Saturday, February 9, 2019

The Great Courses by The Teaching Company

Photo by Salt Water New England
In the mid-1990s, I was an early customer of The Great Courses by The Teaching Company.  While expensive, the cassettes - arriving in their large blue boxes - provided access to accomplished professors lecturing on their favorite topics.  Some reviewer called them, accurately, cultural literacy as performance art.  Their long form was a perfect match for needs at the time, both in length and topics.

The Great Courses now tend to be priced using the same approach as Omaha Steaks.  Nevertheless, two favorite courses from these early days are among those on their excellent CD sale this week.

One is the contemplative  God and Mankind: Comparative Religions by Robert Oden <>. 

A second, longer and more energetic, is How to Listen to and Understand Great Music by Robert Greenberg <>.

As well, many libraries today stock a collection of these great courses.  And the company itself, not unlike so many universities, has recently evolved offerings to cover more practical topics for those inclined.

They are another example, as with podcasts and directors' commentaries, how experiences once reserved for people in close proximity to cultural centers are now available to anyone who makes the effort.


  1. Isn't it wonderful to have access to such learning? I have enjoyed The Great Courses for many years. I still have my first CD. They now offer a channel on Roku TV. While I was bedridden with Lyme and forced to watch television all day, I quickly signed up for their channel ( a few dollars each month) and enjoyed many of their seminars.
    " ...anyone who makes the effort" ...seems to me too many choose to fill their minds with meaningless trash that contributes to learned helplessness and lower IQ. I have little patience with ignorance given how easy it is to learn almost anything online with little effort. In my opinion, ignorance is a choice.
    " A mind is a terrible thing to waste"

  2. If you had told me I would ever enjoy listening to a talk about American business history, I would have said, “No way!”

    HOWEVER, “The Great Courses series” changed my mind. I recently listened to an old one called "The Masters of Enterprise" and I loved it. Once you get past the introduction and overview of the subject matter, the professor tells interesting stories in a conversational way - stories about how entrepreneurs got started and how their big ideas changed American culture. He begins with John Jacob Astor and he brings each of these very human tales to life. (I get "Great Courses" discs from our local library.)

  3. There are so many wonderful on-line learning opportunities. I took a class from the University of Copenhagen for free. Great experience.

  4. I'll have to try one of these some day. But I have a strong hunch it'll fail for me. Every lecture in college set my mind wandering about five minutes into it, either from something the lecturer said or whatever else was going on in my life at that time.

    Some people are excited by podcasts — I find them totally abhorrent. There's something a single voice, just talking and talking and talking... They all unfold at the unvarying rate of one second per second.

    Books are totally different, and just work better for me. I can skim, look back a few pages, put it down to check a fact then pick it up again, write in the margins and end papers, and so on.

    Very much better from my perspective, although I know others have the diametric oppsite reaction!

  5. So many wonderful, and varied topics are available.

  6. You can also stream some Great Courses on Kanopy, if you have a streaming device and a library card. Kanopy is free, a service through our library system.