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The Great Courses Reviewed – Will you actually go further in your educational journey?

As a lifelong learner, I felt necessary to write a complete The Great Courses review. My thoughts and opinions are my own, and I often review courses to provide a better framework for students to decide upon what is right for them. Let’s get into it…

In an ideal world, we never stop learning. Knowledge is unlimited but our time and resources are finite. In college or at the university, we fly through the “general” subjects so we can hunker down and focus on our majors. There was no time to delve a little deeper into art and literature when you were racing to get that engineering degree but now, with so many resources available online, it’s never been easier to get back to those passions and start learning again, or in some cases, learn even more.

Before the explosion of YouTube and the gamut of videos it hosts, the Teaching Company, based on Virginia, USA, created The Great Courses in 1990 and since then, it has created and produced more than 500 courses, with company officials reporting having sold 19 million courses.

The Great Courses is a series of college-level audio and video courses with subjects ranging from business, economics, fine arts, music, ancient and medieval history, modern history, literature and English language, philosophy and intellectual history, and religion to science, mathematics, social sciences, professional development, and better living.

As opposed to bite sized, day-to-day topics that most online tutorials cater to, The Great Courses caters to a more niche demographic. Their customers are “lifelong learners” who are passionate about learning and perpetually curious. The courses are delivered through engaging, immersive learning experiences that are different from the typical online tutorials, amateur podcasts, or college lecture halls. And since the business model is driven mainly by customer, they play an integral part in the subjects chosen, courses produced and the professors chosen to teach them. There is a real partnership, a give and take, so to speak, in making The Great Courses a success and they remain relevant by creating current and fresh content and maintaining a stream of new talent.

One of their most (mainstream) famous and notable Great Course professors is Neil DeGrasse Tyson and self-described fans include Bill Gates and George Lucas. With heavy hitter and big names like that, it is easy to lend them credibility whilst giving you an insight of what kind of people this platform attracts.

Every component of the courses and lecture series are carefully produced to be optimally engaging and each go through rigorous customer surveys. No incentives are provided for those who participate in the surveys and this symbiotic relationship not only strengthens the bond between customer and company but keeps the quality of the courses top notch. This results on courses that customers are willing and happy to invest in and keeps the ball rolling.

The perks of The Great Courses is they have honed in on who they are, who they cater to and what works. They have taken the best out of the educational journey by choosing the best and most engaging professors while taking out the time constraints of regular classes and the four walls of a classroom. There are no prerequisites, no exams, and no homework. You can choose the format that best suits your lifestyle and needs, whether it be video or audio, discs, or digital on any device you choose, be it watching it on a TV or a laptop or listening on your headphones during your morning jog.

The Great Courses is the brainchild of Tom Rollins, a former lawyer. As he tells the story, he came across the idea an audio and video course when he was cramming to study for a final exam on the federal rules of evidence. Instead of scouring through his notes and reading volumes of books, he watched 10 hours of videotaped lectures by acclaimed legal professor Irving Younger. What he discovered was, through this video format, he was able to digest the subject much easier; “Professor Younger’s lectures were outrageously insightful, impressively thorough, and engagingly witty. Most important: They hammered home the concepts in a way that made the subject both accessible and interesting. They made learning not a chore to be accomplished but an adventure to be experienced.” Rollins’ gamble earned him an A on his exam and a business idea that later gave birth to The Great Courses.

According to Rollins, the success of The Great Courses rest on two key pillars:

  1. Find the top 1% of college professors in the world, selected entirely for their ability to teach.
  2. Use feedback from customers to help craft courses into formats uniquely designed for the lifelong learner.

The courses offered range from $20 for a short audio download to more than $500 for a multi-lecture DVD set. And to keep up with the times, The Great Courses will soon offer an online monthly subscription fee at $49.95 that offers hundreds of full courses and even more stand-alone lectures.

Here are some of their best selling courses:

  1. Fundamentals of Photography by Joel Sartore, a National Geographic photographer

Available in video download (currently on sale for $49.95) or DVD format (currently on sale for $69.95), this course teaches you how to best apply the fundamentals of camera equipment, understand the modern photographer’s workflow from shooting to editing to final product, and to discover how to use the advance and powerful tools of the modern cameras.

  1. The Everyday Gourmet: Rediscovering the Lost Art of Cooking by Chef Bill Briwa of The Culinary Institute of America

Available in video download ($234.95) or DVD format ($269.95), this course teaches you which knives to use, when to use them and how the experts utilize them. Also the learn the fundamental cooking methods from roasting to poaching to stir-frying and unlock the full potential of your spice rack.

  1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Techniques for Retraining Your Brain by Professor Jason M. Satterfield, Ph.D. from the University of California, San Francisco

Available in video download ($234.95), audio download ($149.95), DVD format with closed caption ($269.95), or CD format ($199.95), you’ll learn how to set “smart” goals and watch three patients receive initial assessments. You’ll also understand how stress, depression, anxiety, fear, and anger can all be addressed by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and find out how external changes to your daily habits can help alleviate dependencies and negative responses.

Interestingly, as opposed to most publishers, they offer a satisfaction guarantee! “ If a course is ever less than completely satisfying, you may exchange it for another of equal value at any time. You may also return any course, within one year of initial purchase, for a full refund. And, if a disc ever breaks, warps, or gets damaged, we’ll replace it as long as the course is in production, free.” That’s a huge plus in my book and I think it’s worth the investment if you are considering going further in your educational journey.

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After 10 years of blogging, I’ve learned that online success doesn’t come cheaply, easily or fast. It’s merely consistent work, day in and day out, yet the rewards are certainly worth the constant grind.