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Forget binge watching. Try binge learning!

Streaming service provides unlimited education and entertainment

Created date

October 22nd, 2015
The Great Courses
The Great Courses

The Internet has had a profound impact on the way we watch television, see movies, and listen to music. Instantly available streaming content is something many people take for granted, but of course, it wasn’t always that way. While it originally took viewers of the beloved television show M*A*S*H 11 years to see the entire series play out, now anyone with a Netflix subscription can watch all 250-plus episodes on demand. 

Capitalizing on the popularity of streaming services, The Great Courses, the folks who have produced world-class adult education videos for the past 25 years, is poised to launch an online streaming service—making thousands of hours of lectures available on demand. Starting this fall, The Great Courses Plus (TGCP) will give lifelong learners the opportunity to access in-depth courses on a wide variety of topics instantly.

Gateway to learning

“What is incredibly empowering about this service is that you now have a gateway to an entire world of learning and you don’t have to make a decision between am I going to get the religion course ‘How Jesus became God,’ or am I going to get ‘The Masters of Photography’ from the National Geographic,” says Ed Leon, chief brand officer at TGCP. “You get all of that in the service. You get a universe of thousands of video lessons and it’s all one price.”

The cost of TGCP is $29.99 per month if you sign up for a year. Month-to-month memberships are also available for $49.99 per month. Lectures can be viewed on computer monitors or by using apps the company will make available for viewing content on smartphones, tablets, and connected television systems. 

How to make an awesome course

Since 1990, The Great Courses has been producing educational content for lifelong learners. To say they have it down to a science is a bit of an understatement. Everything, from the topics to the professors to the video production techniques, is tested and honed to make the most impact on their customers. It starts with a rigorous selection process for professors. 

As Leon points out, there are many gifted academics who conduct research or teach popular university-level courses, but they are not always the best communicators. “At TGCP, we are searching out the most brilliant professors who are also able to communicate and share information in a way that’s exciting and makes it meaningful for lifelong learners,” he says. “We basically do a screen test with them with a sample lecture and then we send that out to our customer base so that they can give us some feedback on that professor to make sure this is someone who resonates with them and the material. Only when we have a good match between a great professor and a great course will we start development.” 

Some of the company’s star professors include internationally renowned astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, who leads a course called “Inexplicable Universe: Unsolved Mysteries,” and best-selling author Dr. Bart D. Ehrman, who teaches the company’s enormously popular religion courses. 

Enjoyment learning

The company relies heavily on customer feedback for practically every aspect of what appears in a final course. Everything from topics to sample lectures has been tested and reviewed by some of the company’s most loyal customers. It is this ongoing dialogue that makes their video courses both informative and enjoyable to watch.

“We custom craft the course for this type of enjoyment learning,” says Leon. “If you’re a retired person, you don’t necessarily want to experience courses in the structure of a for-credit classroom at a university. There are a lot of schedules and tests that might be called the drudgery of education. We take out those parts and give you all the awesome delicious stuff—pure learning with great professors.”

Course selection runs the gambit from serious fields of study such as science, history, music, math, religion, philosophy, literature, and economics to more hands-on types of learning such as cooking, travel, and how-to photography instruction. Partnerships with respected institutions such as National Geographic and the Culinary Institute of America inform some of TGCP’s most popular courses. 

Each course is divided into a number of different lectures, all of which are approximately 30 minutes in length. Some courses contain as many as 48 individual lectures. With TGCP, viewers can watch every lecture in a course or they can skip around, viewing whichever lecture interests them.  

“For people who have some time in their lives, they want to go back to their passions—the things that really intrigued them in college or later in life,” says Leon. “They are using TGCP as a form of mental self-improvement and self-empowerment. We are kind of the gym for your mind. Some people like binge watching; we’re offering binge learning.” 

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