The Great Courses: An Excellent Way to Learn Something New!

Updated on January 28, 2019
Kasey Kolosh profile image

Kasey is a life-long learner who enjoys exploring areas of intellectual interest in her limited free time.

The Great Courses

What Is The Great Courses?

The Great Courses is a teaching company that creates self-learning modules for those who want to learn about current areas of interest or new topics in their spare time and at their own pace. These learning modules can take the form of audio, video, or printed materials depending on the preference of the learner. The Great Courses also has a monthly subscription program called The Great Courses Plus that allows you access to almost 1,000 online courses for you to work through when it it's convenient for you.

When you decide to purchase a class through The Great Courses, you have the option of receiving a DVD in the mail with all of the courses on it, including hard copies of course materials or you can download an audio file for a lower price. Finally, you have the option of instantly streaming the video or audio files via The Great Courses Plus, the monthly subscription plan that gives you unlimited access to all of the courses featured on The Great Courses Plus. The monthly subscription ranges from $0 per month (the free trial) up to $19.99 per month (paying month by month after the 3 month introductory price).

Throughout the year all courses go on sale at least once. From my experience, I recommend not paying full price for any of the courses; the company runs weekly sales and you should be able to get the course of your choice for a much lower price if you're patient. Whether or not you decide to get the audio version, the video, or The Great Courses Plus is up to you. Obviously some courses are best completed via video, such as the photography courses.

Examples of The Great Courses Modules


How I Got Hooked on The Great Courses

As someone who aspires to be a lifelong learner, I first learned of The Great Courses when I received a course catalogue in the mail. I quickly figured out that I received the booklet in the mail because of my recent subscription to The Smithsonian magazine. Now I'm hooked! I spend my daily commute listening to the audio versions of courses I'm interested and when I have time at home, I sometimes watch the video version of classes that require visuals.

Reviews of Courses I've Completed

The table below will include a running list of the courses that I have completed in their entirety with a brief review of each. Feel free to comment below if you have ever completed any of these courses or others via The Great Courses or The Great Courses Plus.

My Completed Course List

(click column header to sort results)
Course Title  
Number of Lectures  
The History of the United States, 2nd Edition
84 lectures
Stress and Your Body
24 lectures
Food, Science, and the Human Body
36 lectures
Investigating American Presidents
12 lectures
Understanding Genetics: DNA, Genes, & Their Real World Applications
24 lectures
Discovering Your Roots: An Introduction to Genealogy
15 lectures

The History of the United States, 2nd Edition


Review of The History of the United States, 2nd Edition

This course was the first that I completed in its entirety early on in my love affair with The Great Courses Plus. Always the history buff, I was hoping to learn more about the times in history that I love while learning more about those periods and topics that I'm not as familiar with.

I enjoyed the majority of the lectures in this series and definitely learned a lot; however, I found myself getting tired of this series about halfway through. With the entire series consisting of 84 lectures, at times it felt like it would never end. Some topics were more interesting than others so my interest fluctuated throughout the series. It also seemed like my interest depended on which instructor was speaking. The series had three different instructors and I found some more engaging than others. All in all, I am glad that I took the time to complete the lectures and I would recommend it to those who have a deep interest in American history and have plenty of patience.

(Note: This entire series was completed via The Great Courses Plus using the audio option. I listened to these lectures while commuting to and from work each day.)

Stress and Your Body


Review of Stress and Your Body

As a person who doesn't have enough time in the day to get everything done, stress rules my life. After many health care providers recently told me that I needed to get a handle on the stress in my life, I decided to take a step in the right direction and listen to this course.

One thing that I really liked about Stress and Your Body is that the instructor injected a lot of humor into his stories and explanations. Most of the health related content he reviews can be very dismal - especially for someone who is under a lot of stress and is trying to make some changes. Another perk of the course is that it isn't too lengthy; it's just long enough to give you all of the information you need without feeling too long. An added plus, I have cited knowledge from this course more than any of the others that I've completed.

