Crash Course (web series)

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Crash Course
Crash Course YouTube channel icon
Created byJohn Green
Hank Green
Developed by
Written byVarious
Directed by
  • Stan Muller
  • Nicholas Jenkins
  • Brandon Brungard
  • Nicole Sweeney
  • Hannah Bodenhausen
Creative directorThought Café (Formerly Thought Bubble)
Presented by
List of presenters
Theme music composerJason Weidner
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons55
No. of episodes1548[n 1]
Executive producersJohn Green
Hank Green
Heather Di Diego
ProducersStan Muller
Nicholas Jenkins
Nicole Sweeney
Brandon Brungard
Hannah Bodenhausen
Production locations
  • Stan Muller
  • Brandon Brungard
  • Nicholas Jenkins
  • Nicole Sweeney
  • Hannah Bodenhausen
  • Brigid Kennison
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running time6–15 minutes
2–4 minutes (Kids; Recess)
Original release
ReleaseJanuary 26, 2012 (2012-01-26) –

Crash Course (sometimes stylized as CrashCourse) is an educational YouTube channel started by John Green and Hank Green (collectively the Green brothers), who became known on YouTube through their Vlogbrothers channel.[2][3][4]

Crash Course was one of the hundred initial channels funded by YouTube's $100 million original channel initiative. The channel launched a preview on December 2, 2011, and as of March 2022, it has accumulated over 15 million subscribers and 1.8 billion video views.[5] The channel launched with John and Hank presenting their respective World History and Biology series; the early history of the channel continued the trend of John and Hank presenting humanities and science courses, respectively.[6] In November 2014, Hank announced a partnership with PBS Digital Studios, which would allow the channel to produce more courses. As a result, multiple additional hosts joined the show to increase the number of concurrent series.

To date, there are 44 main series of Crash Course, of which John has hosted nine and Hank has hosted seven. Together with Emily Graslie, they also co-hosted Big History. A second channel, Crash Course Kids, is hosted by Sabrina Cruz and has completed its first series, Science. The first foreign-language course, an Arabic reworking of the original World History series, is hosted by Yasser Abumuailek. The main channel has also begun a series of shorter animated episodes, called Recess, that focus on topics from the previous Crash Course series. A collaboration with Arizona State University titled Study Hall began in 2020, which includes less structured learning in its topics. In 2022, a series called Office Hours began, in which hosts of previous Crash Course series and professors host a livestream and answer viewer questions. In 2024, a Lectures series began, with long-form videos enabling a deeper dive into a single topic. The channel launched its first podcast in 2024.

History and funding[edit]

YouTube-funded and Subbable periods (2011–2014)[edit]

Hank (left) and John Green (right) co-created Crash Course and hosted the initial Biology and World History series, respectively.

The Crash Course YouTube channel was conceived by the Green Brothers after YouTube approached them with an opportunity to launch one of the initial YouTube-funded channels as part of the platform's original channel initiative.[7][8] The channel was teased in December 2011,[9] and then launched on January 26, 2012, with the first episode of its World History series, hosted by John Green.[10] The episode covered the Agricultural Revolution, and a new episode aired on YouTube every Thursday through November 9, 2012. Hank Green's first series, Crash Course Biology, then launched on January 30, 2012, with its first episode covering carbon. A new episode aired on YouTube every Monday until October 22 of that year. The brothers would then go on to end 2012 with two shorter series, with John and Hank teaching English literature and ecology, respectively.

Following their launch year, John and Hank returned in 2013 with US History and Chemistry, respectively. However, that April, John detailed that Crash Course was going through financial hardships;[11] in July, Hank uploaded a video titled "A Chat with YouTube", in which he expressed his frustration with the ways YouTube had been changing and controlling its website.[12][13] Eventually, YouTube's original channel initiative funding ran out, and shortly after Hank's video, the Green brothers decided to launch Subbable, a crowdfunding website where viewers could donate monthly to channels in exchange for perks.[14] On launching Subbable, Hank Green stated: "We ascribe to the idealistic notion that audiences don't pay for things because they have to[,] but because they care about the stuff that they love and want it to continue to grow".[14] Crash Course was the first channel to be offered on Subbable, and for a time the website crowdfunded the channel.[15] In March 2015, Subbable was acquired by Patreon, and Crash Course's crowdfunding moved over as part of the acquisition.

In May 2014, John mentioned an upcoming 10-episode Crash Course season on Big History, funded by a grant from one of Bill Gates's organizations.[16] The series outlined the history of existence, from the Big Bang forward into the evolution of life. Both Green brothers hosted the series, with Emily Graslie also participating as a guest host.[17]

Partnership with PBS Digital Studios (2014–2017)[edit]

Craig Benzine, host of US Government and Politics, was brought on as part of the PBS Digital Studios funding deal.

