Despite what the movies may say, school and college wasn’t glamorous for many of us. After all, who likes being squished into small desks, hand cramps from writing pages upon pages of notes, and having fifteen different syllabuses to keep up with? Once we’ve graduated, few of us are willing to go back.
So when it comes to online learning, it’s easy to be hesitant. After all, our living-on-caffeine and dreading-finals days are far behind us—why would we want to relive them? But there’s still much to learn, and things to understand. Fortunately, many MOOC’s—massive open online course—have come to change the game when it comes to learning.
But you have a busy life. There are deadlines to be met, projects to complete, and family and life responsibilities to take care of. You don’t have time to dig into the schematics of each site. You don’t want to run the math of which subscription for which time is the cheapest. So we’re here to do that for you. The Great Courses Plus is a great site for those who want to keep learning—without many of the headaches that traditional schooling brings.
What Is The Great Courses Plus?
The Great Courses Plus is beneath the umbrella of the larger organization, The Learning Company. This was founded in 1990, by former US Senate Committee Chief Counsel Thomas M. Rollins. The aim of the Great Courses company is to make “lifelong learning and personal enrichment available to anyone, anywhere.” They partner with organizations like National Geographic, Smithsonian, and the Culinary Institutes of America, among others. Great Courses Plus offers video courses that are “thoroughly researched, extensively examined, and beautifully produced,” intended to be “comprehensive, factual, and fascinating.”
How Does The Great Courses Plus Work?
The Great Courses Plus offers a 14-day free trial of their platform. To create an account, you’ll need to select your subscription plan, create an account with your email, and enter in your payment details.
Once you complete your account details, you can immediately start searching for a course that interests you. You can search for a specific term, course, or even professor, or scroll through the many categories The Great Courses Offers. You can find videos on Economics & Finance, Food & Wine, Health & Fitness & Nutrition, History, Hobby & Leisure, Literature & Language, Mathematics, Music & Fine Arts, Philosophy & Religion, Professional & Personal Growth, Science, and Travel. 3-4 new courses are regularly added each month.
When you find a course that interests you (and frankly, with such captivating titles and interesting photos, it won’t take you long), simply click to see the course’s homepage. Here, you can learn more about the professor (their Alma Mater, along with where they currently teach and their bio), download a workbook to take notes, and scroll through each video in the course, reading what they cover. You can also watch a trailer of the entire course.
As you might have guessed from the word “trailer,” these video courses are less like university classes than they are like documentary series. The Great Courses Plus boasts that they have “no schedules, no homework, and no test—just learning for learning’s sake.” Because of this, there are no quizzes, tests, or projects included in the courses, simply videos and the guidebook. You can repeat and review the videos as often as you like—and you can also control the playback speed, as well as include subtitles.
Because The Great Courses Plus is a streaming service, you need to be sure you have a strong Wi-Fi to watch videos—this isn’t something you can download and binge-watch on a several-hour flight. However, The Great Courses Plus does offer apps for a multitude of devices: you can watch on Androids, iOS, Apple TV, Roku, and many more.
The Difference Between The Great Courses And The Great Courses Plus
Though the Great Courses and the Great Courses Plus share almost identical names, they are two separate companies—Plus is not a replacement nor an upgrade. The Great Courses allows you to purchase DVD’s or downloads of their courses, so that you can watch their hours of lectures whenever wherever. However, these courses are purchased individually, costing anywhere from $30 to $250. Plus has many of the same courses, but it runs on a subscription basis—subscribing gives you access to all of the courses, though you have to stream them online. With the Great Courses Plus, you also get a discount when purchasing DVD’s or downloads from the Great Courses.
Is The Great Courses Plus Accredited?
The Great Courses Plus does hire professors from Ivy League schools—some of the top 1% of teachers—but they’re not accredited. Because there’s no projects or quizzes, these video series aren’t designed to test what you’ve learned and prove you’ve reached a certain level of competency—so you can’t earn any academic credit, or even a certificate. These video series are designed to be beautiful and entertaining—more like an immersive documentary series than a college course.
However, that doesn’t mean the courses aren’t high quality. Because the Great Courses Plus hires the top professors, the instructors are all people who know how to teach—and to teach well. The company also makes sures to hire professors with different specialties to teach those exact classes, so they’re working in their strongest subjects. Learning without the pressures of grades and quizzes is freeing too—studies show that it’s easier to learn when you are relaxed and curious.
Is The Great Courses Plus Cheap?
The Great Courses costs about as much other MOOC’s. While their pricing sits at $20 when paying monthly, $45 for a quarterly subscription, or $150 for a yearly subscription, that equals out to $20/month, $15/month, or $12.50/month, respectively. Most courses for other MOOC’s sit anywhere from $12-$20.
However, the Great Courses Plus offers less for that price. There are no projects to complete with courses, nor any certificates, nor even a test at the end of courses to check your learning. Many MOOC’s also allow you to audit courses for free, and though Great Courses Plus does offer a 14-day free trial, you must have a subscription to watch any course.
The Great Courses Plus doesn’t stand up well even when compared to other documentaries and journal subscriptions that it is most similar to. Netflix, with its documentaries, costs $15.99/month, and Smithsonian, a partner with the Great Courses Plus, only charges $4.99 for their subscription service, and $12 for their magazine.
The Great Courses Plus Alternatives
The Great Courses Plus VS SkillShare
SkillShare also wants to teach skills and information that you won’t often find in the traditional university experience. Much of their focus is on creative skills—so there is overlap with The Great Courses when it comes to courses like cooking. SkillShare costs about as much as The Great Courses Plus, $19/month—but each of their courses include a project to complete, along with teacher and peer feedback. SkillShare also includes their own “social media” where you can connect and network with other users and creators.
However, The Great Courses Plus has more quality control when it comes to instructors. SkillShare allows anyone to teach, and though this doesn’t often affect the quality of courses, it can. The Great Courses Plus has a thorough vetting and hiring process to ensure that only the best teachers who communicate ideas well are the ones creating the courses.
The Great Courses Plus VS Coursera
Coursera also hires some of the top professors, but focuses on more academic topics—science, arts and humanities, and history are some of their most common courses. Because of this, you can earn certificates and credits from Coursera, and even earn full degrees through their program. Though you pay for individual courses unlike The Great Courses Plus’s subscription model, you can also audit any of Coursera’s courses for free.
However, Coursera does cost quite a bit more than The Great Courses Plus. Individual courses range anywhere from $49-$99, and their MasterTrack Certificates start at $2,000. Coursera is also less entertaining than The Great Courses Plus, as it is more like university lectures than well-made documentaries.
Conclusion: The Great Courses Plus
The Great Courses Plus focuses on learning for learning’s sake—and so has so intriguing topics like Psychology studies that changed how we view things, or How to Sing. While it costs much the same as other MOOC’s, it offers less tools and physical return for the price. However, their courses are very high quality, and feel more like watching a National Geographic documentary than a droning lecturer. The Great Courses Plus allows you to learn more naturally on your own time, indulging your curiosity and becoming a more well-rounded individual.
The Great Courses Plus Review
The Great Courses Plus is a massive open online course site that has produced hundreds of audio and video series taught by the world’s greatest professors. They offer a series of college-level audio and video courses produced and distributed by The Teaching Company. As of 2015, they had created over 700 courses and sold over 14 million copies. Read our in-depth review of The Great Courses Plus and see if they have the courses you want.