YouTube Comments for Sojourning ELTs, Part 1

What sort of comments do YouTubers who are sojourning ELTs get? I’m interested in this question to see if and how YouTube helps the English language teaching profession in general. I’ve noticed that YouTube seems to be used more now than blogs, Twitter, and reddit for sojourning ELTs to communicate to the general public.

I’m just dipping my toe in the vast ocean of YouTube video and comments about teaching English overseas. I decided to start by searching the way I started my career, so I did a YouTube video search for “Teaching English in Japan.”  The top four results are below. If you’re interested in how I collected the data, scroll below.

As of today (August 19, 2016), this video had 215 comments with 118 direct comments. The majority (33%) of his comments were questions, split between questions about English language teaching and personal questions about the vlogger, Regan the Vegan. He also received a large proportion of compliments (17%) about the video content and his personal appearance. Many questions and concerns were about his situation, teaching part-time through a working holiday visa, which is an opportunity for Australians but not Americans.

Shea Roberts’ video had 110 comments with 76 of them commenting directly about the video and not other comments. Like Regan’s video, the majority of his comments were questions (30%) and compliments (29%). Most of his questions were about English language teaching in Japan, such as degree requirements and native speaker and non-native speaker issues. There were more compliments about the quality and content of the video, but he still received a fair share of compliments on his appearance.

kanadajin3’s video received 1,408 comments, which is more than these other videos combined. I decided to postpone analyzing her comments, but I’m interested in the reason for such a high number of comments. The most logical assumption is that her video has been on YouTube longer than the other three, but I’m also wondering if the tone of her title also attracted more comments. I’m interested in exploring the difference between positive and negative videos. The other three videos are more on the positive or objective side, but I haven’t watched her video yet. So maybe her title is a misnomer? Also, because I have been following sojourning ELTs on social media for nearly six years now, I’m familiar with kanadajin through the J-vlogging/Japan YouTubers community.

Gina Bear’s video has been online for the shortest period of time, which may contribute to the lower number in comments, 124 (50 direct comments). However, she had more recent comments than the others. She also seemed to be a lot more interactive with her YouTube followers and/or comments. Many of the 74 comments not directed at the video were her replies. She also received a high proportion of questions (52%), but her proportion of compliments was lower (14%). Unlike the first two videos, Gina Bear had a higher proportion of comments (16%) with people adding more information or their “two cents” as commentary.

Similarities

Right now, I’m more interested in finding similarities across the videos to see if there are any patterns worth investigating. Like I mentioned earlier, my main interest is to see if and how these videos benefit the English language teaching profession. I was happy to see many comments with questions, concerns, or additional information regarding ELT. Many of these were country-specific. Many questions and concerns were about the qualifications to become an ELT, specifically about visa, language, and education requirements. Although pedagogy was mentioned, most comments were not about teaching approaches. On the plus side, each video had at least one well-informed and insightful comment about English language teaching.

I’ve only looked at three threads of comments, so I’m interested in finding more patterns as I analyze more. I also need to analyze these comments more in depth. I’m not interested in differences between the comment threads right now because the sample size is so small (3).

The Nitty-Gritty

If you’re easily bored by research data analysis, please skip this section. I’d also like to say that this is preliminary research. This is an exercise to determine if this is something worth my time to investigate. I have two other research projects going on right now, but this one is closest to my research agenda I planned out a few years ago.

Video Selection – Simple. I went to YouTube and searched for “Teaching English in Japan” and selected the top videos to appear. I am quite aware that this search process may change depending on the day and the account. I used my YouTube account that I created for research purposes only, so Google may have used an algorithm to select videos to match my profile/interests/search history.

Comment Data Collection – For each comment thread, I selected the option “newest first” as shown below to collect the data in reverse chronological order.

Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 2.31.05 PM

I am aware that YouTubers can delete comments, so I know I am not seeing all of them. I interpret this as comments that the YouTubers deem appropriate for their audience. Because of Gina Bear’s high level of interaction, I assume she manages her comment thread very well. I did not record any comments made by trolls. The other two YouTubers had a few troll comments.

Comment Data Coding – I created an Excel spreadsheet to record the following information: the name (YouTube ID) of the commentator, the main purpose of the comment, and a short description of the comment. I only recorded comments directly about the video and not the responses to comments. Those that had responses were highlighted in yellow. See below the example from Regan the Vegan’s video commentary:

Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 2.52.17 PM

Initial Analysis – This is where I am now, far from being a completed study. You’re looking at it. If you like quantitative data more, here’s what I can give you now. I can explain more when I get more data.

Data

 Questions

This investigative process has created more questions than answered, so I’m still motivated to continue this investigative process. But I’m also interested in the bigger picture, the field of English language teaching, TEFL, and TESOL.

So who is interested in learning more about how YouTube can help the English language teaching profession in terms of professional and cultural learning? Is there something that you would like me to turn more attention to? Is there something important that I missed in my preliminary data? Do you think this would be useful for other English language teachers, their supervisors, teacher educators, etc.?

In my next post, I will answer your questions and have kanadajin3’s video analyzed perhaps with some others. Stay tuned.

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