How Do You Use Open Courses?

I was asked by a newspaper reporter today how people, like you, are using open university courses (such as those found in our collection of Free Courses). And the truth is, I’m not always sure. So I figured, why not put the question out there and ask you. Here it goes: How are you using these courses? Are you listening to (or watching) these courses purely for personal enrichment? Or are you spending time with these courses for professional reasons? Are you trying to boost your resume/career with these courses? Also, during this recession, are these courses suddenly more attractive? Or were they attractive to you all along? Lastly, what topics do you generally tend to focus on? History? Literature? Computer Science? Physics?

Ok, folks, give a hand and let me know your thoughts. Please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments below, or write us at mail [at]

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Comments (30)
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  • Walter says:

    I listen to lectures while walking to work, riding the bus, or sometimes while at work.

    I tend towards lectures on economics, psychology, philosophy, and the social science of the internet.

    The goal is just personal enrichment.

    In addition to the great selection of open courseware, I’m a big fan.

  • Cliff says:

    I listed to lectures on the drive to/from work.

    I do it only for personal enrichment.

    I usually go for history courses.

  • I listen for personal enjoyment while running. Long runs and long lectures go hand-in-hand.

    I’ve listened to Yale’s course on the Hebrew Bible. I’m also part way through Physics for Future Presidents.

  • Jan Schwartz says:

    I listen to them while hiking and working in the yard– mostly for personal enrichment now. But, when I was designing my grad program I listened to a variety of lectures for ideas for course development, papers, etc.

    Topics I enjoy are economics, philosophy and education.

  • Dan Colman says:

    A hearty thanks for the helpful info. Keep it coming.

  • Bob Price says:

    Being a few years in age beyond structured curriculums of most colleges, I like to use the open university offerings to develop my personal curriculum based on knowledge areas I want to investigate. This will become the future of education once certification procedures are in place.

  • Mark says:

    Our home school family uses the courses as classroom material. Both of my high school age kids have “taken” “Physics for Future Presidents” and they were inspired by it.

    Of course, I still have to prepare tests, and assign outside reading and writing assignments for the courses we use.

    Does anyone know of any open courses that include links to tests and quiz materials to reduce my “teacher” workload?

  • Deepak says:

    i listen to these lectures for both personal and professional enrichment.

    i listen to lectures and podcasts offline after downloading. I put all into my cowon d2 so that i may use my spare time in the day.

    for sure they will add shine to my resume. i am definitely gonna write it under self learning heading of my resume ( but only the things i will actually end up learning).

    about recession, these course are always a cost saver. there is nothing cheaper than free.

    i consider myself a medical geek. So i am all into science ( computer science, medical science and stuff)

    keep posting awesome stuff OpenCulture….

  • Evan Plaice says:

    I watch opencourse video whenever I can find time (busy work schedule lately).

    I use it for personal, as well as professional purposes. Being a young contractor/freelancer, how much I make and how much work I can find depends directly what I’m capable of.

    Lately I’ve been watching a lot of vids on Entrepreneurship (’cause Michael Dell and Guy Kawasaki have a lot of good stuff to share about starting/running a business), Ecomonics (’cause what you see on TV news is BS and I like to be informed). Computer Science I from Harvard (I like to go back and fill in gaps). Operating Systems from Berkley (for new material). And Physics from MIT with Walter Lewin (because I like physics too much to take a real class in school and Lewin is awesome). Lewin kinda reminds me of the Red Bull Scientist guy… that makes him almost as awesome as Einsteins foonky hairdo.

    I get most of my material via Academic Earth. I only wish I could plug it into boxee and watch on tv via AppleTV or over a HTPC running windows and Boxee alpha.

    I watch OpenCourseware mostly because I don’t see myself going back to school to finish my degree any time soon. I severely dislike the traditional school systems (politics and all) and much prefer to produce something tangible with my efforts. The instructors at Harvard, MIT, etc… remind me of what it was like to have great instructors who are genuinely passionate about what they teach. If I had instructors like them I’d go back in an instant. Unfortunately, they don’t allow online degrees to go along with this material so I’ll be studying for the intrinsic satisfaction for now.

    For the previous commenter. AcademicEarth has links to course materials (assignments, tests, quizzes) attached to each course where they’re available.

  • Amar says:

    Personally I use them for both. I seek information that is relevant for the classes that i’m taking, and I just downloaded two audiobooks for personal enjoyment.

  • Ron Peterson says:

    I spent ten years in graduate school and finally tired of the degrees and regimen but not of the learning experience and frankly I’m thrilled by being in the classroom from the comfort of my home. My interests are eclectic so I’ll follow a course in Ancient History with one on Modern Physics. I couldn’t be more pleased to have stumbled upon Open Culture, and thank you.

  • Jon says:

    I watch open courses at night after work, or listen to them in the car during my commute. Generally, I stick with history, philosophy, and some economics, but I’d love to see schools open up their professional courses, specifically accounting. That probably won’t happen anytime soon.

    I don’t know that I would ever put an open course on my resume.

  • Pete says:

    Personal development; listen on ipod in car or mowing lawn. I don’t do video courses, just audio.

  • Jen says:

    Personal enrichment, all range of topics. Love your site.

  • Carol A says:

    I listen in the bus or plug MP3 into car. Courses are: Ancient History (which I am also studying at university), various topics in philosophy and astronomy for my own interest, computers (for work).
    It’s opened up a whole new world and thanks very much to the universities who provide these courses.

  • Emily Keller says:

    I listen to them on long walks, and to and from work. I’m a librarian, so background on just about anything will come in handy at some point. Learning about scholars questions, approaches, methodologies, trends in scholarship…all this is important for my work. But I also enjoy listening, learning, whether it’s practical or not. I feel so lucky to be living in a moment in time where there’s so much more flexibility for learning through these various media!

  • ged says:

    during commute

  • DanColman says:

    Thanks all for the good responses. I actually learned a lot here.

  • Ana says:

    I stumbledupon OpenCulture and I’ve been hooked daily.

    There are two RSS feeds I visit daily – BBC and OpenCulture.

    I have a drive for knowledge and my interests range from so many things.

    OpenCulture’s posts are fascinating and caters to actually almost all of my interests: films, literature, languages, your videos are awesome too, and the open courses have all been interesting.

  • jun says:

    i use them for both.

    I also use them so I can tell others about them, so they can use them too.

  • Stephen Monaghan says:

    Personal enrichment while driving. Biology,history and philosophy so far.

  • Ben Curtis says:

    I like to listen to lectures/readings on the way to and from work, while walking, and while waiting. I consider my listening as personal enrichment, but reflecting on it, I realize it sometimes dovetails with professional reasons. I’m pretty eclectic, but tend to look first at topics related to music, literature, linguistics, psychology, physics, and culture.

  • Leishalynn says:

    I’ve been listening to open access university courses since they started. Before that, I perused open-access syllabi & studied required books for various university courses. I focus on literature, particularly poetry, but also enjoy philosophy and some history. Why? To learn, to grow, to be reminded that, while I’m surrounded by people who actually care who wins Dancing with the Stars, there are others, many others who are intellegent, erudite, and elegant in their speech who understand that poetry, philosophy, and history are rich and rewarding pursuits.

  • Mark Weitzman says:

    MIT physics for teaching, Stanfor SEE for Computer Science Yale OCW for game theory

  • yoyo says:

    I do like to use the open courses to enrich myself everyday.Reading and learning makes me feel full.I happend to find this websit,and i like the style quite a lot .

  • Dyaxen says:

    I watch lectures on History, Mathematics, Anatomy, Physics, Computer Science, Literature, Foreign Language and pretty much anything else that appears interesting on a daily basis. I’ll be starting college next year to major in Quantum Physics, and I use any resources I can find to try and lighten a bit of the studying pressure now. As for the seemingly unrelated courses, every bit of knowledge makes you more well rounded, and can help you view an issue from a different perspective, or open the door to a whole new career you may not have considered before.

    The only thing that could make open courses better is the aforementioned college credit. As a current freelancer/entrepreneur, I myself have begun to look into the possibilities of that bright future. The cheaper it is to educate yourself, the better off the world will be. I hope within a few years this will be a viable idea to pursue. A big thank you to Openculture (which I have just discovered today, I’ve been using AcademicEarth as my main source) and all of the other online providers of open coursesware. :)

  • Trevor says:

    I listen to History courses as I commute to and from work. I studied history in my undergrad, and the open courses are a great way for me to continue with it. It is purely for entertainment.

    I might have purchased courses online had I not found first. Obviously the price is attractive, as is the ability to sample courses to find someone that you want to listen to for 24 hours.

  • Joy Raab-Faber says:

    “Mark says . . . | April 14, 2009 / 8:01 pm”

    I just finished a series of lectures by Michael Sandle who lectures for Harvard Law. The lectures were outstanding and there are quizzes and questions and comments posted by students during the course and by interested others.

  • Joy Raab-Faber says:

    I would also like to say that I enjoy exploring all the open source stuff from HTML to TED. I like watching this idea grow. I think that we should be careful not to insult people who don’t use computers or who enjoy subjects that some (Leishalynn) may find repugnant. It takes all kinds of people to make a world. Concentrate on what History, Science, Art can teach us about how we can WORK to make the world a good place to live for everyone.

  • baxter wood says:

    I listen for my own personal enjoyment. As a long haul truck driver I have time, lots of time.
    After two years of listening, I needed some accountability. I started a blog writing about university courses. This made my listening much more vital. I now had purpose and the ultimate risk. The risk of sounding foolish.
    Now after two more years of listening and 65 posts, it’s a part of who I am. My blog is “the re-education of baxter wood.” Now I am about to marry my college sweetheart and new found editor and she is teaching me some punctuation. However, all mistakes are mine.

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