YouTube for UKOER resources

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This page is archived. It is no longer maintained, and information in it may be dated.
A synthesis of our work on Open Educational Resources can be found in the book
"Into the wild – Technology for open educational resources"
Open Educational Resources
OER Contents:
UKOER Programme support
UKOER sources
CETIS UKOER mini projects
Describing OERs
Tracking OERs
UKOER projects in PROD
UKOER synthesis & summary
CETIS OER papers
CETIS OER events
CETIS OER Contacts
Phil Barker [1]
Based at: ICBL Heriot-Watt University
Phil's JISC CETIS blog
Lorna M Campbell [2]
Based at: CAPLE, University of Strathclyde
Lorna's JISC CETIS blog
Contact for this section
Phil Barker
This page is one about Distribution platforms for UKOER resources. Want to contribute?
As part of CETIS's support for the UKOER programme we are putting together "a checklist/inventory to support projects in selecting appropriate publication/distribution applications and services with some worked examples (or recommendations)". We have a checklist which also acts as a template for the inventory entry. That is, filling it in should help a project decide whether a particular platform is appropriate, and once filled in it can be then entry in the inventory for that platform.

Overview: YouTube is the pre-eminent video sharing website. While many of the videos are entertainment (home-shot or otherwise) it is widely used for more serious material and has a YouTube EDU branding for degree-level material. Access to view video is unlimited and any registered user may upload and share videos; the collection of videos provided by a user is known as their channel which also includes user-profile information. Registered users may also create playlists (collections of videos from other users) and comment on videos.

YouTube has basic capabilities for tagging, aggregation, and syndication through feeds, but the focus seems to be on "community" i.e. comments on videos, sharing within or through YouTube (which includes embedding streaming video from YouTube into pages on other sites) rather than resource discovery and dissemination of the original content files. Many of YouTube's capabilities are available through its API.

media types: Video / moving images
info: Wikipedia entry
API info: e.g.programmable web entry
cost: Free
owner: Google
launch date: Feb 2005
current status: Active

Formats and Standards

The recommended formats are H.264 codec MPEG-2 or MPEG-4, at 1280x720 (for 16x9 HD quality) or 640x480 (4:3 SD quality). For audio MP3 or AAC codec with a sampling rate or 44.1kHz (stereo). However a wide range of formats are accepted. Letter-boxing of widescreen video should be avoided.

According to the documentation, videos must be less than 10 minutes long and 2GB in size [3], though there is obviously some way round this for some people since, for example, MIT have hour-long lectures on YouTube.


Uses Google Data API, which is a RESTful API based on RSS, ATOM, and JSON, OpenSearch, AtomPub to allow search, upload, playlist creation etc. Java, .NET, PHP, Python, Objective-C and JavaScript client libraries are available.

This API is part of the Google Data Protocol which is shared across many of Google's services, e.g. Apps, Maps, Spreadsheet, Documents, Webmaster Tools.

User authentication/authorization is with Google's own AuthSub or ClientLogin or the more widely implemented OAuth.

There are also Player APIs that allow you to control the YouTube player when embedded in a webpage. Implementations are available in JavaScript and ActionScript Flash).


A variety of feeds are available per channel, playlist and video.

The default feed, linked from the resource pages, is RSS 2.0 (with extensions from ATOM, APP and openSearch). Metadata such as keywords (tags) are embedded in the descriptions, which contain character-encoded HTML markup (e.g. <br> ) The RSS 2.0 category field is used for the broad categories predefined by YouTube, not any user-defined tag. This feed contains only a link to the video's page on YouTube.

An RSS 2.0 feed can also be obtained from a search (eg, but in this case the HTML in the description is not encoded, and the video is embedded as an enclosure.

The API can be used to deliver ATOM feeds (e.g., which makes more use of semantic markup and link data principles, with encoded author information for feed and entries, keyword tags, links to other representations and a link to the video as embedded media.


element on resource page
(human readable)
Default RSS 2.0 feed
Programme tag Yes: as a tag (but not immediately visible)  ? Embedded in xhtml of item-level description Yes: category elements for each entry, with YouTube-namespaced scheme
Title Yes: used as page title Yes Yes
Author / Owner / Contributor Yes: by link to user's channel Yes, at feed level, by link to user's channel. At item level the author's name is given only as text. Yes: text and URI at feed and entry level. URI is specific to API.
Date "Publication" date shown, Date of upload is default but can be edited Yes: rss2.0:pubDate, with atom:updated as extension Yes: ATOM:entry.published and ATOM:entry.updated, also youtube extension for date recorded.
URL Yes Yes, using rss2.0:link Yes, using atom:link element @rel=alternate
Language No
Keywords Yes, as tags, but not immediately visible. Also can select one of several broad predefined categories, e.g. education, science and technology.  ? encoded in XHTML of item description Yes: category elements for each entry, with YouTube-namespaced scheme
Comments yes no yes, using google data extension
Description yes yes yes
IPR expression Uploader assumed to be owner. No CC, yet. no no

Other metadata

YouTube has been reported to be testing a CC licencing option.

Geolocation information can be provided.

Collections and Grouping

All the videos from a user are collected as that user's channels. A user may also group (their own or other people's) videos together as a play-list, a feature which has been used to bring videos of lectures together into a course.

Within the service, what are the facilities for aggregating resources (e.g. as albums, photostreams, channels) and grouping people?

How might these be relevant to a OER project? For example, could resources from a single course be aggregated?

Content export & embedding

Videos are available from YouTube as streams in .FLV (Adobe Flash video) format. Code snippets are available for embedding this into pages on third-party sites. Videos cannot be downloaded and saved; the original file as uploaded is not disseminated.

Visibility on Search Engines

YouTube features highly on Google Video searches, much less so on MSN/Bing

Usage stats for resources

The page for each video includes masses of information on usage and allows comments from users, these can be obtained through the API.

Use by OER projects



Notes and comments