The Teaching Company

I was doing a course on linguistics by the Teaching Company and I realized how much these courses have really given me and continue to give me so I decided to make a blogpost about it.

Learning languages is just one thing. What we can do and, I believe, what we should do, is to learn everything: physics, philosophy, biology, astronomy, you name it. There is so much information and so much interesting things to learn and there is something about knowledge that makes it valuable in itself.

The problem is that traditional learning is usually boring because we have resources that make it so. We have textbooks and teachers that make things dull and do not simplify things, dive into details just from the start and make it boring. Thus, if you want to learn, you are usually discouraged right from the beginning and you have to give effort to learning instead of just getting excited while learning it at the same time. So, the problem is in resources.

I have found a resource called The Teaching Company (TTC) where they partially solve the problem and which I have been using a lot and which I want to share with you now.

What is The Teaching Company?

TTC is a company somewhere in the United States who look at students’ ratings of professors, their users’ feedback, do additional surveys and auditions and in the end, pick the best university professors to do a 101 course on the subjects that they are teaching.

There is no homework, the information is usually put in a way where anybody can understand it with no previous knowledge required and there is a booklet with summaries and extra reading recommendations should you wish to do so.

Then they record the course, put it in audio or video and sell it. The obvious catch is that they sell it but, on the positive side, you can still borrow courses from a friend or find them at a local library.

How I have been using The Teaching Company?

Personally, I love audio for learning. I really like it very much because I can be doing something else (like riding a bike or walking or making myself a toast) and still use this time to listen to things if only I have a digital player with airphones.

This is like gained time from me, coming out of thin air. Most people use this time to listen to music but I barely ever listen to music anymore. It’s not like I’d do 24/7: I’d just pick my portable player from time to time and listen to some lectures.

This is an awesome use of time. Unlike in real classes, I can listen to stuff whenever I feel like it and I can stop whenever I want so that I could pick up from the place I have stopped later. I can also rewind things if I haven’t understood something the first time.

Most of the courses are about 24, 36 or 48 lectures with about 30 minutes each so it ends up being about 12 to 24 hours of listening time and one course takes me anywhere from a week to a few months (provided I listen to a few courses about different topics simultaneously).

I also very much like the policy of the company where they open the site up for comments and for true listener feedback where any visitor can see it publically.

Some of my favorite TTC courses

I have done probably over 10 TTC audio courses and I have been doing a few video ones lately (just because I got the opportunity and there is some really good video stuff: I prefer audio, though). I have very much enjoyed most of the courses I have done. I will make a list of some of my favorites on the top of my head now.

First, audio courses:

Audio courses update after two years (2011):

These are some more fascinating really good audio courses from the Teaching Company:

Then, some of the best TTC video courses according to me:

  • Understanding Linguistics: The Science of Language – this is a course by John McWorther and he also did the Story of Human language one. The good thing is that he keeps the lectures almost informal and throws a lot of random stuff in (like talking about his cat anytime he can) which makes it funny as well as fun.
  • My Favorite Universe – a short one (just 12 lectures) with lots of explanations and interesting imagery about the universe… It is also done by Neil deGrasse Tyson who has become kinda famous.
  • Understanding the Brain – teaches how the brain functions in 36 lectures. This goes over all the main major areas of the brain and I found it to be generally very comprehensive.
  • Understanding the Human Body: An Introduction to Anatomy and Physiology – this one goes over the whole human body and tells you how it works. I think this is what med students do, except put in a way that’s fun, of course. I have read somewhere that this course inspired somebody to go the med school.

Video courses update after two years (2011):

I haven’t done as many video courses as I would have liked. Yet, some of my favorites:

  • Physics in Your Life – explains how everyday objects work, very informative!
  • Biology – the Science of Life – this one is huge and I have only gone through less than one fourth of it but is very good content-wise and it teaches you a lot… definitely worth doing

Finishing words

Of course, my selection in both of these is limited because I only talked about what I have seen and what I could remember. There is plenty of content I haven’t explored yet released by the company.

Yet, I recommend this for lifelong learners. And for everybody else, I recommend to become lifelong learners.

P.S. I have listed the ones I liked. I did others, for example, nutrition and healthy lifestyle courses too but I just ended up finishing them because I felt the information was good not because I thought the courses were good. I have done others will varying success. In any case, this list encapsulates the ones I like and remember.

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  1. It's sad you don't have any comments here. I love this post. TTC is amazing. Lifelong learning is the only way to go.

    I just need to find more productive things to do while I listen to things. Something financially rewarding would be awesome. Maybe I'll have to make jewelry or something. Haha.

  2. Well a lot of people do it while driving. I often do it while taking a bus or a train or whatnot. If I wasn't listening to classes, that time would be wasted and now I get some benefit for it instead.I'm glad there are more people here who like TTC. :)

  3. I love the Teaching Company!  Lifelong learning is simply invigorating, and the Teaching Company makes it so easy.  I usually listen while working out, or while driving.    I just started a course on “Why Evil Exists”, but my favourite so far are Greenberg’s courses on composers.

  4. Wow, I should do another post on this already. It’s been a while and since then I have found a lot of other great courses. Sapolsky is my favorite professor now after McWorther. I unexpectedly liked Steve Joordens’s course too. I have others to add.

    I heard that the “why evil exists” one is too focused on the philosophical side and totally ignores the scientific answers to the question. Oh well.

    Well, I never really liked Greenberg’s style, though. I tried to listen to the long understanding music course but I  kind of felt that he was just talking too much unnecessary stuff and I gave up before the middle. I do plan to continue or restart someday because I do want to learn about music but I still would prefer somebody else to teach the material (and perhaps in shorter lectures).

  5. Hello fellow learner,
    I am a huge fan of The Teaching Company and The Modern Scholar, and I am wondering, do you have any idea, if there are projects like that in other languages?
    I was searching for something in german, but found just a few lectures from german universities here and there, but nothing like TTC or TMS. I´d be very glad if you had any suggestion.

    (I would be surprised if there was nothing like that in other languages – at least the big ones like spanish, french…)

    Thanks a lot.


  6. Hi, Andrew!

    You’re reading my mind… or at least my mind a couple of years ago.

    Unfortunately, I have not been able to find anything of similar or even slightly inferior quality in other languages, so I’ve stuck to English. Itunes university is the best guess, or TED with subtitles – but I know it’s not the same, really not the same.

    What TTC courses have you done?

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