Inside: Great Courses Plus has excellent value as a educational video streaming service. I highly recommend this product to anyone who loves to learn.
The beautiful thing about Life, is that we will never reach an age where there is nothing left to learn, see or be; it’s magical really. — Dulce Ruby
You are never too old or young to learn something new – knowledge or skill. Schools are awesome places for learning. But not all of us can afford the cost of higher institutions. Some of us may lack the ability to travel to learning centers. Then there are those of us who have gotten the taste of binge watching through Netflix or other streaming entertainment. For many of us, the ability to binge learn would be the perfect fit.
The advent of instant streaming media has made the learning experience easier than it has ever been. There are a number of MOOC’s or Massive Open Online Courses available. Some offer free material while others offer a combination of free and paid service. Some offer only paid learning opportunities.
However, the Great Courses Plus offers an experience much different from other offerings. Consider this service the Netflix of on-line learning. Carefully crafted video productions deliver stellar content presented by world renowned professors.
The Great Courses had humble beginnings through founder Tom Rollins,a law student at Harvard University. He was facing an important exam. And like a hurdle many students, myself and my own kids included have faced, for this one he was not prepared. He was able to obtain a series of videotapes by a noted authority on the subject, Professor Irving Younger. Much to his surprise, Younger was engaging and witty and made the subject matter both accessible and interesting. Rollins passed the exam, got an A in the course and a revolutionary idea was born.
In 1990, Rollins founded the Great Courses using the following simple concept:
- Find the top 1% of college professors in the world, selected entirely for their ability to teach.
- Use feedback from customers to help craft courses into formats uniquely designed for the lifelong learner.
Rollins’ formula is still used today in Great Courses Plus.
Great Courses Plus is designed with the lifelong learner in mind. It is a subscription-based service with monthly or yearly subscription rates. The price includes unlimited streaming of endless videos. Binge watch a whole course or pick and choose the lectures that peak your interest the most. Learn what you want, where you want with no tests and assignments to complete.
Unlike many a university lecture experience, these professors are engaging with an excellent camera presence. I was so impressed when I first watched a video. As a science blogger, I immediately dived in to the science category and was impressed with the content available. As a former classroom teacher myself, I was blown away by the style and presence of the professors. I was immediately drawn in to the engaging and easy to understand presentations.
In the science category alone I found 82 titles. If learning new skills is also on your bucket list, there are many hobby and leisure titles. Upgrade your photography skills. If you run a blog like me then that is a definite one for your watch list. Cooking, gardening and learning musical instruments are also covered.
The Good Stuff
This program boasts strong benefits. It is an all you can stream subscription model. Pay one monthly or yearly subscription rate and stream as many courses and lectures as you can handle. For those who like a paper copy to highlight and mark, you have access to guidebooks and/or transcripts of courses when available. Learn at your own pace. Watch one lecture a day, part of one or binge watch an entire course. Your account saves the spot you left off so you can return to an unfinished program with ease.
Great Courses Plus has an excellent navigation system to find what you want to view next. The home page is set up very much like Netflix. If you have started but not finished a lecture or course, it is listed under “Continue Watching”. “Categories” are listed next followed by “Our Newest Courses”, “Popular Courses” and “Courses Related to Trending Topics”. Simply click on a title to get started.
A search topics bar in the top right navigation area allows you to search very specific topics. Searching ‘global warming’ brought up 4 lectures.
I live in a rural area. We have high speed wireless internet. Our speed varies greatly on any given day and hour but is never faster than 10 Mbs. The streaming was responsive even at top resolution only showing slow buffering or interruptions to rebuffer occasionally. You can adjust the quality of the video if bandwidth is limited by clicking on the HD icon below your video feed.
Also, like Netflix, you have the ability to provide viewer feedback. In this case, click on the stars under your video feed.and a review window pops up at the top of your screen. Provide a review of the lecture and/or send suggestions for improving the service. Also like Netflix, you can add titles to your Watch list, for easy viewing later. Unlike Netflix’s more restricted multiple streaming policy, Great Courses Plus allows you access to your account on 10 devices at once with five account members streaming at the same time. This feature is great for families whose members have varying tastes in educational entertainment.
At the present time, the price of this service I believe provides excellent value. Unlimited streaming, like in Netflix should satisfy anyone’s craving. At $19.99 per month or 50% less for a quarterly subscription, even watching one course every month or so justifies the expenditure. Audible.com, a book downloading service charges $14.95 per month allowing one book download a month without paying additional fees. Unlimited streaming of content for a similar price feels better to me as I rarely read a book more than once anyway.
Great Courses Plus also has good customer support. They have an extensive FAQ and questions not covered can be asked by email. I sent an email asking a few questions not covered in the FAQ and received a response within 3 hours. I haven’t yet run into any technical problems so I can’t as of yet comment on their technical support.
Their service is supported by a number of Apps. iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV4, Amazon Fire TV, Microsoft Windows 10 and Chromecast are supported. I am waiting for a Samsung App to come out so I can watch these videos on my Smart TV! I have watched videos with excellent success on my Windows 7 computer and my Samsung Galaxy Tablet.
The Not So Good Stuff
There are some downsides to Great Courses Plus. Closed captioning is not supported on these videos which is a big negative to those who are hearing impaired. For the die hard traditional students, there are no certificates or on-line assessments to prove your mastery of the course material. For some who prefer to pay as they go, the subscription only service might also be a sticky point.
As a former classroom teacher, I was quite disappointed to find out that a corporate license was not available for school board purchase. There were at least a few courses that fit Ontario Canada senior biology high school programs extremely well. I would have been thrilled to have access to these programs in the classroom. But alas, at this time, a license for large scale viewing does not exist. In addition, I would love to see programs geared to a younger audience. Homeschooling parents would find great value for their children in programs geared towards primary and junior aged children.
- Effectiveness as a Learning Tool 80% 80%
- Price 85% 85%
- Ease of Use 90% 90%
- Support 92% 92%
- Systems supported 85% 85%
- In-school Educational Value 60% 60%
- Homeschool value for Ages 5-14 55% 55%
- Homeschool Value for Ages 15+ 82% 82%
- Large library of science courses and lectures and other topics to satisfy your knowledge craving.
- All you can stream subscription model that is responsive and easy to use.
- Learn at your own pace, no schedules, no tests.
- Carefully crafted courses with award-winning professors.
- Monthly and Yearly subscription rates are a great value for all you can stream service.
- Closed captioning not yet supported for all videos.
- No certificates or on-line assessments provided.
- No ability for school boards to purchase corporate license for classroom use at this time.
- Monthly or Yearly subscription rates only; no pay per use available.
Great Courses Plus has excellent value as a educational video streaming service. It has an amazing array of engaging, carefully crafted courses. It is very easy to navigate and as an all you can stream subscription model, it provide very good value for your money. New courses are added regularly and with the ability to provide suggestions for better viewing, some of the quirks and limitations will be improved over time.
I highly recommend this product to anyone looking to satisfy their thirst for knowledge, science or otherwise. I recommend 12 Essential Scientific Concepts as a great place to start watching science content. What will you find to watch on Great Courses Plus? Click To Tweet