Crash Course World History aired a new episode on YouTube every Thursday. Although intended to run for 40 episodes, the series ended up running for 42.

Every episode, at some point, Green says "Let's go to the Thought Bubble," which signifies the beginning of an animation of what he is explaining, lasting several minutes. This particular practice was passed on to later Crashcourse series. The rest of the video alternates between John talking to the camera and relevant images.

Each episode featured several recurring segments. One such segment is the "Open Letter", which John addresses to a major character in the episode's topic. Another recurring segment is the "Secret Compartment", opened directly before the "Open Letter" and containing an item vaguely relevant to the episode and/or "Open Letter" topic. There is also the "Phrase of the Week", which are not necessarily relevant to World History; phrases are suggested by fans in the comments and hidden by Green within the video. At the end of each episode, during the credits, he reveals the previous week's phrase.

Another popular recurring theme is "Unless you are the Mongols." Green used this phrase nearly every week to highlight the many differences between the Mongols and other empires. This theme shows an image of Mongols shouting "We're the Exception!", followed by a three-second clip of a scene from the 1961 film "The Mongols" depicting a village raid.

Crash Course World History was followed by Crash Course English Literature.