WATCH: ‘Chemistry teacher becomes internet with online ‘MaChemGuy’ teaching videos

Hartlepool 6th Form College science lecturer James Donkin in his lab . Picture by FRANK REID
Hartlepool 6th Form College science lecturer James Donkin in his lab . Picture by FRANK REID

A chemistry teacher has proved an internet sensation after coming up with the right formula to help his students.

James Donkin – or MaChemGuy as he’s known online – has posted a series of videos on YouTube to help his students understand the subject’s most tricky areas.

Since then, the dad-of-three, who teaches A-level chemistry at Hartlepool Sixth Form College, has racked up more than 500,000 views.

James, from Roker, Sunderland, said: “Chemistry is a pretty tough subject. They’re all hard but chemistry is one of the toughest ones.

“Whenever it comes to revision time there are always certain things that the students ask you to go over again.

“You get so busy that you haven’t got time to answer all the questions that are asked of you, no matter how much you want to, so I came up with this idea of making videos.

“That way, I thought I could make a video of me explaining the subjects the same way that I would in class, but the students would be able to access them whenever they want and watch them as many times as they want. The system at the college was filling up quite quick, so even though I knew nothing about YouTube, I thought I should make a channel and start uploading them on there.”

James’ videos cover the likes of enthalpy changes, reaction mechanisms, shapes of molecules and other areas of the subject that can be particularly difficult to grasp.

The 46-year-old, who has been teaching for 22 years, said: “I made a YouTube channel and put all the videos on there, never expecting that anyone from outside the college would ever look at them, but all of a sudden I started getting views and comments from people I’d never taught and never met.

“I’ve had messages from people saying that I helped them get an A* in chemistry because they’ve watched my videos.

Hartlepool 6th Form College science lecturer James Donkin recording a lesson in his lab . Picture by FRANK REID

Hartlepool 6th Form College science lecturer James Donkin recording a lesson in his lab . Picture by FRANK REID

“I’ve started changing the way I teach as well, it’s called a flipped classroom method.

“When I was at school, the teacher would stand at the front and sometimes bore you to death explaining something before you could get started doing anything with it.

“But now, the students can watch the video first so by the time they come to class they’ve already got a basic understanding and we can explore it more.

“I put stuff online quite a lot, and it’s really helpful. I use Instagram, Twitter and Facebook as well as YouTube.

People tell me that half a million hits is quite a lot, but my kids watch Taylor Swift’s videos and she’s got millions of hits, so I don’t think it’s that impressive, but maybe I’m being a little too hard on myself.

James Donkin, MaChemGuy

“When I’m marking, if somebody’s answered a question incorrectly, I’ll take a photo of it and post it on Instagram for people to comment on. It’s all anonymous but it’s proved really helpful.

“I’ve completely changed the way I teach.”

He added: “People tell me that half a million hits is quite a lot, but my kids watch Taylor Swift’s videos and she’s got millions of hits, so I don’t think it’s that impressive, but maybe I’m being a little too hard on myself.

“It is quite good to think that all those people have listened to my Mackem voice though.”

Hartlepool 6th Form College science lecturer James Donkin in his lab . Picture by FRANK REID

Hartlepool 6th Form College science lecturer James Donkin in his lab . Picture by FRANK REID

Hartlepool 6th Form College science lecturer James Donkin in his lab . Picture by FRANK REID

Hartlepool 6th Form College science lecturer James Donkin in his lab . Picture by FRANK REID