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Tell me about how you use The Great Courses

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I’m glad you asked this! Can’t wait to see some responses. 

I am spending today folding the ton of laundry that built up while we were sick and my back was out and previewing Great Courses for possible use with oldest for coming term. 

Prior to US History I’ve only used a few lecture series for her classes and sporadically at that. I took a break from our GCP subscription last year once I realized I was the only one using it, and not often enough to justify, but then renewed a few months ago for her to start US History. I was absolutely stunned by the number of courses now on there. It’s almost overwhelming! 

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Older dc listened as supplements to what they read, and we discussed.  Youngest dc learns best by listening, so uses them as the main instruction, reads to supplement, and then we discuss.  The guide books can be helpful both to preview or to review after listening.  We prefer audio lectures to video, so we can listen in the car or while doing other things around the house.  We use audio CDs, not downloads, as our library system has an amazing number of them available to us free.  I've found a few at garage and library sales, too.  

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It varies, but the most prevalent use here is of individual lectures to orient ourselves in a topic we are studying elsewhere. Always in the car, no notes or reading the outline or anything.¬†Rarely do we listen to an entire course, though dH does, for fun ūüôĄ.

when we were travelling we got the great courses unlimited video thing, and I would download particular lectures to watch while in transit, about the places we were transiting to. Right now, it’s all audible. I look up the table of contents on the website bc audible just has chapter numbers. 

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Sometimes we'll have an area of study already on the go and I'll seek out a Great Course to supplement it.

Other times I come across an interesting looking Great Course and this instigates a new area of study for us.

Sometimes my daughter listens on her own - for some she takes notes and for some she just listens.

Sometimes we listen together, which is great for discussion.

 

At the moment, we have the following on the go:

- Great World Religions - Buddhism (listening and discussing together) - we plan to listen to all in this series

- The Story of Human Language (listening and discussing together)

- Music as a Mirror of History (my daughter is listening on her own)

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We use the videos, not audio. DS is driving now, so we don't often wind up in the car together anymore, but even before that we both just preferred to watch - seems to help us focus better, IDK. We generally watch them while we eat lunch. This year DS is using them to study US History. Usually we discuss each lecture afterwards and then I pick one question per week from the course guide for DS to write an answer to. 

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For seventh grade the twins and I are just watching -- I haven't attached any output to it, though I do have history related topics that I throw into WWS and usually they overlap.¬† My oldest daughter LOVES Great Courses Plus and she just listens to them at will. Last summer she worked in an archive and it's pretty quiet, lonely work and she managed to listen to three or four full courses. Her favorite was the Black Death one. ūüôā

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11 minutes ago, SanDiegoMom in VA said:

For seventh grade the twins and I are just watching -- I haven't attached any output to it, though I do have history related topics that I throw into WWS and usually they overlap.¬† My oldest daughter LOVES Great Courses Plus and she just listens to them at will. Last summer she worked in an archive and it's pretty quiet, lonely work and she managed to listen to three or four full courses. Her favorite was the Black Death one. ūüôā

That's my all time favorite too!

I've noticed the newer courses have a lot more media included- maps, and pictures, and video clips. They're really upped their production value over the last several years, so we're just straight GCP sub now- I never buy the audio only anymore. 

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For the uninformed, how does Great Courses Plus work?

I know I can get some great courses from our library via streaming, but then you don't get the guidebook (if there is one).

I am wondering--has anyone done a flipped classroom co-op class based on these?

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I love GC as the spine for history alongside a good text! We use part of K12's Our Human Story for Ancient & Medieval and K12's American Odyssey for US but there are many other good ones. Ideally, when I've been able to talk them into doing history this way, we watch a 2 or 3 lectures a week while they take notes. We stop frequently and discuss, and they do some reading from the text. Then twice a year they write a research paper on a topic of interest. The ones we've used and liked are History of the Ancient World, Foundations of Western Civ, and History of the US, and we take 3 years to do all of it.

We also did this for a half credit Economics course (but with no text) and it was one of the most worthwhile classes we've ever done! 

But my kids would often rather be boring and choose to just read the text and write. They enjoy the GC lectures, but often prefer a get "er done approach to history. They are such party poopers ...

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21 minutes ago, cintinative said:

For the uninformed, how does Great Courses Plus work?

I know I can get some great courses from our library via streaming, but then you don't get the guidebook (if there is one).

I am wondering--has anyone done a flipped classroom co-op class based on these?

The Great Courses Plus is just their subscription program for digital content. You pay either monthly or yearly, whichever you prefer and you have full access to all their content listed on GCP across devices. They have apps or you can watch online- you can use on iPhone, Mac, PC, Roku, you name it. It seems to me like most of their content is available on GCP now. However I haven’t compared to a catalog in a long time. Initially there were only some courses available on GCP. That doesn’t seem to be the case at this point. 

Also, if you do search old threads you’ll see a thing where the pricing varied widely from person to person. That seems to have been part of the pilot to see what people would pay and it’s stabilized at this point from everything I’ve seen/read. 

