Online learning has come on leaps and bounds in the last few years.
The early days of the internet was basically a bunch of forums and various different groups coming together to chat away about things that had happened to them over time or where they were going to, but now we have full on libraries and databases teaching us everything we want to know from around the world.
Many of these websites have their own vibe and flavor, but each has something that they want to say. One of these websites is The Great Courses, now known as Wonderium, and it has taken the internet by storm since it first came to prominence.
But is enlisting yourself to The Great Courses worth it? Or is it better to invest your time and money elsewhere? Today, we are going to explore the Great Courses and see whether it is worth the time and effort.
What is The Great Courses?
The basic gist of The Great Courses is that it is an online interest driven entertainment or learning platform, that allows those who engage with it to stream college-level video or audio courses from any mobile device, tablet, computer, or TV with connective capability.
While The Great Courses has been around for a number of decades (since 1990), it has really gained a following in the last 10 years with the meteoric rise of the internet being able to be accessed almost everywhere.
Before this time, people accessed The Great Courses via a catalog.
You would purchase the courses, videos, or audio you saw in the catalog and have it mailed to you in the form of a VHS tape, a DVD, or another physical format.
While you can still purchase the catalog and get physical DVDs, most people do not do this anymore.
Since moving to a streaming platform online, they have managed to streamline their services and make them more easily accessible and more profitable in general, as a wider scope of people have taken interest in this platform.
This streaming service costs around $20 a month and gives you access to their range of educational courses of which there are about 700 different ones, each with over 9,000 different lectures about a litany of subjects.
If we split it up further, then each individual course has between 10 and 20 video lectures that are about 30 minutes each and an extensive PDF textbook library – about 100 to 200 pages per course.
Is The Great Courses worth it?
Now that we know the brief overview of The Great Courses, we can take a look at the different factors that would make The Great Courses worth buying or not:
Courses on offer
One of the things that make or break whether you want to pay for a subscription or an individual video from The Great Courses is whether they offer something you legitimately want to view, watch or be educated on.
There is a set list of categories that The Great Courses offer videos and lectures on and while they are not necessarily niche – like a specific dive into fluid mechanics or deciphering ancient cuneiform from a single recipe (though those might be in there, we haven’t checked that far) – they are very broad in what they cover.
Here is the full list of course subjects thus far:
- Young Learner Programs.
- Professional and Personal Growth.
- Philosophy and Religion.
- Music and Fine Arts.
- Literature and Language.
- Hobby and Leisure.
- Health, Fitness, and Nutrition.
- Food and Wine.
- Exclusive Features.
- Economics and Finance.
As you can see, these categories offer a very broad range of topics that you won’t find together elsewhere.
You can learn the fundamentals of many subjects while expanding to a master of many others, like learning algebra, French, thermodynamics, and thousands of other subjects you may not have engaged with before now.
The best part is that all of these subjects are taught by actual professors in a college style, similar to what you would find in a Bachelor of Arts degree.
The time it takes to do a course can range, some last a couple of hours, while others last for many more, and it is entirely up to you how you want to commit to them.
While there are certainly downsides to other aspects of The Great Courses – which we will get to – in terms of the range of classes and their actual content, it is pretty good all round.
This is an area where lots of other online learning platforms fall down.
With other places you can find that you have to purchase a course before finding out that your teacher may have less knowledge or ability to teach than you hoped – looking at you, Udemy – but with The Great Courses, this is incredibly unlikely to happen.
Well, every teacher that teaches for The Great Courses is an actual professor or expert. Like not just an experienced researcher or a person in the know, like an actual well-educated and well-degreed college professor.
In fact, when you read through the person directing and teaching in the course’s bio, it will list the college that they are attached to.
When it is a course that does not have a professor as the subject-matter expert, like a professional baking course, they will have the course led by a professional baker, who is shown to have a wealth of experience behind them.
This is a fantastic change, as not only does this mean that these people know exactly what they are talking about as either an expert in the field or an academic, but it means that – for the majority of them – they have done some teaching before, meaning that they know how to convey their knowledge to you appropriately.