In 2014, Crash Course announced a partnership with PBS Digital Studios, which began in 2015 with the Astronomy and US Government and Politics series.[18] In addition to funding the channel itself, the partnership also entails PBS Digital Studios helping Crash Course to receive sponsorships.[19] As a result of the partnership as well as John commencing a year-long hiatus from the show in 2015, additional hosts were added to increase the number of concurrent series. Though the partnership meant PBS Digital Studios would assist with the production of Crash Course, the channel continued to receive funding from its audience through Patreon.[20] In April 2015, The Guardian reported that Crash Course received $25,900 per month through Patreon donations.[20] Aside from the new series on the main channel, Crash Course Kids was launched in February on a new Crash Course Kids channel.[21] The series was hosted by Sabrina Cruz, known on YouTube as NerdyAndQuirky.[22]

On October 12, 2016, the Crash Course YouTube channel uploaded a preview for Crash Course Human Geography. Hosted by Miriam Nielsen, the course was to discuss "what Human Geography isn't, and what it is, and discuss humans in the context of their world." Two episodes were posted during each of the following two weeks; however, the videos were removed on October 27, with John Green stating on Twitter that "...we got important things wrong. We'll rework the series... And we'll bring a better series to you in a few months."[23] On October 31, John further explained that the videos were removed due to "factual mistakes as well as too strident a tone," and that the mishap was caused by a rushed production stemming from a lack of staffing and budgeting.[24] The following October, during an "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) session on Reddit, John indicated the course may not return for some time, noting that "we don't feel like we've cracked it yet."[25] The channel would go on to launch their Geography course in November 2020, intended to cover both physical and human geography over its run.

In 2017, Crash Course launched three film-related series: one covered film history, another film production, and the last of which covered film criticism.[26] Also in 2017, Thomas Frank began hosting Crash Course Study Skills, which covered topics such as productivity skills, time management, and note-taking.[27]

Complexly branding and YouTube Learning Fund (2018–2019)[edit]

Anna Akana hosted Business: Entrepreneurship in 2019.

Starting with the Statistics course in early 2018, Crash Course series that are not PBS co-productions began to directly identify as Complexly productions. Also that year, Crash Course launched an Arabic-language edition of World History hosted by Yasser Abumuailek and produced by Deutsche Welle (DW), which was uploaded to DW's Arabic YouTube channel.[28] In July 2018, YouTube announced its YouTube Learning initiative, dedicated to supporting educational content on the platform. A few months later, as $20 million was invested into expanding the initiative, Crash Course secured additional funding via the initiative's Learning Fund program.[29][30] However, PBS Digital Studios remained one of the primary sources of funding Crash Course, and the network also continued to help in finding sponsorships for the show.[19]

The channel surpassed 1 billion video views in February 2019.[31] In July, YouTube launched Learning Playlists as a continuation of their Learning Fund initiative;[32] while videos in Learning Playlists notably lack recommended videos attached to them, in contrast to videos included in regular playlists on YouTube,[32] they also include organizational features such as chapters around key concepts and lessons ordered by difficulty. After Learning Playlists' launch, Crash Course's video content was formatted into several of these playlists.[32] The channel reached 10 million subscribers in November 2019.[33]

Partnership with Arizona State University (2020–present)[edit]

A collaboration with Arizona State University (ASU) titled Study Hall was announced in March 2020, which includes less structured learning in its topics. It was hosted by ASU alumni and advised by their faculty, with episodes posted on the university's YouTube channel but production and visual design by Complexly in the Crash Course style.[34] The partnership was renewed in 2022, with two new series premiering: Fast Guides is appearing on a new dedicated Study Hall channel, focusing on showing what students can expect to study in a given major; and How to College on the main Crash Course channel, showing the process of choosing, applying for, and starting at a given institution.[35]

In January 2023, Crash Course announced that they would be offering college courses on YouTube, in continued partnership with ASU and Google. The course content would be available online for free, with the full online course available through ASU for US$25, which would be led by ASU faculty and include direct interaction. Students would then have the option to spend US$400 to receive college credit for the course that would be transferable to any institution that accepts ASU credits.[36][37][38][39]


In an interview with Entrepreneur, Crash Course producer and Sociology host Nicole Sweeney detailed:

Every year we have a big pitch meeting to determine what courses and things we're going to do the next year. In that meeting, we talk about a number of different things, but the rising question that motivates that meeting and then down the line as we're making decisions about what we're doing is what we think would be most useful for people.[19]

