Hulu – Making TV Better for the Classroom?

I’m addicted….late night viewings of Food Revolution, Wired Science, and Community are just a few of the television shows that have kept me up far past my bedtime recently. To be fair, I was addicted to TV long before Hulu came around, and after cutting ourselves lose from all manner of paid TV last Fall, I’ve still managed to get “my fix” of new shows (albeit a day or two late) thanks to what has arguably become the best way to watch TV on the web.

Which got me thinking about how we use TV in the classroom, or rather don’t use. Every room in my building is wired for cable, an expense the district pays for, yet the TVs are almost never on, get used primarily during records’ day when teachers are alone in their rooms, or they’re used for viewing a DVD or VHS tape with the class.

So why is it then that we continue to pay for the service? Is it one of those “just in case” expenses? More importantly, why aren’t television broadcasts being used more in the classroom? Arguments against exposing students to the commercials is really moot, considering all of the advertisements we expose them to on webpages. The one-way, non-interactive, consumable nature of television can be a big issue as far as effective teaching and learning is concerned, but media, especially visual media, can be an effective tool at times. The last big issue preventing more use of TV in the classroom would be the big scheduling problem; the show you want the students to see isn’t on until 8:00 at night, and besides, you can probably find it on YouTube later so there’s no point in recording it.

And that’s where my thoughts led me to Hulu. We’re already subjecting students to massive amounts of advertisements on all of the free websites we use (guilty as charged). We’re already using video that we’re finding for free from other sites, but having to go through the hassle of downloading it (YouTube, Vimeo, etc), converting it and/or putting it somewhere on the network where it can only be accessed at school. Many teachers have highly trafficked websites for their classrooms, which students and parents are using regularly. Perhaps the website-ready, embeddable-friendly, search-able database of the on demand Hulu video library might be something worth exploring then.

You could easily embed a video panel with short clips from the “Big Ideas Small Planet” series to help illustrate examples of sustainability in a science lesson.

Or you could even embed a full NOVA documentary about deciphering ancient Mayan language to provide students studying world cultures or history with instant access to high quality media, or supplemental materials for when they get home.

I realize that Hulu is probably blocked in many schools (it’s blocked in mine), so an idea like this might be for a more progressive community. At the very least, using Hulu embedded videos, a teacher could pass rich visual media to their students at home via a classroom website, especially if the district doesn’t have the means to purchase a subscription to Discovery Streaming, or wants to avoid the somewhat less than desirable corners of YouTube.


  1. I agree! Hulu is a great site to watch videos. It would be a difficult site to monitor in the classroom however, so I understand why it’s restricted in schools. But, if a teacher was allowed to use Hulu embedded videos within the classroom, I feel students would benefit in a big way. Students that are visual learners would especially benefit from this site.

  2. I think I ended the post a little too abruptly with my thoughts about whether it’s blocked or not, but you make a good point, Sarah. I would never dream of just unleashing students on Hulu, because you’re right in that monitoring would be difficult. Which is why I suggested the embeddable versions.

    I think I need to make a stronger home-connection for embedding content.

  3. Its an interesting argument. We are provided with technology in the classrooms however, restricted to such a degree that it appears pointless in some instances. Considering we as educators are required to made decision as to how we teach the required materials by using textbooks and other materials why are we not allowed to use our judgments in selecting the right videos on Hulu to further reinforce our students learning? Perhaps it is not that the teachers are not capable of making the judgments but rather that the administration who runs the school is really uncomfortable with all this new technology and therefore is avoiding it rather than embracing it.

    1. Couldn’t have put it better myself, Elizabeth! It seems that we go to great lengths to provide certain technologies in our schools, put often for a single purpose, or rather to just bring one resource into our teaching. Television is one of the best examples. I’m sure it was originally thought that paying the expense to have cable or satellite service brought into a school was a great idea for showing documentaries, special events, and news, but they are too often just used to watch videos (that have questionable educational relevance).

      It’s really a matter of control as you pointed out. Many administrators feel as though they won’t be able to control the quality of the learning, or rather they won’t be able to control the students use of it, or they won’t be able to control the use of bandwidth, etc. I’m going to experiment a little next year (going to plan carefully over the summer) and see what I can use to help students at home.

  4. I’m a K12 IT Director and I would be okay with a teacher showing educational content on a limited basis and taking bandwidth into account. Many of you are blaming administration, but the REAL question is if it violates Hulu’s user agreement?

    1. Although my original thoughts on using Hulu in the classroom have changed a bit due to the number of unfit advertising that’s been present lately, the notion of user agreements really isn’t an issue when it comes to modern embeddable video content. The very notion of being able to embed video means that the provider wants it to be seen in as many places as it possibly can be.

      I looked through the Hula Terms of Use (, I didn’t see anything that would constitute a restriction of viewing, short of giving out your username and password for a Hulu Plus account.

      1. Hulu’s terms state it’s for personal use only.
        No broadcasting, no performing. This would include broadcasting on a projector to a classroom of students. Hulo states you may write them for permission. You can watch on a computer 1-1 viewing.

  5. @Copyright Police

    That’s exactly why “fair use” doctrine has been carved out within Copyright legislation. If you consider Hulu to be a “delayed broadcast” or a recording of a broadcast show, then you can easily, and legally, share content from Hulu within your classroom if you follow the accepted guidelines (

    However, knowing that the ability of Hulu videos to be shared beyond the typical “10 day window” that falls under fair use, you would have to be careful and diligent to remain compliant.

    1. “Fair Use” may not apply. As we saw in NetFlix, the user’s own Terms of Use/Service which states for “personal use” trumps the Fair Use law…. at least that’s the way it has been interperted so far…

      1. That’s a great point, David. It might not stand up given recent precedents, but the freely available version of Hulu means that you could easily get around that by simply having students all access the same video clip or show on their own computers in a lab setting. That would satisfy the 1:1 viewing requirements.

  6. If you have legal precedents that would overturn personal Terms of Service overriding “Fair use”, please share… I’ve been looking/waiting for such to settle a NetFlix debate.

    1. The problem with Netflix is that it’s a paid service.

      When it comes to streaming video, certain groups have determined that it mostly falls under Fair Use –

      There’s an old, but interesting, conversation thread here about the use of NetFlix in the classroom –

      There was a HUGE case of copyright infringement against UCLA last year that was dismissed, in apparent favor of the university, but that was at a large institutional level. –

      I hope some of those lead to some nuggets with which to go on.

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