Best courses from The Teaching Company
January 9, 2010 2:02 PM   Subscribe

What are your favorite courses by The Teaching Company?

After reading several posts on here recommending "How to Listen to and Understand Great Music", I tried it out for myself and loved it. I'm ready to listen to another series, but with so many to choose from, it's hard to pick one. Because of the high cost per course, I'm afraid of picking one that ends up being not so great. As long as the speaker is engaging and interesting, I'm up for pretty much anything.
posted by Proginoskes to Education (20 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not here to offer a favorite, but to suggest, depending on where you live, that you check to see if your local library carries these courses. I'm interested in what kinds of responses you'll get, as just last night I spent a half hour looking through all of them that my library stocks.
posted by OmieWise at 2:19 PM on January 9, 2010

I really enjoyed the one on Archeology. Very captivating speaker, and interesting subject matter!
posted by The otter lady at 2:19 PM on January 9, 2010

Each course goes on sale pretty regularly for something like 75% off. This drives me nuts. My strategy has been pirating them and buying them when I see one I enjoyed went on sale. They also send you catalogs with the sales every couple weeks after you've made a purchase

I've really enjoyed their history lectures and would strongly recommend:
History of Ancient Egypt
History of Ancient Rome
History of Christian Theology
History of Russia
From Yao to Mao: 5000 years of Chinese History
posted by pseudonick at 2:21 PM on January 9, 2010

Kenneth W. Harl is an excellent lecturer.
I especially like:
Great Ancient Civilizations of Asia Minor
Rome and the Barbarians
World of Byzantium
Era of the Crusades

I also like
Emperors of Rome by Garrett G. Fagan

From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity
by Bart D. Ehrman ( Dr. Ehrman is also an excellent lecturer. Do try his other courses.)

Biology: The Science of Life by Stephen Nowicki

Modern Economic Issues by Robert Whaples
posted by Carius at 2:30 PM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Came in to suggest Dr. Ehrman, but also Classical Archaeology of Ancient Greece and Rome.
posted by Leon at 3:53 PM on January 9, 2010

Thomas Childer's WWII: A military and social history is my favorite lecture series of all time, I was very surprised since I'm anything but a military history buff.

I'm also a big fan of Ehrman's lectures, if you're into biblical history.

For science, prettty much everything I've listened to has been top-notch, but my favorite lecturer has been Robert Hazen, I listened to the series on The Origins of Life and the one about Einstein's Relativity and The Quantum revolution, highly recommend both.

Also, as someone mentioned, check your local public library, mine had a bunch available.
posted by bluejayk at 4:32 PM on January 9, 2010

Understanding the Fundamentals of Music is by the same guy as the one you had, Robert Greenberg (I love it, it's like being lectured by a less angry Lewis Black). It's just straight music theory, so I'm not sure if it duplicates the content of the longer one.

Philip Greenspun is who I heard of this company from, and he has a bunch of reviews here.
posted by smackfu at 5:46 PM on January 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you are interested in Anthropology, try Roots of Human Behavior .
posted by gudrun at 6:15 PM on January 9, 2010

Nth any of the music courses by Robert Greenberg. Nth checking your local library.
posted by Raybun at 7:34 PM on January 9, 2010

Academic Earth has lots of whole courses free-for-nothing, as described in this FPP. The presentation is video-centric, but you can download mp3s as well. I have listened to David Blights course on the US Civil War and Donald Kegan's on ancient Greece, and enjoyed both enough to listen to each lecture twice. Both these are from Yale, and if you go to the Open Yale site you can get video, audio even transcripts of the lectures along with the syllabus and other goodies.
posted by shothotbot at 7:36 PM on January 9, 2010

As pseudonick says, every course goes on sale at least once a year at a huge discount. I never get one except at the sale price.

Some of my favourite courses are:But basically you can just go with what interests you. Bad courses are pretty rare. The customer reviews of each course on their website are worth looking at.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:14 AM on January 10, 2010

Look for these used on Ebay, too.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:01 AM on January 10, 2010

My two favorites so far have been Prof. Roberto's "Art of Critical Decision Making" (a practical, cohesive course) and Prof. Conn's "Great American Bestsellers" (each lecture is interesting on its own).

Some others, I've liked less. There's a course on argumentation that was too philosophical for my tastes, and one on "building great sentences" that definitely affected my writing but could have been summed up in far less than 24 lectures ("Make them longer").
posted by cribcage at 3:27 PM on January 10, 2010

I have to say that the T. Rufus Fears courses, Famous Romans and Famous Greeks, are a buttload of fun. I wouldn't say they're academically rigorous, though... They're basically "get grampa another scotch and he'll tell you about Crassus", and they're pretty much based on Plutarch's "Lives" if I remember correctly. But if you're at all interested in classical history, they're a pretty engaging way to start digging in.
posted by condour75 at 4:44 PM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree with condour75's comment. I am listening to Rufus Fears' Famous Romans course right now. While they are fun to listen to, it is in no way up to scholarship of Garrett G. Fagan and Kenneth W. Harl's Roman history course. This why I refrain to recommend Fears' course.
posted by Carius at 9:02 PM on January 10, 2010

I listened to the J. Rufus Fears "Wisdom of History" course and he's a bit idiosyncratic. He seems to be one of the few remaining believers in the "Great Man" theory of history, where everything comes down to the will of Great Men; and economic, social and geographical factors are not important. I don't recommend that one.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:13 AM on January 11, 2010

I've enjoyed all these:

Science Fiction: The Literature of the Technological Imagination
Life and Writings of C. S. Lewis
Science Wars: What Scientists Know and How They Know It (++)
Early Middle Ages
Masterpieces of the Imaginative Mind: Literature's Most Fantastic Works
Great Authors of the Western Literary Tradition, 2nd Edition
English Novel
4 pt-History of World Literature
Darwinian Revolution
Human Prehistory and the First Civilization

I never finished listening to the Transcendentalists, History of English, Joyce's Ulysses, Hinduism, or Lost Christianities. Enjoyed the first half or so of each, but couldn't sustain my interest beyond that. I'll probably go back and try to finish them some day. (Altho the NJ-ish accent of the English guy did grateā€¦ Shoulda been Alistair Cooke.)
posted by dpcoffin at 2:36 PM on January 11, 2010

Nth any of the music courses by Robert Greenberg. Nth checking your local library.

(N+1)'ing both of these ideas. Once you've listenined the Fundamentals, I particularly liked the Bach course.
posted by turbodog at 11:39 AM on January 13, 2010

Because of the high cost per course, I'm afraid of picking one that ends up being not so great.

I followed smackfu's link to Philip Greenspun's reviews and discovered that the Teaching Company offers a money-back guarantee.

That said, nthing everyone who said "check your library" and "buy them on sale if you buy them".

I haven't actually watched Understanding the Universe, but it's at the top of my list - Alex Filippenko rocks.
posted by kristi at 1:57 PM on January 14, 2010

I enthusastically recommend Rufus Fears' Wisdom of History -- he's a tremendous storyteller (I agree with TheophileEscargot about the Great Man theory, but I don't think it sinks the course.)

The Joy of Thinking is a fun survey of cool math stuff, and I liked the lecturers. (It's pretty basic if you're even slightly a math nerd, but if you're not, it's a great introduction to what inspires enthusiasm for math.)

I'd avoid Peter Stearn's A Brief History of the World -- he's a boring speaker, and it's the only Teaching Company course I've returned. (Their return policy and customer service really are great. I returned it after something like a year, and there were no hassles.)
posted by Zed at 1:27 PM on January 21, 2010

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