Answer In Progress’s Approach to Educational Content on YouTube


(Courtesy Answer in Progress)

By Hannah Keating, Arts Editor


With mid-terms over, I’ve reached the mid-semester slump that has me taking a good, long look in the mirror, asking myself, “Do I like learning? Am I even interested in this?” It’s when I hit this existential crisis that I go looking for books, podcasts, and especially YouTube videos that make me excited about learning things again, which is where I stumbled upon Answer In Progress. 

Questions Need Answers

Answer In Progress started as the brain-child of three university students who wanted to be excited about learning in the way they used to be but were burnt out by the demands of tests and exams. As Melissa Fernandes, one of the co-founders along with Taha Kahn and Sabrina Cruz, said, “The three of us found ourselves in a generation of people with a lot of questions and not enough time or energy to find the answers, and we weren’t alone.”

When my frantic Google searching results only in more questions, I rarely commit to chasing an answer down a rabbit hole of information, but this is exactly where the Answer In Progress team found an opportunity. “We found that a lot of young people were disengaging with their curiosity because the answer wasn’t worth the hassle,” said Fernandes. “So, combining our experiences, we started figuring out how to make digital content that intentionally showed every step of the process.”

What started as a side-project for three people who enjoyed learning new things snowballed into a creative project with a well of support. Answer In Progress received the $50,000 Super Patron Grant for their concept and began presenting their videos on Cruz’s long-standing YouTube channel Sabrina & Friends. “We didn’t want to pretend to be experts; we are just like anyone else with a question and some free time,” Fernandes said. Their videos manage to be intellectually engaging and while bringing all the goofiness and light of following thought experiments with your friends — like hosting a PowerPoint night, but everyone’s presentations are research papers.

With recent releases covering how arcane the requirements for entry-level jobs are or how olive oil fraud is a real thing, the channel follows a question from start to finish, documenting all the research, readings, and subsequent home-made studies that follow. My personal favorite is titled “how dating apps keep you single” where Sabrina researches how the algorithms of dating apps are designed and creates two versions of a soup-themed dating simulator that Kahn and Fernandes “test” to see how matches are generated. It’s hysterically funny, scientifically stimulating, and visually pleasing — the channel’s graphics alone are something to watch, and I wish I had the animation skills they do.

Room for Educational Content?

Still, YouTube is a competitive world with a currency system of audiences’ attention spans. With all the clickbait, in-fighting, and regurgitated trends, is there a place for educational content to survive? Fernandes says, “We believe that people are naturally curious at their core; in fact, the reason clickbait works is that people want to satisfy a curiosity.” Answer In Progress just happens to harness people’s curiosity in a different, and far more enriching, way. “Our videos satisfy the same curious human nature that clickbait appeals to — instead of sensationalism, we give the audience interesting answers to interesting questions through storytelling.”

As for what’s next, Fernandes gave me a hint into an upcoming premiere on their channel — look out for an in-depth look at the practice of minimalism. She also left this piece of advice to those who want to be creators. “Document the process and share your findings. Maybe you’ll be the hero providing niche information that saves some kid writing an essay at 2 a.m.”

You can find Answer In Progress on the YouTube channel Sabrina & Friends, or on their website where you can subscribe to their monthly newsletter.


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