How someone made it to an IIT piques the curiosity of most. The answer typically is a combination of coaching institutes or integrated programmes at schools. But interestingly enough, 19-year-old Yeluguri Nirupama Reddy, an electrical engineering student at IIT Bombay, credits a YouTube channel ‘Mathematically Inclined’ run by Neha Agrawal for helping her clear JEE Mains.
“During online classes in 2020, I used to look up videos on YouTube to understand lessons better, and I discovered Neha ma’am that way. When I began watching her videos, my math scores were low. The concepts were not clear in my mind. So, when a problem was given to me, I did not know how to approach it. But in a span of six to seven months of taking her lectures and attending her practice sessions, it strengthened my basics and improved my speed which genuinely helped me in JEE Mains,” says Reddy.
In a post-Covid landscape, YouTube creators have proved pivotal in shaping students’ journey, whether that entails bolstering preparation for competitive exams or supplementing school education. According to Oxford Economics Impact Report, 94 per cent of students aged 18+ who use YouTube reported using it for their assignments or personal study in 2020.
Despite facing competition from a scrum of heavily-funded edtech companies, a growing niche of educators are amassing millions of subscribers and witnessing organic growth.
That seems to be the case for Agrawal whose channel has built an audience of 13.6 lakh subscribers on the promise of making mathematics fun. When she started uploading videos to YouTube in 2017, she thought it was an efficient way to reach out to students and document learning material.
With 10+ years of teaching experience, she used her channel to share useful tips and tricks in problem-solving and exploring creative ways of teaching such as ‘rapping’ math formulae for easy recall, and it really caught on. Around 2019, her audiences were growing steadily and she realised there was a gap to fill — students were craving innovative ways to learn.
“Although I was good at math, I hated learning it in school,” confesses Agrawal. “Certain teachers turned it around for me and changed my perception of the subject, and I want to do that for others. Brilliant students can learn from anyone. I am here for the average students everywhere — to make them learn and love the subject,” she adds.
Though many edtechs have offered to acquire her channel, Agrawal says she refused as her vision is to provide quality education for free.
Gunjan Dhanuka, another loyalist of Mathematically Inclined, who is now a computer science engineering student at IIT Guwahati, says YouTube is a huge study companion for many aspirants. Dhanuka admits to having binge-watched Agrawal’s videos along with Ashish Arora’s PhysicsGalaxy during his JEE Mains preparation.
“Many rely on YouTube because it is effective use of time. You look up the topic of your choice, pick your favourite educator, and in a span of 10-15 minutes, you know a subject better than you did before. The freedom to explore and that community feeling of discussing in the comments is what makes it tick,” says Dhanuka.
While the platform allows students to explore, it gives teachers the freedom to experiment. Roshni Mukherjee, whose channel LearnoHub (formerly ExamFear Education), says, unlike in conventional classrooms, educators here can do whatever it takes to make learning engaging.
“You are not bound to a format. I can perform science experiments while explaining concepts or use animations if need be. Even school teachers come up to me and say I refer to your videos before I go to class!”
An IT professional-turned-educator, Mukherjee launched her YouTube channel as early as 2011 when she decided to pursue her passion for teaching. More than 6,000 videos and 23.5 lakh subscribers later, she has added four more channels to her portfolio, covers lessons in physics, chemistry, math, biology, and English for classes 6 to 12, and has added more teachers to her team to support her in this endeavour.
Keeping pace with what’s happening, earlier this month, YouTube even introduced a Player for Education where students can watch videos without distractions like ads or recommendations, and creators can offer online classes for a fee or free of charge.
Learning remains a top priority for YouTube, further affirms Ajay Vidyasagar, Regional Director, APAC, YouTube Partnerships. “Learning and education creators on YouTube have truly stepped up to address a latent need over the last few years. For aspirants across the country, the various channels across regions and languages provide an invaluable stepping stone to achieving better productivity, employability and income. Our goal is to keep making learning easier on the platform, whether that is creators, students in classrooms, or learners around the world,” he says.