Open Yale Courses

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” – John Dewey

I’m late to the game on this, but I love Yale’s Open Yale Courses. The university used to post full introductory courses at this site – complete with syllabi, readings, and videos of each lecture of the course. They seem to have stopped updating, but many of the classes are on timeless topics.

I’ve listened to a dozen or so full courses this year, and with each lecture I’ve been learning something new (or relearning something to which I should have paid attention in actual college). So far I’ve made it through:

I’m looking forward to listening to more in the new year, especially Financial Markets, Environmental Politics and Law, Game Theory, and Frontiers and Controversies in Astrophysics. With any luck I’ll listen to them all at some point.

Lots of universities and organizations offer online courses, but I like the OYC site because it offers all lectures for free at any time. You have to register for many other schools’ courses and listen to the sessions on specific dates. But Yale provides a wide variety of topics and allows you to digest at your own speed. I also like that I can listen to the lectures in the background while I do something else productive. Hooray multitasking!

I’ve also recently discovered UC Berkeley’s slate of online courses, which seem a lot like Yale’s and promising, but I’ve yet to listen to any. Hopefully I can dig in soon.

The biggest drawback, of course, is not having the live classroom experience. I can’t follow up with a professor or ask questions about further reading. But I can pause and search Google for something I don’t understand. You also receive no credit or certificate for completing any of the courses, which is totally fine. Other than listening to 20-ish lectures, it’s not like taking a real course. I do no homework and I don’t get a grade. I listen because I enjoy the process of diving deep into a new topic and learning something for its own sake.

They say education is wasted on the young, and now that I’m listening to lectures delivered live to 18 year olds, I think I understand. I’ve listened more intently to the Open Yale Courses – and learned more from than – than I did for any class I took as an undergraduate.

Anyone else out there know of other universities that have a full semester of lectures online for free?

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