Now this is all video content- not audio only¬†that I‚Äôve found. However,¬†you can download episodes to the app, so I would think you could use that to just listen if you wanted. You can also access the PDF booklets in most cases- like the ones that came with the physical DVDs and CDs of ancient times. ūüôā¬†

Edited by Æthelthryth the Texan
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4 hours ago, cintinative said:

@Lori D.¬† I seem to remember you used these??¬† Please forgive the error if not.¬† ūüėÉ


I *wanted* to use more of these than we did. DSs couldn't seem to get past spending most of the time commenting on the lecturer's hair / clothes / mannerisms, as young teen boys are wont to do...¬†ūüôĄūüėā

Also, DS#2 is a very Visual-Spatial Learner, very weak auditory-only learner, so we really needed to go with video lectures rather than audio-only. And that led to my first comment... lol.

However, we did successfully use all of the Timothy Taylor Economics (video) series (36 half-hour lectures covering micro- and macro-economics) as the "spine" of our Economics 0.5 credit, along with several other Economics resources (a Personal Finance series; and 2 books on Economics topics).

As far as as how we used this GC series: we first went over some Study Skills and got exposure to several different note taking techniques, and then we did 2 lectures/week. I had DSs practice note taking while listening to the lecture, and then 2 days later before we started the next lecture, I had them study their notes from the previous lecture and take a short quiz (3-5 questions) that I made for each lecture. We also discussed as we watched (or right after).

I bought it as a video DVD series, used, from Amazon, for about $30-35 (including shipping), and when we were done, I was able to re-sell for just about the same price, so that was one of the rare times where it was worth it to buy rather than try and use a library copy and speed through it and hope to be able to renew it several times before someone else wanted it... (:D

I know quite a few people on these boards have used and loved the Vandiver series on Myths, and the Ancient Greek¬†Epics. I've also seen posts where people have mentioned¬†using¬†some of the History or Science lecture¬†series as part of their subject. Hopefully those people will jump in and share how it worked for them. ūüôā

Edited by Lori D.
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We have used a few:

7th grade son watched most of the Daily life in the Ancient World.  These were good!

9th grade son watched Great American Bestsellers: The books that shaped america. We liked the profs presentation.   We also started The Life and Work of Mark Twain.  We did not like Railton's presenting.

Lastly, I am doing a little physics class for mostly 8th graders and as part of that class we are watching Understanding the Word's Greatest Structures: Science and Innovation from Antiquity to Modernity.  Very good.  Some of it goes over their head but I think they are all learning at ton. Professor Ressler is a great presenter and there are great demonstrations.  As a homeschool mom I love the mix of history in there as well! 

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19 hours ago, Æthelthryth the Texan said:

Now this is all video content- not audio only¬†that I‚Äôve found. However,¬†you can download episodes to the app, so I would think you could use that to just listen if you wanted. You can also access the PDF booklets in most cases- like the ones that came with the physical DVDs and CDs of ancient times. ūüôā¬†

 

Once you hit play on a video in the app, a video/audio toggle appears at the top of the screen and you can switch to audio only.

My kid isn’t high school aged yet. She watches lectures at mealtimes, as interest-based learning.

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DS's English & history classes revolved around The Great Courses from 7th through 12th grade, plus he used Filippenko's Astronomy course (92 lectures) as his 9th grade science credit (combined with a text) and he used other science GC's as supplements to co-op classes. We also watched a bunch just for fun. For English and history, he would watch the lectures, take notes, read additional material, and we'd discuss things. Essay topics were based on questions in the discussion guides, or he could propose a topic of his own. For example, for US History, we used the main US history course (80-some lectures) plus a couple of short ones. I would line up additional reading to go with each time period, and he wrote around 10 essays I think, ranging from 1-3 pages. I let him choose any discussion question from the guides that pertained to that time period. The US History credit was done in a standard academic year, but he also had credits for Ancient Greek History and Ancient Greek Literature based on work he did over the course of several years, because those were his passions. I added it up once, and I think he'd watched something like 350 lectures on Greek history and literature alone. He also watched all the linguistics courses and combined those with some additional reading for a credit in linguistics. 

I credit The Great Courses with indirectly teaching DS to write essays. He is dyslexic and a very reluctant writer, so he probably did less writing than most high schoolers (and definitely less than most middle schoolers). But watching all those courses, where the professors had to hone their arguments into really well-organized, 30-minute chunks really taught him a lot about how to organize an argument, including how to introduce and support your claims, present and refute opposing ideas, and provide a conclusion. I would reinforce that structure during discussions, so by the time he started writing actual essays, he knew what a polished, well-organized argument looked like.

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We've mostly used the videos for enrichment alongside other resources. One year we worked through the Geographic wonders of the world as we studied geography/cultures (this one stands out as everyone's fave). We've also used the Hubble Space series while studying astronomy/space. Speech class one year we did IEW Speech Boot Camp dvds and alternated with the GC set on Famous speeches. Last year we used the series on how to listen to and understand music as a supplement to our music appreciation credit. 

Edited by KellyMama
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We have primarily used them for enrichment for literature and history. 

There are a few that I’ve thought about basing an elective around and using the reading list and resources in the guidebook, but it hasn’t ever worked out that way. 