Now, there are some caveats to this. These people are not superstars or well known – like Irving Finkel at the British National Museum or Bill Nye – so you may not get the absolute best of the best, but these people are literally competing with the best of the best in terms of knowledge and ability.
If you want to learn from the absolute best, then go to
While you may want to learn the course or be impressed by your professor’s
credentials, it is the classes themselves where all this really matters.
They are very simple to get to and the homepage is easy to navigate – if you are using the streaming service.
On the categories page, you can choose a class and from there you will get to the course welcome page.
This will provide you with a blurb about the class with a couple of tabs underneath this including your professor, course guidebook, share course, lectures, and reviews.
Once you have established that you know these features, you can click on the lectures tab and then click on the first lecture to begin the course. It’s as simple as that.
You will also be given a course guidebook to use, however this book is only available in an in-browser PDF form, which we think is a bit of a let-down, and it should be available in a downloadable form as well.
One great thing about the PDFs though is how completely in-depth they are. These things are more like actual college textbooks and will provide you with a lot of knowledge of the course.
Then we get on to the reviews and social media tabs, and this is a little bit of a let-down as well.
The Great Courses only really provides the actual education side, rather than the feel of a class or a classroom spirit, as they do not have much of a social media presence and the only thing you can do there is to share that you have taken the course.
The reviews are also a bit wonky. Not because you can’t leave reviews, you can leave all the reviews of a class you want, but you can also comment on other people’s reviews.
While we want everyone to have an opinion, this feels like a little too much, and it may discourage proper reviews and lead to lots of trolling.
One of the most important aspects: the price. Honestly, this one wholly depends on which service you use. If you use the streaming service, then the price is good and flexible, but if you order the physical DVDs or VHS’, then we would say it is terrible.
The streaming service offers you three options of payment: pay monthly, pay quarterly, or pay annually.
When you pay monthly, you pay $20 a month or $240 a year, when you pay quarterly, you pay $45 a quarter or $180 a year, and when you pay annually, you make one $150 payment per year.
The plans are flexible and reward you for doing something that is easier for them to process, which is a nice change of pace.
These price plans give you access to all of their back catalog of courses – hundreds in total –, video lectures, and PDFs of detailed textbooks for each course.
The physical order service offers you none of these deals. You order a single course for a fixed sum, normally between $20 and $100, and then you receive that course in the mail.
That’s it. You now own that course, but it is one course, and you paid a lot more for it. If it turns out you hate it as well, then that is even worse, as now you may never use it.
This is why we said there were two different answers, and why almost all the people who use The Great Courses today use the streaming service and not the actual physical order service.
We should also mention that the streaming service also has a 14-day free trial that you can really sink your teeth into before purchasing the subscription.
The verdict – weighing up the Pros and the Cons
- Content – The sheer amount of content on offer with The Great Course is incredible and deserves its own acknowledgement.
- Academic lead – The fact that the courses are run by professionals and not by random people or people who call themselves professionals makes the courses trustworthy and well worth taking.
- Knowledge based – While it may teach you a lot about skills, the courses are all very much about expanding your knowledge, fundamental or otherwise, when you take them.
- Cost – The flexibility of the cost of the streaming service is fantastic and well worth engaging with.
- Learning – It is a site that is entirely focused on learning, and it doesn’t shy away from that.
- Cost – The cost of the physical copies is insane and should be completely dropped or lowered in price.
- Reviews – The review feature doesn’t encourage genuine reviews, at least not in our opinion.
- Lectures – While the lectures are great, they can be a little dense and wooden sometimes, especially compared to other platforms. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is not a good one either.
Overall, we would say that The Great Courses is worth it if you get the streaming package. However, it is for a focused learner who thrives in absorbing chunks of information at a time, like when you listen to podcasts.
If you are a person looking for a quick learning course, then this service is not for you, and you should look elsewhere.
The Great Courses is a fantastic service for those who are genuinely interested in expanding their knowledge and for aiding those with curious minds.
If you find yourself looking for a relatively cheap subscription service – don’t get the physical copies – with lots of subjects to explore, then this is the perfect online learning sphere for you.