I expected to hear a lot about stress management techniques in the course, but there wasn't any of that. I think the focus of this course was more on the biology of stress and its effects on the body and another course (How to Make Stress Work For You) may focus more on the coping techniques. I'll update this review once I know for sure.

Bottom line: If stress is something that is running rampant in your life, I highly recommend that you listen to this short series to learn more about its effects on your body so that you can make positive changes to improve your health.

Food, Science, and the Human Body


Review of Food, Science, and the Human Body

This course starts off by exploring the paleo diet and discusses what the "cavemen" actually ate. (Spoiler alert - it's not what you think!) The entire course actually builds off of this lecture and references back to it throughout so it's best to pay attention to the first lecture if you're planning on completing the entire series.

I found the content of this course to be good and very interesting, but I did have my moments where I was struggling to stay engaged. At 36 lectures long, I think it was perhaps 10 episodes too long for my taste. The instructor is engaging but can be highly technical at time and often references back to her field work with tribes that still exist today.

Investigating American Presidents


Review of Investigating American Presidents

I started listening to "Investigating American Presidents" on a whim one day. It popped up as a recommended course following whatever misstep President Donald Trump most recently made.

I actually learned a lot from this course. It was brief - only 12 lectures - and covered some political topics that I didn't know much about previously. The focus of the course is impeachment but it covers other related topics such as the Independent Counsel. Expect to hear about current events as well as the two names that typically come to mind when you hear the word "impeachment" in our lifetime - Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

The final word is this: if you're not horribly interested in politics or current events, you probably would be better off spending your time listening to another course instead of this one.

Understanding Genetics: DNA, Genes, & Their Real World Applications


Review of Understanding Genetics: DNA, Genes, & Their Real World Applications

My goal for this course was to gain a better understanding of the DNA information that I have been studying for the last year. I guess I did not study the list of lectures well enough because I was expecting to learn more about the genealogy-related aspects of DNA. Instead I got a more in-depth, detailed explanation of high school biology.

A lot of the information in the course was very good, but it may have been too scientifically detailed for someone who is just doing the audio version of the lectures. One of the things that I really liked about the course was how the instructor started each lecture off with a real life story that involved DNA. For example, one of the first lectures used an example of a criminal who was caught because of DNA technology. Each of the stories goes into great detail and I would find myself waiting to start a new lecture to hear what new story he would have to share.

Overall, the course is probably worth listening to if you have some interest in DNA, but I don't think it is for everyone. Be prepared to hear information reminiscent of high school biology and some in-depth explanations of how it all works. It's also worth listening to if you're interested in genealogy, but it definitely shouldn't be your first source of information.

Final Thoughts

I hope you've enjoyed my explanation (and recommendation!) of The Great Courses. If you're interested in trying it out, visit here and sign up for a free trial of The Great Courses Plus. You will get a month free to try out as many courses as you want. If you don't cancel before the month is up, you will then get an additional 3 months at a discounted rate.

I will continue to update this article as I finish future courses. Please feel free to comment below if you have ever used this teaching company or have any feedback you would like to share on any courses.

Discovering Your Roots: An Introduction to Genealogy

Review of Discovering Your Roots: An Introduction to Genealogy

This was probably the most enjoyable course I have ever completed through The Great Courses! I enjoyed the narrator's accounts of his historical research and the stories he provided about his ancestors. He made the stories easy to follow and they were incredibly interesting and relevant.

While I am not a newcomer to genealogy - I'm incredibly passionate about it, actually - there was still a lot of beneficial information that will assist me in my genealogical escapades. The course talked about some of the basic information that people can use to research their ancestors, but it also discussed more advanced search options. I especially liked the guide to writing your family history, with tips on interviewing, storytelling, and context fact finding.

I highly recommend this course to anyone who has interest in learning more about his or her family. I have already implemented some of the suggestions that the instructor mentioned and have had success. I have plans to implement many of the others and am hoping to break through some more brick walls soon!

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Kasey Kolosh


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