I have also listened to some of their lectures on my own, so my kids have by osmosis heard a lot in the car that don’t necessarily have to do with what they are studying. 

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On 2/11/2019 at 4:11 PM, Corraleno said:

DS's English & history classes revolved around The Great Courses from 7th through 12th grade, plus he used Filippenko's Astronomy course (92 lectures) as his 9th grade science credit (combined with a text) and he used other science GC's as supplements to co-op classes. We also watched a bunch just for fun. For English and history, he would watch the lectures, take notes, read additional material, and we'd discuss things. Essay topics were based on questions in the discussion guides, or he could propose a topic of his own. For example, for US History, we used the main US history course (80-some lectures) plus a couple of short ones. I would line up additional reading to go with each time period, and he wrote around 10 essays I think, ranging from 1-3 pages. I let him choose any discussion question from the guides that pertained to that time period. The US History credit was done in a standard academic year, but he also had credits for Ancient Greek History and Ancient Greek Literature based on work he did over the course of several years, because those were his passions. I added it up once, and I think he'd watched something like 350 lectures on Greek history and literature alone. He also watched all the linguistics courses and combined those with some additional reading for a credit in linguistics. 

I credit The Great Courses with indirectly teaching DS to write essays. He is dyslexic and a very reluctant writer, so he probably did less writing than most high schoolers (and definitely less than most middle schoolers). But watching all those courses, where the professors had to hone their arguments into really well-organized, 30-minute chunks really taught him a lot about how to organize an argument, including how to introduce and support your claims, present and refute opposing ideas, and provide a conclusion. I would reinforce that structure during discussions, so by the time he started writing actual essays, he knew what a polished, well-organized argument looked like.

 

Could you tell me what text your son used for the Astronomy course please?

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We have used a lot of GC.

We used it as a spine for Geology. We did two geology topics (all of Nature of the Earth and some of  Geologic Wonders) after each lecture each kid was assigned a question from the guide that was discussed. We read texts alongside and did labs and field trips (including a long road trip to Arches, Zion, Goblin Valley, the Grand Canyon, and Petrified Forest). We also printed the outlines and used them for note taking sometimes.

Mostly we use it as supplement alongside some other spine. Mostly we use it for discussion and only occasionally use the study guide. Sometimes a paper, project or other assignment comes alongside. 

We've used Shakespeare lectures alongside plays we were studying. We've used math lectures on interesting sub topics but not as a spine (Secrets of Mental Math).

We adored "Thinking Like an Economist" alongside our econ class. We liked Brain Myths Exploded when we were doing neuroscience. We've done history lectures like the new Churchill one, Vikings, King Arthur, Japanese history and Russian History mostly for fun and exploration. (My youngest has been found listening to things like Law School for Everyone while playing video games).

  We are currently using "History's Great Voyages" as a supplement for our Geography course. We've watched art history lectures and military history lectures  to fill out a hands-on enrichment class to bulk it up to credit status. 

Some as video, others as audio. 

Edited by theelfqueen

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6 hours ago, MEPinUK said:

 

Could you tell me what text your son used for the Astronomy course please?

We own¬†multiple college-level nonmajors Intro Astro texts, but I think the one he ended up mostly using was Neil Comin's Discovering the Essential Universe. It was the shortest and most basic of the texts we had, and he was mostly using it for the online "labs" and as a reference to make sure he was covering all the bases with the Filippenko course. I think he felt the lectures were deeper and more rigorous than the text, and I would often see him flipping through a physics textbook,¬†or looking¬†things up online, then rewatching a specific lecture (sometimes several times) to make sure he really understood it. You really could use just about any text, though ‚ÄĒ¬†the "meat" of the course is the 90+ lectures. Filippenko is a genuinely enthusiastic and inspiring teacher, and it was definitely DS's favorite science course.

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21 hours ago, Corraleno said:

We own¬†multiple college-level nonmajors Intro Astro texts, but I think the one he ended up mostly using was Neil Comin's Discovering the Essential Universe. It was the shortest and most basic of the texts we had, and he was mostly using it for the online "labs" and as a reference to make sure he was covering all the bases with the Filippenko course. I think he felt the lectures were deeper and more rigorous than the text, and I would often see him flipping through a physics textbook,¬†or looking¬†things up online, then rewatching a specific lecture (sometimes several times) to make sure he really understood it. You really could use just about any text, though ‚ÄĒ¬†the "meat" of the course is the 90+ lectures. Filippenko is a genuinely enthusiastic and inspiring teacher, and it was definitely DS's favorite science course.

 

Thanks!

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My daughter, the engineer, watched the lectures and took notes, then we either discussed it or she wrote about it. She did the Superstar Student, Forensic Science, Inventions That Changed the World, and Greek and Roman Technology. Oh, and the How Conversation Works one but that was on her own. My middle son listened to Foundations of World Civilization 1 & 2 on audio and then wrote a short 1/2-1 page summary of the lecture. He also did Biology supplemented by labs and discussion, and Broadway Musicals and Element of Jazz as audiobooks just because he is into music and theater. I am currently evaluating some of them to use with my youngest.

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