Daily Pnut E-Learning Review: The Great Courses Plus

5 min read
Written by: Andrew Kan


The Great Courses is a multi-platform tool “crafted for lifelong learners.” The Great Courses offers hundreds of courses taught by experts in various fields ranging from Economics and Finance to the Fine Arts to Religion and Science. The Great Courses was founded in 1990, and has grown from its humble start of just 10 videotapes – now offering over 500 courses in both DVD and streaming formats.

The Great Courses Plus is a subscription-based addition to The Great Courses, which offers the full benefits and range of courses available from The Great Courses, allowing subscribers to watch video-lessons on demand on internet-connected devices. (Some notable mobile devices that videos can be streamed on include Apple devices, Android devices, and Kindle Fire devices.)

The Great Courses and The Great Courses Plus provide college-level educational courses, but that doesn’t mean their intended audience is just college students. The platform offers a wide range of subjects intended for a wide range of audiences, with specific categories such as “For Kids” while the majority of categories are aimed toward anyone with a passion or desire to learn in their free time. It would be difficult to recommend these courses to anyone who is not willing to commit the time to getting through an entire course, however, as the courses are set up so that you’ll want to reach the end to get the lesson’s full story. It should also be noted that the “degree of difficulty” of certain concepts in these courses is comparable to that of a real college class, so if you are not ready for higher level learning, this product would not be a good fit.

The current price for the subscription is $49.95 monthly or $360 annually, so if you purchase a $360 annual subscription, it’s less than a dollar a day to have access to a near-endless supply of new and interesting video lectures about a variety of topics taught by experts in their respective fields.

Currently, The Great Courses Plus offers nearly the full suite of courses and lectures that can be individually purchased from The Great Courses. Each course has a different number of lectures, which range in length. Some are as short as twenty minutes, while others can be longer, around one hour in length. Each course, similar to a college curriculum course, is helmed by a Professor, who share their Course Guidebooks (similar to college textbooks) which go over all the topics covered in the video/audio lectures in a neat PDF format.

The major categories available include: Economics & Finance, Food & Wine, Health, Fitness & Nutrition, History, Hobby & Leisure, Literature & Language, Mathematics, Music & Fine Arts, Philosophy & Religion, Professional & Personal Growth, Programs for Young Learners, Science, and Travel. On the homepage of Great Courses Plus, there are rows upon rows of recommendations for users. The newest courses are listed at the top, followed by exclusive features. Below that are the most popular courses, followed by lectures focusing on topics related to current events. The site also has recommendations for courses and lectures for each of the major categories listed above. If users are interested in specific categories, they can navigate through the categories dropdown menu at the top of the page, or even search for specific topics or professors with the search bar.

What were your favorite courses and why?
A few courses that caught my attention were “Survival Mentality: The Psychology of Staying Alive” and “The Addictive Brain.” Both are in the category of Science, and I was interested by not only the course titles, but the content presented in just the first few lectures of each. The professors were quite engaging and had a firm grasp of the concepts they were teaching, which led to an enjoyable learning experience. I would highly recommend both to anyone interested in taking a deeper dive into the field of psychology.

Ease of Use:

The Great Courses Plus has a very simplistic and easy-to-use homepage layout.

The Great Courses Plus has a very user-friendly interface, similar to major video-streaming services such as Netflix. The site has a very sleek design, with only four top-bar options: Home, Categories (a dropdown menu), Watchlist – after which comes a search bar – and then your personal profile, where you can manage your account settings, see your watch/course history, and see exclusive benefits available to Great Courses Plus members.

The Great Courses Plus has hundreds of courses with thousands of sub-lectures.

The lectures can be played at different speeds – 0.5x, 1x, 1.5x, and 2x – and quality can be shifted for varying internet connections, similar to a YouTube video. There is also the option for closed captions – only available in English at the moment – for all lectures. Lectures can be added to a “Watchlist” for easier navigation in the future, and there is an option to share the lecture via Facebook, Twitter, and Email. There is currently no download mode available and internet connection is required for mobile viewing – meaning that for long bus, car, or airplane rides, a Wi-Fi connection or strong data signal is necessary. The lectures are structured very similarly to ones taught in college campuses, so regardless of time of day – depending on individual preferences, these lectures are a good watch.

The major difference between The Great Courses Plus and The Great Courses is the method and platform on which each is supported. The Great Courses offers the ability to purchase DVDs of individual courses, while The Great Courses Plus works as a subscription service to stream videos on demand. The Great Courses Plus offers nearly the entire range of courses available from The Great Courses along with additional exclusive courses and content. Individual courses on The Great Courses can range in price, but their best-selling collection often sits between $200 and $350 per course (with weekly sales available, which can drop the price of courses down to less than $100).

Areas of Improvement:
Overall, The Great Courses Plus has a nice selection of courses and a very user-friendly interface. The price point is fair for its content, but may be seen as steep for college students – who may be interested in additional learning opportunities outside of their regular college curriculum. An idea may be to give college students discounts as many other sites and resources used by college students do – for example, Amazon Prime’s student discount. Aside from price-point, I think The Great Courses Plus is a very solid resource for learners of all ages with an easy-to-use interface.

With that said, the ability to download courses or lectures for offline viewing on mobile devices may be a step in the right direction moving forward. Currently, a stable internet connection is required for mobile viewing, which makes usage on airplanes and long car/bus rides inconvenient times to try to catch up on a course. In addition, an MP3/audio-only format may be a nice future integration as well, as Great Courses Plus only provides video-format lectures at the moment.

I personally found The Great Courses Plus to be a great service, as it offers many topics that would generally be taught in a school setting, but also provides courses on categories such as Professional & Personal Growth and Hobby & Leisure. If you are unsure if you will have the time to thoroughly use the vast library of courses and are not ready to commit to a year-long subscription, I would recommend at least trying the program out for a month to learn even just one new course – each course is extraordinarily insightful. Overall, a very solid subscription plan for a very solid service.

My rating: 9/10


Yes, I want to sound marginally more intelligent: