World-Changing Ideas on Demand: Princeton’s “University Channel”

If you want to know what the world’s lead­ing thinkers are say­ing, you’ll want to check out the Uni­ver­si­ty Chan­nel. Orga­nized by Prince­ton, but access­ing mate­ri­als from oth­er major aca­d­e­m­ic insti­tu­tions across the world, the Uni­ver­si­ty Chan­nel puts online impor­tant speech­es made by promi­nent fig­ures, often com­ing from the world of pub­lic and inter­na­tion­al affairs. In recent weeks, just to give a few exam­ples, the Chan­nel has fea­tured Noam Chom­sky talk­ing about the cur­rent cri­sis in Mid­dle East, Chris­tine Todd Whit­man offer­ing her views on pol­i­tics and the envi­ron­ment, Peter Singer dis­cussing the ethics of food, and Vaclav Hav­el and Bill Clin­ton talk­ing togeth­er about the chal­lenges fac­ing new democ­ra­cies. Con­ve­nient­ly, all talks are avail­able in audio and video for­mats, both on iTunes (audiovideo) and as feeds (audiovideo). The Uni­ver­si­ty Chan­nel offers a great way to pack your iPod with talks that deal with the press­ing issues of our time.

For more uni­ver­si­ty lec­tures and cours­es, see Open Cul­ture’s Uni­ver­si­ty Pod­cast col­lec­tion.

Also see Open Cul­ture’s oth­er col­lec­tion: Uni­ver­si­ty Online Cours­es & Online Media

TIME Talks about You

This past week, TIME Mag­a­zine named “you” — the one of many mil­lions of web users — the per­son of the year. TIME’s cur­rent cov­er sto­ry
explains why the sto­ry of 2006 was­n’t one shaped by a “great man,” as
it usu­al­ly is, but by a com­mu­ni­ty of web users “on a scale nev­er seen
before.” It’s a sto­ry, TIME says, “about the cos­mic com­pendi­um of
knowl­edge Wikipedia and the mil­lion-chan­nel peo­ple’s net­work YouTube
and the online metrop­o­lis MySpace. It’s about the many wrest­ing pow­er
from the few and help­ing one anoth­er for noth­ing and how that will not
only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.”

If these grand dec­la­ra­tions hap­pen to move you, or if you’re look­ing
for some more elab­o­ra­tion on how TIME gave you this hon­or, you can
always lis­ten to TIME’s lat­est piece on iTunes which fea­tures a round­table dis­cus­sion of their annu­al edi­tion.

Book Chapters Presented by The New York Times

Here is a quick tid­bit for the read­er who does­n’t like buy­ing books sight unseen. Each week, The New York Times posts on its web site the full text of the first chap­ter of books reviewed in The New York Times Book Review, or which oth­er­wise appear on the NYT best­seller lists. You can find some of the recent­ly high­light­ed texts on The Times’ First Chap­ters page. Or for a com­plete list, you can turn to this less designed page and work through a list of books arranged in clear, alpha­bet­i­cal order.

More Free Texts: With­in our Edu­ca­tion­al Web Resources com­pi­la­tion, we have includ­ed many oth­er sites that pro­vide access to free online texts. Sim­ply look under the first sec­tion called “Online Texts & Text Search,” and you will be on your way.

Mozart’s Musical Scores Now Fully Available Online

As the cel­e­bra­tion of Mozart’s 250th birth­day winds down, the Inter­na­tion­al Mozart Foun­da­tion has offered up a nice gift to Mozart enthu­si­asts by putting online the mas­ter’s full body of work. This web site, called the Neue Mozart-Aus­gabe, lets vis­i­tors explore over 600 indi­vid­ual works, or 24,000 pages of music, which were for­mer­ly avail­able only in print. You can access the site in Eng­lish, and you can peruse it as much as you like. The only caveat is that users must agree to use the col­lec­tion only for per­son­al pur­pos­es and not to down­load the works in whole­sale fash­ion. So far, the pub­lic response to this offer­ing has been over­whelm­ing. In the first 12 hours after the launch, the online col­lec­tion received more than 400,000 hits. And over the next four days, it received more than 12 mil­lion. With traf­fic lev­els eas­ing up, now might be a good time to take a look.

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The Historical Jesus on Your iPod


Yes, we’re on a lit­tle bit of an iTunes roll here this week. But no one
seems to be com­plain­ing. Next up from Stan­ford, it’s The His­torical Jesus. Like the Mod­ern The­o­ret­i­cal Physics course that we pre­viewed ear­li­er, this class was orig­i­nal­ly taught in Stan­ford’s Con­tin­u­ing Stud­ies Pro­gram, and it’s also aimed at the gen­er­al pub­lic. Right now, you can down­load the first of ten install­ments. New install­ments will come out once a week.

Here is a com­plete descrip­tion of what ground the course cov­ers:

“Who was the his­tor­i­cal Jesus of Nazareth? What did he actu­al­ly say and do, as con­trast­ed with what ear­ly Chris­tians (e.g., Paul and the Gospel writ­ers)

believed that he said and did? What did the man Jesus actu­al­ly think of him­self and of his mis­sion, as con­trast­ed with the mes­sian­ic and even divine claims that the New Tes­ta­ment makes about him? In short, what are the dif­fer­ences — and con­ti­nu­ities — between the Jesus who lived and died in his­to­ry and the Christ who lives on in believ­ers’ faith?

Over the last four decades his­tor­i­cal schol­ar­ship on Jesus and his times — whether con­duct­ed by Jews, Chris­tians, or non-believ­ers — has arrived at a strong con­sen­sus about what this unde­ni­ably his­tor­i­cal fig­ure (born ca. 4 BCE, died ca. 30 CE) said and did, and how he pre­sent­ed him­self and his mes­sage to his Jew­ish audi­ence. Often that his­tor­i­cal evi­dence about Jesus does not eas­i­ly dove­tail with the tra­di­tion­al doc­trines of Chris­tian­i­ty. How then might one adju­di­cate those con­flict­ing claims?

This is a course about his­to­ry, not about faith or the­ol­o­gy. It will exam­ine the best avail­able lit­er­ary and his­tor­i­cal evi­dence about Jesus and his times and will dis­cuss method­olo­gies for inter­pret­ing that evi­dence, in order to help par­tic­i­pants make their own judg­ments and draw their own con­clu­sions.”

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Cutting-Edge Physics on iTunes

This is hot off the press, so to speak. Today, Stan­ford post­ed a new pod­cast of a course called Mod­ern The­o­ret­i­cal Physics: Quan­tum Entan­gle­ment. It’s intrigu­ing on sev­er­al dif­fer­ent lev­els. First, it’s in video. Sec­ond, the course is pre­sent­ed by Leonard Susskind, who is gen­er­al­ly con­sid­ered the father of string the­o­ry, a con­tro­ver­sial inno­va­tion in physics that squares quan­tum the­o­ry with rel­a­tiv­i­ty and explains the nature of all mat­ter and forces. Now, when Susskind gets into quan­tum entan­gle­ment, he is sure­ly get­ting into some heady, cut­ting-edge stuff. But the good thing — and now for my third point — is that he has pre­sent­ed this course through Stan­ford’s Con­tin­u­ing Stud­ies Pro­gram (where I work, just to put my cards on the table), and it was geared toward the gen­er­al pub­lic. And, to boot, it was the most pop­u­lar course in the pro­gram. You can find a slight­ly more involved course descrip­tion here.The pod­cast will be rolled out in week­ly install­ments, and the first is avail­able start­ing today. Since this is a video pod­cast, you should be able to watch it on your Ipod’s video screen if you have one of the lat­est mod­els. Or you could always just watch it on your com­put­er screen, with­in iTunes itself.

Feeds: You can down­load the course on iTunes here or access the RSS feed here.

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The Hottest Course on iTunes (and the Future of Digital Education)

What’s the most pop­u­lar pod­cast in the High­er Edu­ca­tion sec­tion of iTunes? Ahead of all the pod­casts from Prince­ton, and all of those from Yale, and ahead of the Under­stand­ing Com­put­ers course from Har­vard, and even the psy­chol­o­gy course from UC Berke­ley, is an unex­pect­ed pod­cast called Twelve Byzan­tine Rulers: The His­to­ry of the Byzan­tine Empire. The course, which focus­es on the Greek-speak­ing Roman Empire of the Mid­dle Ages, is taught by Lars Brown­worth, who teach­es high school at The Stony Brook School on Long Island, New York. And it gets rave reviews. “I’m dis­ap­point­ed because I don’t think I’ll ever find a pod­cast that I enjoy as much as this one.” “This pod­cast has quick­ly become a hit with me and all of my friends, even those who don’t like his­to­ry so much.” You get the gist.

The suc­cess of this course makes us think that com­pa­nies that sell dig­i­tal lec­tures for a fee might not be long for this world. Take The Teach­ing Com­pa­ny for exam­ple. They’re in the busi­ness of sell­ing pol­ished, lec­ture-based cours­es, which can often be very well done. And, yes, they offer too a course on the Byzan­tine Empire that retails in audio down­load form for $129. So what will the savvy con­sumer do? Down­load Brown­worth’s course for free? Or pay $129? This is not a knock on what The Teach­ing Com­pa­ny is doing. I like their prod­uct and can appre­ci­ate their need to sell prod­ucts to recoup their costs. But you can’t com­pete with free. With so many uni­ver­si­ty cours­es now tap­ing their cours­es and allow­ing peo­ple to down­load them to the ubiq­ui­tous iPod (see our full list of uni­ver­si­ty pod­casts), you have to won­der whether The Teach­ing Com­pa­ny is just anoth­er once viable busi­ness mod­el that is being steadi­ly com­mod­itzed by the Inter­net.

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UC Berkeley & Google Team Up

Not long ago, we talked about UC Berke­ley’s ambi­tious pod­cast­ing ini­tia­tive, about how the uni­ver­si­ty is cur­rent­ly dis­trib­ut­ing a large num­ber of cours­es over iTunes. But there is noth­ing like giv­ing users some options, and so the uni­ver­si­ty has also decid­ed to make some cours­es, cam­pus events, and con­fer­ences avail­able over Google Video as well. (That’s Google’s ver­sion of Youtube, which, of course, Google just recent­ly bought.) To take a clos­er look, just click here to scan through the dif­fer­ent video offer­ings. Or, to sam­ple things, take a peek below at this inter­view with Michael Pol­lan, author of The Omni­vore’s Dilem­ma, a book that The New York Times just named one of the ten best books of 2006.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.