Video series provides mini-courses on various subjects

Curious college students sometimes want to know a little bit about other fields without necessarily desiring to enroll in formal classes. Crash Course is an ingenious solution.

Started in late January of 2012, Crash Course is an educational YouTube channel created by Hank Green and John Green. The brothers have, in addition to their other YouTube channels and writing young adult novels, hosted several series over the past two years including Biology, World History, Ecology and English Literature.

Each series has anywhere from eight to 48 episodes that cover the basic concepts the average person will ever need to know about the subject.

While giving a general overview of various subjects, the brothers make jokes, horrible puns and random cultural references. Sometimes, this can get a bit grating.

On the whole, the presentation makes each subject enjoyable, even if the viewer believed that taking an actual class in the subject would be torment.

In addition to the verbal banter, the Green brothers, also called the VlogBrothers, have embraced their video format. Although just listening gets the message across, someone who watches the videos will get both more information and entertainment.

In various videos, the quick-eyed viewer can spot odd props in the backgrounds of animations such as the Master Sword, the Magic School Bus and even Yoda. They have also added textual notes and helpful visual aids for the more difficult topics.

The latest two series of Crash Course recently ended. With the final installments of U.S. History and Chemistry finished and posted, the VlogBrothers are now open to choose new topics for Crash Course to cover.

Usually Hank Green teaches the scientific courses, such as Biology or Chemistry. His brother, John, leans more towards the social sciences, literature and history. The two complement each other in their preferred areas, which enhances Crash Course’s diversity. The only areas left unclaimed are those of mathematics and linguistics.

Hank Green has chosen psychology. This is an interesting choice mainly because, as he pointed out in a preview of the series, psychology is less concrete than his previous subjects.

Hank Green recently posted the first installment of the Psychology series. Though the first video was not particularly educational, that is excusable because Hank Green was attempting to spark interest in psychology and chose to give an introduction to his series rather than start teaching right away.

John Green, on the other hand, has continued in his preferred area, the humanities. He decided to revisit literature. This time, instead of focusing solely on English literature, John Green will discuss classics such as The Odyssey, Hamlet and Oedipus Rex as well as more modern novels such as To Kill a Mockingbird, Slaughterhouse Five and Beloved.

The new Literature series will start on Feb. 27. In hopes that their viewers might read the books to be talked about in the upcoming series before actually watching the videos, the brothers posted the list in early February.

Even though Crash Course is educational, the facts presented are occasionally gross simplifications or wild speculations. This is not, however, a particularly new problem with education in general. Almost any source of information is skewed, even if only slightly.

What makes Crash Course stand out among other independent educational sources is that it acknowledges its limits. Often, the brothers will mention where their information comes from and why this is a good, bad or, in some cases, the only source.

On the whole, the VlogBrothers have managed to make Crash Course a successful YouTube channel. Their most recent video, the last U.S. History installment, already has more than a half million views.

Considering their first video expressed a simple desire to share their love of knowledge while making the viewer an “informed, engaged and productive citizen of the world,” it is probably safe to say that John and Hank Green are well on their way to achieving their goals.

While it is inadvisable to watch many of their videos in one sitting, as they can get rather bothersome, watching one or two at a time might introduce a viewer to new subjects.