To make its content as useful as possible to viewers, the Crash Course channel hires experts relating to the topics of its series to work on the show.[40] The Missoula-filmed series are produced and edited by Nicholas Jenkins, while Blake de Pastino serves as script editor. The Indianapolis-filmed series is produced and edited by Stan Muller, Mark Olsen, and Brandon Brungard. Script editing is credited to Meredith Danko, Jason Weidner composes music for the series,[41] and Sweeney serves as a producer, editor, and director for Crash Course.[19] Raoul Meyer, an AP World History teacher and Green's former teacher at Indian Springs School, wrote the World History series, with John providing revisions and additions.[42] Sweeney has said that she and the respective host go over each script after it is edited to assess it for content.[19]

Sweeney also stated that each ten-minute episode takes about an hour to film.[19] The Philosophy series and all series relating to science (with the exception of Computer Science) were filmed in a studio building in Missoula, Montana that also houses SciShow.[43] The Biology and Ecology series were filmed in front of green screen, but from the Chemistry season onward, each series was filmed on new custom-built sets. The Computer Science series and all series on the humanities (excepting Philosophy and Economics) were filmed in a studio in Indianapolis, Indiana. In addition, Economics was filmed at the YouTube Space in Los Angeles, while Crash Course Kids was filmed in a studio in Toronto, Ontario. Crash Course Kids was directed by Michael Aranda and produced by the Missoula Crash Course team.

Once filmed, an episode goes through a preliminary edit before it is handed off to the channel's graphic contractor. Graphic design for all of the series except Biology and Ecology is provided by Thought Café (formerly Thought Bubble),[19] and the sound design and music for these series are provided by Michael Aranda (and in later series, his company Synema Studios).


Crash Course video series feature various formats depending on the host's presentation style as well as the subject of the course. However, throughout all series, the show's host will progressively elaborate on the topic(s) presented at the beginning of the video. Early on in the history of the show, the Green Brothers began to employ an edutainment style for episodes of Crash Course, using humor to blend entertainment together with the educational content.[44]

The World History series featured recurring segments such as the "Open Letter", where Green reads an open letter to a historical figure, period, item, or concept. Occasionally he converses with a naïve, younger version of himself whom he calls "Me from the Past"; this character usually has naïve or obvious questions or statements about the topic of the video.[6][45] A running joke throughout the series is that the Mongols are a major exception to most sweeping generalizations in world history, noted by the phrase "Wait for it... the Mongols". Mentions of this fact cue the "Mongoltage" (a portmanteau of "Mongol" and "montage"), which shows a drawing of Mongols shouting "We're the exception!" followed by a three-second clip of a scene from the 1963 film Hercules Against the Mongols depicting a village raid. Green also frequently encouraged his viewers to avoid looking at history through Eurocentric or "Great Man" lenses, but instead to be conscious of a broader historical context.

For US History, Green followed the tone set by World History and put an emphasis on maintaining an open, non-Western view of American History. In addition, the "Open Letter" was replaced by a new segment called the "Mystery Document", in which Green would take a manuscript from the fireplace's secret compartment and read it aloud, followed by him guessing its author and the source work it is excerpted from. If incorrect, he would be punished by a shock pen. While the Mongoltage was largely absent, mentions of America's national pride during the series would cue a new "Libertage", which consisted of photos associated with America atop an American flag, with a guitar riff and an explosion at the start and end of the montage, respectively.

The Biology program featured the recurring segment "Biolo-graphy", during which Hank relayed a short biography of someone who was associated with the topic of the episode. Additionally, at the conclusion of each episode, Hank provided YouTube annotations with links to every subtopic he explained within the video. He also noted that the successor series to Biology, Crash Course Ecology, would follow in the spirit of the former series.[46]

Other releases[edit]

DVD box sets of the complete run of the Biology series and of season 1 of World History were made available for pre-order on October 31, 2013.[47] In June 2016, the show's official site launched, providing free offline downloads of all episodes of every series completed to date.[48] In May 2020, an official mobile app launched, providing easy access to all of the courses' video content along with rolling out flashcard and quiz study aides for particular courses.[49]

The series was also made available for streaming on Curiosity Stream.[50]

Series overview[edit]

Main series[edit]

