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Old 5th January 2008, 04:39 PM   #1
Tiktaalik
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The Great Courses Info?

I just received a catalog for DVDs and CDs, entitled "The Great Courses" by "The Teaching Company".

A number of these lecture sets look really interesting, but I'm hesitant to buy them before I get more opinions about them. For example, there's a 60-lecture series called "The Joy of Science" and "What are the Chances? Probability Made Clear" and a 24-lecture series on Existentialism.

Some of this stuff I had in college (I have an M.S., obtained through a research-based thesis) but it was a long time ago. Some I never took (philosophy, much history).

Does anyone have any experience with this company's products? If so, what did you think? What level are they on? Some of these are on sale, with a large discount (about 1/6 normal price, according to the catalog). Were they worth it?

Thanks for any info...

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Old 6th January 2008, 07:10 PM   #2
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I've listened to several of their courses (mainly history) and enjoyed them. I currently have the catalog on my desk right now. Whether they are worth the costs depends on your interest in the subject. My suggestion, buy one of the shorter, cheaper lecture series, see if you like it, and if you do then decide if you want the more expensive ones.
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Old 7th January 2008, 11:58 AM   #3
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I understand Shermer is a fan.

I've purchased several, also mainly history, and enjoy them. My advice is to wait for a sale, which happens often.

A
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Old 7th January 2008, 12:58 PM   #4
Deus Ex Machina
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Originally Posted by Tiktaalik View Post
I just received a catalog for DVDs and CDs, entitled "The Great Courses" by "The Teaching Company".

A number of these lecture sets look really interesting, but I'm hesitant to buy them before I get more opinions about them. For example, there's a 60-lecture series called "The Joy of Science" and "What are the Chances? Probability Made Clear" and a 24-lecture series on Existentialism.

Some of this stuff I had in college (I have an M.S., obtained through a research-based thesis) but it was a long time ago. Some I never took (philosophy, much history).

Does anyone have any experience with this company's products? If so, what did you think? What level are they on? Some of these are on sale, with a large discount (about 1/6 normal price, according to the catalog). Were they worth it?

Thanks for any info...
I have the series on statistics and probability. Very good, very helpful.

When I have finished I will be getting some more.

Get the catalog every lecture series goes on sale at some point in the year, pick one oyu like and when it comes on sale - robert is your father's brother.

I will add one caveat - they are lectures,not entertainment...
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Old 7th January 2008, 06:04 PM   #5
Tiktaalik
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Thanks for your reviews.

As I mentioned in the OP, they are on sale, that's why I brought this up now.

I am not looking for entertainment, I'm looking for well-presented information that I can listen to/watch at home.

And, Deus, I believe it's generally considered bad form to disclose personal info about someone else on public forums...

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Old 7th January 2008, 07:45 PM   #6
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That's great to hear. I saw that they have a lecture series by Bart Ehrman available that I am very interested in.
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Old 8th January 2008, 01:15 AM   #7
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They have a website!

ETA: By the by, MIT has a lot of their courses online. A lot have audio lectures.

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Old 8th January 2008, 04:45 AM   #8
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I have a catalog as well; I've never used it but a number of the lectures look interesting. I would point out, though, that there are a lot of free lectures now available online through iTunes U, which I've also never used, but you might look there first to see if there's something you're interested in that's available for free. I look forward to trying it myself whenever I can make the time to do so.
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Old 8th January 2008, 06:18 AM   #9
Tiktaalik
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Originally Posted by Foster Zygote View Post
That's great to hear. I saw that they have a lecture series by Bart Ehrman available that I am very interested in.
I didn't see that one! I'll have to check again - I have his book, "Misquoting Jesus", which I think is great (I leave it lying strategically around my house for visitors to "find").

Unfortunately, I can't download tunes, streaming video, YouTube segments, or anything like that. I have a dial-up connection, lucky to get 28.8, no DSL available, am thinking about satellite but it's expensive. So it's CDs/DVDs for me...but good hint for others re: iTunes...
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Old 10th January 2008, 02:27 PM   #10
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I've purchased a few of their courses. I was skeptical at first, but a course was available as a download, which greatly reduced the price (the course was biology and human behavior taught by Robert Sapolsky, a harvard professor) so I tried it. I really enjoyed it and since have purchased more courses.

