Tom Rollins ‘The Great Courses’
What is ‘The Great Courses?’
In a nutshell, ‘The Great Courses’ could be considered the Netflix of learning. Currently they are an online video archive of recorded lectures ranging from a wide variety of subject matter. I use the term “currently” because upon its founding, 25 years ago, these lectures were originally on video or audio tapes and mailed to their costumers. The premiss around ‘The Great Courses’ is that costumers will pay between $35 to $500 per course. In exchange they will receive the intellectual stimulation of college without the stress and anxiety of studying for exams or assignment deadlines (Max 2017). Courses and lectures that are provided by “The Great Courses’ are partly based around costumer polling in order to better ensure potential students are able to choose from a selection that most appeals to them. A professors ability to provide an entertaining and enthusiastic lecture is partly the way in which ‘The Great Courses’ selects those who will present their content (Donald & Fellow 2016). Although traditionally their costumer base has been mostly made up of retirees and older professionals ‘The Great Courses’ has tried to broaden their demographics by introducing ‘The Great Courses Plus.’ This is an option where costumers pay $19.99 a month and are given unlimited access to about 280 of the most recent courses from the library (Max 2017).
The Fonder Tom Rollins:
Tom Rollins would graduate from Harvard Law School in the early 1980’s. Upon his graduation he would work as chief counsel and chief of staff to Senator Ted Kennedy’s Labor and Human Services Committee. In 1989, at the age of 33, Rollins would retire from his position an enter the ‘adult education’ market. His idea was to find the most charismatic professors possible and have them video record lectures for college level courses (Donald & Fellow 2016). Rollins’ inspiration to fond ‘The Great Courses’ came from an experience during his second year at Harvard University. Just prior to an exam Rollins would skip his evidence class on federal rules. Panicking about the missed content he would find a series of video lectures taught by Prof. Irving Younger of Cornell University. Expecting the worst Rollins would go on to receive an A on the exam. He said in an interview with the New York Times “It made me realize that we dramatically undervalue the power of great teachers (Max 2017).”
I greatly respect and admire the work Tom Rollins has done in creating ‘The Great Courses.’ In doing so he has truly taken the philosophy of ‘Life Long Learning’ to a new level. His creation has also, more than likely, influenced other such ‘blended learning’ endeavors such as the TEDx series and Khan Academy. Personally, I do find his background somewhat intimidating. Coming out of Harvard Law School and working along side Ted Kennedy before the age of 33 may be unrelatable to many of us. That being said, one must admire his achievements.
Donald, H. M., Fellow, J. M., City Journal (2016, January 27). Great Courses, Great Profits. Retrieved from https://www.city-journal.org/html/great-courses-great-profits-13393.html
Max, S. (2017, December 21). Born in the VCR Era, Great Courses Seeks to Evolve. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/29/business/born-in-the-vcr-era-great-courses-seeks-to-evolve.html
Tom Rollins available at: https://www.thegreatcourses.com, Sept 28, 2018.