoveries about topics such as your biological clock, sleep patterns, creativity, and virtual reality. You’ll come away from any installment with a better understanding of how your brain works and why we do what we do.
Here are some quick-hit videos on everything you’ve always wanted to know about sex but were afraid to ask. What is ethical porn? Can friends with benefits ever work? What’s cucking? Host Dr. Lindsey Doe tackles all these quandaries and many more, providing quirky and accessible insight into some very intimate issues.
If you’re in need for some insight better taken on-the-go, follow 15 Podcasts That Will Make You 15 Percent Smarter.
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