I would recommend the download option. The lectures remain on their website available to you with a user ID and such, or you can download them and save them to your pc. Some seem to only be offered as DVDs, but when I purchased a course called the joy of mathematics I could see why. It was very dependent on visuals.

As for the sale prices, their website explains that they rotate titles in their inventory which is why some are drastically reduced in price. If there is a course you like but it's full price I would wait and watch, because I think at least once a year every course is on sale.

If you're still not sure, you can always try a library. I'm told some of their courses are available to check out of some public libraries.
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Old 7th January 2009, 05:56 AM   #11
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The prices on the website are more than in the mailed catalog?
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Old 8th January 2009, 07:30 AM   #12
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I have received three separate "sample" CDs over the years and finally got around to listening over the holidays. Each CD had 2 lectures, each from different courses. The following is my opinions on the content.

The modern physics lectures I listened to (2) were very interesting to me and I was very pleased. You will not get a mathematical treatment of anything, but you will probably understand the concepts. As SynapticDancer mentioned, some courses are more dependent upon visuals and the associated study materials than others. The pace is fast, but manageable (you can always replay a part you lost).

One lecture was out of Ehrman's Lost Christianities series. I was actually a little disappointed. While the material was interesting, the pace was so much slower than the physics course that I was a bit frustrated. While the bloody family history of the people who discovered the Nag Hamadi texts is a mildly interesting footnote, IMO there was no reason to spend 5 minutes in a lecture on the Gnostic gospels.

One lecture was out of the "Great Books" series and discussed the many volumes of Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. Again - lots of anecdotes and background on the author, but not as much about the content as I would have liked. It did make me more interested in the books, but if the other lectures are the same, I would be hard pressed to pay that much for essentially a more detailed "book club writeup".

I am currently listening to a lecture on the history of languages, specifically how languages provide tools for tracking population migrations. If you follow a lot of science reports, you may already know most of this stuff, but it was still nice to hear it collected in one place. Linguistics is also obviously not a "hard science" in the manner of physics/chemistry/math. There is a lot of "we might infer" that makes me want to ask question of the lecturer or do further reading. I guess it is a good sign if a lecture makes me think and want to do more research, but I'm not convinced. [ETA: it may be that this issue is addressed in an earlier lecture in the series - I don't know.]

I plan to buy a couple of the series when they go on sale but I will not invest a lot until I have had a chance to look at the iTunes U and MIT lecutres, first.

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Old 8th January 2009, 08:01 AM   #13
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I've listened to a few of the history ones and I have to say that, like most talks, it depends a lot on the speaker. A seemingly interesting subject can easily be made quite boring with a bad speaker (and vice versa).
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Old 10th January 2009, 09:26 AM   #14
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I've bought a couple courses from them.

My Favorite Universe by Prof. Neil deGrasse Tyson. Enjoyed it much!

The New Testament by Prof. Bart D. Ehrman. Mixed emotions. Main complaint is that IMHO he brought out conclusions not based on the course material, and made the course, while interesting, a sells pitch for some of his books.

I find the general quality of the course material to be very good (FWIW)

As others have said, only buy on sell. Whatever you want will be on sell at some point.
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Old 11th January 2009, 05:06 PM   #15
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Since this thread has been resurrected from the dead, thought I'd mention that in the last year I've gotten about 10 of these (gave a couple as gifts). I really like them. I watch them when I'm working out. Some are better than others, or at least I find myself better able to maintain attention with some lecturers than others. The Bob Brier Ancient Egypt ones are real good, he does not go into some of his weird ideas about how the pyramids were built (apparently he never checked out www.theforgottentechnology.com) - mostly it's that he's an experienced presenter and interesting to listen to and watch.

Anyway, I like 'em.
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Old 11th January 2009, 07:03 PM   #16
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I've listened to a great many of the courses from the Teaching Company over the last eight years. I highly recommend them. I have even used some of their material in courses that I've taught in college as well as to other teachers. The course guides that come with them are very useful as well, providing information to other references, etc.

One tip: if you don't want to get stuck paying top-dollar for a specific course, you can wait a while. Typically the TC will rotate various courses around onto a discounted price list, and then you can get them much cheaper. Keep your eye on their website to catch your favorite titles.

ETA: I've always had the courses in audio format. Are the visual versions worth it?
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Old 12th January 2009, 07:09 PM   #17
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I have several in audio version - i.e., History of Jazz.

But if you're getting one on, say, art, it's really worth it to get the DVD!!!
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