Series Episodes Series premiere Series finale Host(s) Writer(s)
Launched in 2012
World History
World History 2
January 26, 2012
July 11, 2014
November 8, 2012
April 4, 2015
John Green John Green
Raoul Meyer
Biology 2[n 2]
January 30, 2012
June 6, 2023
October 29, 2012
Hank Green
Samuel Ramsey
Jaime Chambers
Ecology 12 November 5, 2012 January 21, 2013 Hank Green Jesslyn Shields
English Literature
Literature 2
Literature 3
Literature 4
November 15, 2012
February 27, 2014
July 7, 2016
November 7, 2017
January 24, 2013
June 12, 2014
September 8, 2016
February 13, 2018
John Green John Green
Alexis Soloski
Launched in 2013
US History 48 January 31, 2013 February 6, 2014 John Green John Green
Raoul Meyer
Chemistry 46 February 11, 2013 January 13, 2014 Hank Green Kim Krieger
Launched in 2014
Psychology 40 February 3, 2014 November 24, 2014 Hank Green Kathleen Yale
Big History
Big History 2
September 17, 2014
May 24, 2017
January 9, 2015
July 12, 2017
Hank Green
John Green
Emily Graslie[n 3]
David Baker
Launched in 2015
Anatomy & Physiology 47 January 6, 2015 December 21, 2015 Hank Green Kathleen Yale
Astronomy 46 January 15, 2015 January 21, 2016 Phil Plait Phil Plait
US Government and Politics 50 January 23, 2015 March 4, 2016 Craig Benzine Raoul Meyer
Intellectual Property 7 April 23, 2015 June 25, 2015 Stan Muller Raoul Meyer
Economics 35 July 8, 2015 June 9, 2016 Adriene Hill
Jacob Clifford[n 4]
Patrick Walsh
Jacob Clifford
Scott Baumann
Launched in 2016
Philosophy 46 February 8, 2016 February 13, 2017 Hank Green Ruth Tallman
Physics 46 March 31, 2016 March 24, 2017 Shini Somara Alyssa Lerner
Games 29 April 1, 2016 December 16, 2016 Andre Meadows Mathew Powers
Launched in 2017
Computer Science 40 February 22, 2017 December 21, 2017 Carrie Anne Philbin Amy Ogan
Chris Harrison
World Mythology 41 February 24, 2017 January 28, 2018 Mike Rugnetta Raoul Meyer
Sociology 44 March 13, 2017 February 12, 2018 Nicole Sweeney Steven Lauterwasser
Film History
Film Production
Film Criticism
April 13, 2017
August 24, 2017
January 11, 2018
August 3, 2017
December 14, 2017
April 26, 2018
Craig Benzine
Lily Gladstone
Michael Aranda
Tobin Addington
Study Skills 10 August 8, 2017 October 10, 2017 Thomas Frank Thomas Frank
Launched in 2018
Statistics 44 January 24, 2018 January 9, 2019 Adriene Hill Chelsea Parlett-Pelleriti
Theater 50 February 9, 2018 March 1, 2019 Mike Rugnetta Alexis Soloski
Media Literacy 12 February 27, 2018 May 15, 2018 Jay Smooth Aubrey Nagle
History of Science 46 March 26, 2018 April 29, 2019 Hank Green Wythe Marschall
Engineering 46 May 17, 2018 May 2, 2019 Shini Somara Michael Sago
Ricky Nathvani
Launched in 2019
Navigating Digital Information 10 January 8, 2019 March 12, 2019 John Green Aubrey Nagle
Business: Soft Skills
Business: Entrepreneurship
March 13, 2019
August 14, 2019
July 3, 2019
December 11, 2019
Evelyn Ngugi
Anna Akana
Rebecca Upton
Madeline Doering
European History 50 April 12, 2019 August 28, 2020 John Green Bonnie Smith
Artificial Intelligence 20 August 9, 2019 December 27, 2019 Jabril Ashe Lana Yarosh
Yonatan Bisk
Tim Weninger
Launched in 2020
Organic Chemistry 50 April 30, 2020 April 13, 2022 Deboki Chakravarti Kelley Donaghy
Kat Day
Andy Brunning
Kristen Procko
Linguistics 16 September 11, 2020 January 22, 2021 Taylor Behnke Gretchen McCulloch
Lauren Gawne
Geography 50 November 30, 2020 April 12, 2022 Alizé Carrère Jane P. Gardner
Zohra Calcuttawala
April Luginbuhl Mather
Launched in 2021
Zoology 14 April 15, 2021 July 15, 2021 Rae Wynn-Grant Brittney G. Borowiec
Black American History 51 May 7, 2021 November 9, 2022 Clint Smith Clint Smith
Danielle Bainbridge
Nia Johnson
Lynae Bogues
Outbreak Science 15 September 7, 2021 December 21, 2021 Pardis Sabeti Ricky Nathvani
Launched in 2022
How to College 15 March 24, 2022 July 14, 2022 Erica Brozovsky Michael Lodato
Kaila Kea-Lewis
Public Health 10 August 4, 2022 October 6, 2022 Vanessa Hill Dylan Reynolds
Climate & Energy 12 December 7, 2022 April 26, 2023 M Jackson Jaime Chambers
Leila Battison
Launched in 2023
Botany 15 May 18, 2023 September 7, 2023 Alexis Nikole Nelson Jaime Chambers
Leila Battison
Molly Edwards
Launched in 2024
Art History 4[52] April 11, 2024 Sarah Urist Green Jaime Chambers

