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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