Review by Andrea Meyers, Common Sense Education | Updated March 2019

NBC Learn

Vast video site offers current, historical content

Subjects & skills
  • English Language Arts
  • Science
  • Social Studies

  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: The archive is truly impressive. Teachers can create playlists or download videos. Integrates with Google Classroom.

Cons: Can't re-arrange videos in a playlist. Learning activities aren't integrated with viewing.

Bottom Line: This is a great source for video-based news, thanks to the huge archive, current events coverage, and teacher-friendly extra links to Newsela articles.

NBC Learn has some free content that teachers can browse and integrate with their lesson plans. Students might also find news clips that add to their research. However, the tool really shines with a paid subscription. With a paid account, teachers can create playlists to use with lessons and units and use any attached activities (via the Related Text section on videos) or the toolkit for additional materials. Teachers can play the videos on an interactive whiteboard for a whole-class experience, or students can view on shared or 1-to-1 mobile devices. Videos can also be downloaded for easy offline access. Combine the videos and the articles on Newsela to add a solid foundation to your lesson plans in science, history, English language arts, math, civics, culture, and many other topics. For secondary teachers, the media offers opportunities to add historical perspectives to world events as well as discuss aspects of journalism, news accuracy, and bias.

Thanks to the deep archive of videos on NBC Learn and the current events videos, teachers can turn to the site to help introduce trending topics or to find supplementary discussion starters for the day's lesson. A search for just about anything is likely to return something useful for sparking discussion and offering key context to other curricular materials and activities.

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NBC Learn is a video-based educational news website for kindergarten through higher education. The website is free with a paid subscription option that includes many more videos as well as teacher support materials. The video library is vast, with current events videos as well as an archive of historical footage and news reports, original Learn Collections, and content from well-known shows such as NBC News and Meet the Press. It also includes media from NBC Sports, MSNBC, NBC Latino, and Spanish broadcasts from Telemundo. Archival photos from the Library of Congress, National Archives, and AP Images supplement the video media. The site is organized by topics that teachers and students can browse, or they can use the keyword search to find specific videos. There's also a section that recommends videos based on teacher profile.

Each video is linked to relevant state and national standards and offers closed captioning as well as transcripts. Teachers can use the playlist feature for lessons and units, but the feature does not support rearranging the video clips after adding them to the list, which makes it a bit clunky. Some videos also featured recommended activities. These, however, are just text in the Related Text field and aren't well-integrated with the videos. A new feature that takes the site up another notch, however, is the partnership with Newsela. Links to relevant articles on Newsela are now included with many of the videos, so teachers can use text sources with the multimedia to dive deeper into instructional content.  NBC Learn also has Google Classroom integration, so teachers can create an assignment linked to a video or playlist that already has the Newsela links embedded for easier lesson planning.

This is a highly useful site. NBC Learn stands out from the pack of other student-focused news sites by providing a large archive of current and historical news broadcasts to support classroom instruction. The Learn Collection videos have high-quality content and production values (although these videos are definitely more like traditional news than the YouTube-style explainers students may gravitate toward). Still, these videos offer students opportunities to develop their media literacy skills: analyzing and evaluating the information presented, and then doing further research or participating in discussion and debates. Students might also be inspired to do their own news reporting and informational video production. By design, the videos are accessible for learners who have reading challenges or vision disabilities, and closed captioning and transcripts support English language learners as well as students with hearing disabilities.

There's some room to grow, however. Not all videos have the same resources; some will feature Newsela articles and/or activities and some will not. Additionally, the activities included with some of the videos aren't integrated within the videos themselves, or interactive. There's also no way to assign videos or track progress. And yet, even without these features, NBC Learn offers a lot of utility for teachers who want to bring credible information into the classroom to fuel student inquiry.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

The videos have strong content, but tonally are more like traditional news than the YouTube videos kids may be used to. The newer videos help contextualize current events, and older videos offer historical insights.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Huge library of videos, but they vary in terms of curricular supports. Some offer activities and/or links to leveled articles on the Newsela partner site. Learning activities could be better integrated.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Videos feature captions, transcripts, a note-taking tool, and supporting materials for lesson planning. There are options to watch videos offline. No progress-tracking or built-in assessment.

Common Sense Reviewer
Andrea Meyers Instructional Facilitator of Technology

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Michael G. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Bayshore Middle School
Leonardo, United States
NBC Helps to Learn
It is a great tool when used wisely. Teachers looking for an easy fit for standards need to watch the videos and apply where necessary. It is a motivating tool for students, particular those not fond of reading, to find useful and applicable information.
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