Kids series[edit]

Series Episodes Series premiere Series finale Host
Science[n 5] 95 March 3, 2015 March 16, 2016 Sabrina Cruz

Foreign language series[edit]

Series Language Episodes Series premiere Series finale Host
تاريخ العالم (World History) Arabic[n 6] 42 January 19, 2018 July 5, 2018 Yasser Abumuailek
Fundamentos de Química (Fundamentals of Chemistry) Spanish[n 7] 11 March 14, 2023 Corina Perez
Biología (Biology) 50 June 6, 2023 Mini Contreras


Series Episodes Series premiere Series finale
Recess 2 March 5, 2018 October 2, 2018
A History of Crash Course 1 December 4, 2018
How Crash Course is Made[n 8] 6 March 22, 2019 April 10, 2019
Covid-19 and Public Health[n 9] 1 October 19, 2020
History of Wales[n 10] 1 September 14, 2022

Study Hall series[edit]

A partnership with Arizona State University and hosted on the Study Hall channel.

Series Episodes Series premiere Series finale Host(s)
Composition 15 March 31, 2020 July 7, 2020 Yumna Samie
Algebra 15 April 23, 2020 July 30, 2020 James Tanton
Chemistry 15 September 10, 2020 December 15, 2020 Will Comar
Data Literacy 15 September 10, 2020 December 17, 2020 Jessica Pucci
Fast Guides to Electives and Majors 36[53] March 25, 2022 Hank Green
Erica Brozovsky
Naia Butler-Craig
Cassandra Ryder
Sabrina Cruz
Rhetoric & Composition 29 August 8, 2022 March 29, 2023 Emily Zarka
Real World College Math 30 August 9, 2022 April 13, 2023 Jason Guglielmo
Intro to Human Communication 29 August 10, 2022 March 15, 2023 Cassandra Ryder
US History to 1865 30 August 11, 2022 May 5, 2023 Danielle Bainbridge
Power and Politics in US Government 30 August 7, 2023 April 1, 2024 Dave Jorgenson
Carmella Boykin
Chris Vasquez
Code and Programming for Beginners 28 August 9, 2023 March 20, 2024 Sabrina Cruz
Modern World History 30 August 10, 2023 April 4, 2024 Robert Fuller
Intro to Psychology 2[54] May 7, 2024 Déja Fitzgerald

Office Hours series[edit]

Title Series premiere Hosts
Anatomy & Physiology April 21, 2022 Hank Green
Brandon Jackson
Geography April 25, 2022 Alizé Carrère
April Luginbuhl Mather
World History April 26, 2022 John Green
Cathy Keller


Title Series premiere Hosts
Tuberculosis Explained March 25, 2024 John Green


Title Episodes Series premiere Series finale Hosts
The Universe 2[55] April 23, 2024 John Green
Katie Mack


The Crash Course project has been successful in its reach, with World History alone having attracted millions of viewers.[56] It had a particular appeal to American students taking the AP World History class and exam; many students and teachers use the videos to supplement their courses.[3][57][58]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Ceremony Category Result Ref.
2015 Streamy Awards Science or Education Nominated [59]
2015 Webby Awards Online Film & Video - Science & Education (Channel) Honoree [60]
2016 Streamy Awards Science or Education Nominated [61]
2018 Webby Awards Film & Video - Science & Education (Channels & Networks) Honoree [41]

See also[edit]


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  1. ^ as of March 16th 2022
  2. ^ A reimagining of the original subject matter from 2012.
  3. ^ Graslie is the sole host of the second season.
  4. ^ Clifford departed after the 29th episode, with Hill presenting the remainder solo.
  5. ^ Hosted on the Crash Course Kids channel.
  6. ^ Hosted on the DW عربية channel.
  7. ^ Hosted on the Crash Course en Español channel.
  8. ^ A partnership with Adobe and hosted on the Thought Café channel.
  9. ^ A partnership with Operation Outbreak and the Sabeti Lab at Harvard.
  10. ^ Included in episode 7 of Welcome to Wrexham.

External links[edit]