Leveraging YouTube to Demystify Medicine

Outstretched open hand with medical model and syringe suspended above with laptop in background

Source: Daniel Frank – modified from the public domain

 The Resource

A cross-disciplinary inquiry course in health sciences at McMaster that involves learners building videos translating medical research into accessible language and making them available to all stakeholders via a class YouTube channel.

Why We Set Out to Build This Resource

Since 2012, we have hosted a popular biweekly seminar series, Demystifying Medicine (DM). These presentations are accredited for continuing medical education units (CME) and are designed to help increase understanding on how advances in research can make a difference to disease. They are open to the entire McMaster campus and the wider community. We kept hearing from undergraduates—no matter their disciplinary background—that this translational approach would make a great course. So that’s what we did. Our aim was to use knowledge translation of medical topics as a means to develop soft skills, such as problem-solving, coping with uncertainty, working under pressure, and strategic planning and thinking. The course not only builds these skills, but also links educators, clinicians, scientists, patients, learners, and the general public through its activities.

How We Did It

We used content from the DM seminar series, topics derived from the top 100 questions asked in McMaster’s Optimal Aging Portal, and questions received from area high school learners as the basis for the learner group projects. From the very beginning, we involved learners in the course design. They drafted the first iteration of the course outline in 2013, and since then, every cohort has refined the course outline, coming up with solutions to issues they have identified.

We also partnered with health associations, and those who are responsible for generating educational materials, and this has worked out well. For example, the video the Scleredoma Association received from our learners is highly-viewed and has been translated into several languages in their international affiliate associations. Another video explaining how someone with pulmonary fibrosis breathes, is widely used by clients at the Lung Association.

At the start of the term, we divide learners into groups of four or five. Each group chooses a topic and then creates a video for its fellow learners, the target audience, and the general public—essentially distilling complicated material into an easily understood format. Evidence-based research and resources are gathered, appraised, and synthesized with patient and stakeholder interviews to form the basis for the storyboarding and scripting process. Learners receive feedback from their peers in class and, through an online “draft video” website, from their target audience. Groups normally complete three to four videos per term. Completed videos are posted to the course YouTube channel. The learners and educators host an end-of-term dissemination event and awards ceremony for all. (This year’s award winner can be viewed here: https://tinyurl.com/MacWikiWin). The overwhelming feedback from participants is that they love the course, and it is always oversubscribed.

Lessons Learned

During the first few offerings of the course, our learners were given no direction about what technology to use (e.g., video editing software, animation). We have since purchased a license for GoAnimate. We now find that learners default to GoAnimate when there may be better ways to convey the information to their stakeholders. Deciding what technology is best for the patient/topic is part of the process, and we are going back to the “choose your own technology” framework.


Website: https://tinyurl.com/MacMedWiki

YouTubeChannel: https://www.youtube.com/user/MacDemystMed/feed

Contributed by

Kjetil Ask, Darren Bridgewater, and Renee Labiris, McMaster University


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