goldkin: i has book (goldkin bookly)
[personal profile] goldkin
For the past month and a half, I've been listening to lectures from The Great Courses as an experiment passed down through my family. My father is an avid customer of theirs of six or seven years now, and I only just now decided to invest in their merchandise for the first time after one of their brochures mistakenly showed up in my mailbox addressed to him.

I've really been liking the experience so far. Each lecture series is divided into a set of audio or video lectures of 30-45 minutes apiece, usually in an even number of installments priced at around $5-10 per lecture. This is, however, rarely the going rate. The Teaching Company is entirely up front about the fact that the sales price -- typically, 70% off -- is the actual price they expect customers to pay for any given lecture series. Furthermore, RetailMeNot keeps a running catalog of their additional promotions that push the price even lower. So, it's common for me to get a 24-lecture course with an anchor cost of, say, $129.95, for $19.95 after sales and additional deals.

What's notable is how much better the lectures are than what you find on iTunes U or large swathes of MIT OpenCourseWare. This isn't to say that the content or discipline areas are notably different. Rather, the attention paid to detail, teaching excellence, and production values are much higher, and the result is a much more enjoyable experience that I can absorb very quickly.

The reasons for this is are interesting. Unlike free teaching initiatives that put their course content out there for the world to see (and in many cases, as an afterthought), The Great Courses selects only for professors that have established reputations in teaching excellence instead of just strength of publications. They then invite these professors to craft courses built solely for individual learners interested in surveying the material, or for those learners whom want a deeper understanding of their desired subject areas, focusing on the lecture content instead of their courses' homework and project components. This injects an element that many of the lectures I've listened to from other sources have trouble conveying -- genuine passion and intrigue for the material -- that might otherwise get filtered out or fail to make it to students due to the rigors of repetition and research priorities.

I find that, while this isn't a replacement for the research and structured lesson plans of a good course found in Coursera, Udacity, OpenCourseWare, MITx, or any of the other initiatives to make online learning accessible, that it fills the need for the introductory stages of learning to enjoy new subjects of study. I find that to be uniquely valuable, amidst the increasing degrees of noise and uncertainty in where and how to study.

For, they're not just teaching me new information that I didn't know previously, but rather, how to value and love the study of it as well. This ensures that as a self-learner, I will be more proactive and empowered to tackle the material in deeper research, and I believe that makes all the difference.
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October 2015

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