YouTube has a wealth of free educational 360 videos that can enrich and transform learning. Of course it also has a lot of other content to wade through (360 and otherwise.) I've spent some time trawling through YouTube looking for the best channels for educational 360 videos. First though, a few tips and tricks for using 360/VR content from YouTube:
- Once the video is playing look for the VR headset icon in the bottom right corner to switch to stereoscopic VR mode and view in a headset.
- Remember that these videos can be viewed on any device. Don't have any/enough VR headsets? Just have students use a touch screen tablet to look around.
- Creating a QR code link to a 360 clip on YouTube allows you to add it to a classroom display or independent learning area.
- Worried about students accessing YouTube in school? Try using ViewPure (http://viewpure.com) to remove the ads, comments and clutter.
The Best YouTube 360 Channels for Educational Content
There are 7 key channels that provide outstanding educational content. In some cases the channel produces a lot of other content so my links below will link to dedicated 360 playlists instead. I've added an example from each too!
Long time leader in the field of educational VR experiences, Discovery VR naturally have a wealth of amazing content on offer. The trick is to visit the Discovery VR playlist on the main Discovery channel rather than the Discovery VR channel as this offers over 100 additional 360 experiences. Most have a scientific slant but the selection is broad and the quality is first rate. This one about protecting pandas is a personal favourite -
The BBC’s playlist is quite eclectic and includes a lot of clips that have been produced in conjunction with various TV shows. There are some great 360s from various wildlife shows and some other good choices such as a tribute to Welsh WW1 poet Hedd Wyn, digital tours of place like Florence and an excellent snow leopards clip. One thing to note - their playlist misses off some of the BBC’s 360s including this fantastic one featuring Sir David Attenborough introducing the largest dinosaur ever discovered – the Titanosaur
The incomparable Time Magazine has produced a steady stream of immersive video experiences encompassing a range of topics. Many have a political theme, taking you inside rallies, speeches and the such - great for the politics or social studies classroom There are a few other gems too that really merit a watch, notably The Crystal Reef (exploring how climate change is affecting oceans) and the Dunkirk VR Experience - produced to tie-in with the Christopher Nolan movie. Both are incredibly powerful.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXiR5VZGA_xproMufNXLYZA/videos Dedicated to producing immersive videos about science, technology, modern culture and more, Seeker VR are definitely one to watch as their content is unique, well-developed and hugely informative. Take for example their “Journey To The Edge Of Space” video – a first of its kind experience which shows you what it’s like to travel into the stratosphere, traveling to over 90,000 feet. Other clips focus on subjects as diverse as Alcatraz, rhinos and synesthesia.
NASA https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLTiv_XWHnOZofSNYaXYOg9moAgrwmBxQF Naturally NASA have some awesome 360s and the trick to finding the playlist is that it’s not under the main NASA account but their Jet Propulsion Laboratory channel. They have a dozen videos in the playlist which provide unprecedented access to NASA mission control, spacecraft and rovers. One clip that really stands out is ”On the Surface of Planet TRAPPIST-1d” which depicts an artist’s rendition of the surface of recently discovered planet TRAPPIST-1d, part of a seven planet system that is 40 light years away.
As you would expect, National Geographic have some stunning 360 videos in their library that can support and enrich learning about animals and the natural world. You might be surprised to hear that they have some other wonderful examples including the Viking battle re-enactment you see below and some wing walking plane clips.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSIgn1BzT9oD5E3pk9ceKvg/videos This channel from USA Today is split into seasons and releases three new experiences a week when active. These cover a host of unique themes including a flight on the last surviving WWII bomber, exploring the world’s largest bat cave, scuba diving into an abandoned nuclear missile silo and even a look inside a tiger’s mouth.
I'd like to add to additional channels to the list. These channels don't have the same volume of 360 content as the others (yet) but are definitely worth checking out:
Another lesser known channel and one that only has three full experiences so far but they certainly warrant mentioning. Gladiators and volcanoes are brought to life in a striking way whilst Children of the Wild tells the story of Rudyard Kipling and his experiences in India that inspired The Jungle Book. It’s a polished, fascinating documentary piece that is a great example of the 360 format.
Scoobster Kids bring 360 learning experiences to EYFS and pre-school with a set of animations that each focus on a letter of the alphabet! So far they only have A-E but this unique, engaging approach could be the start of a new trend in early years learning.
On my travels, I’ve come across a few other excellent 360 experiences on YouTube by creators that don’t necessarily specialise in these types of videos or curate a channel of them. Some were too good not to share:
Thought Café Solar System 360 Degree Tour Take a virtual tour of our Solar System with this great 360 animation from Thought Café.
Great White Sharks 360 by Curiscope Produced by the creators of the amazing VirtualiTee, this virtual dive uses some clever special effects to develop understanding of how sharks hunt.
What Happens Inside Your Body? By Life Noggin A fun, informative visualisation with excellent, child-friendly narration. I hope Life Noggin make more 360 content as their animated videos are superb.
Surrounded by Wild Elephants by IM360 A silent yet powerful 4K video of elephants in the wild.
1941 Battle: 360° Re-enactment by Wargaming Europe Wonderful montage of 360 scenes from a WWII battle re-enactment.
Kinoscope - A VR journey into the world of cinema – Google Arts & Culture Great addition to any film/mediua studies course, this short documentary piece explores the history of cinema lead by the voice of the Hollywood production designer Dean Tavoularis
Cellscape VR Biology Guided Tour
This 3D animation from Tyler DeWitt is available in two versions. This one below is the “for kids” version with simplified narration.