Feb 042008

As many of you know, I love learning in all its forms. I have at least 200-300 books in my room. I have a number of audio books for listening to while on the subway on my iPod, and I also have a number of video tutorials on a number of things.  Another thing I like to do is track down good professors or interesting courses and just attend the classes without being enrolled in them. I love learning but I’m not a fan of the “course work”. I understand its reason d’etre (reason to be), but I just find it tedious, usually.

There are also a number of subjects I’m interested in knowing but the actual process of learning them seems tedious to me. Certain maths, statistics and probabilities fall in this category. I like to know them, but not to actually have to learn them. Books are useless to me here because I have yet to find a book that explains these subjects in a very entertaining or interesting way (perhaps through the use of stories), but audio programs or video programs are great because all I have to do is pay attention and that’s great for this sort of thing.

Another thing I like to do is have some idea of the course material for the courses I’m taking. I find it really cuts down the amount of time I need to study and improves my grade. Watching a ten hour series of lectures may reduce my studying/homework by five times that over the duration of a course, and I’ll get better grades because I have first brush familiarity with the ideas.

That’s how we learn, see, complex ideas are learned best by being introduced to them in passes. The first pass, you get a shallow understanding of the key terms. The next pass is a little deeper and you start to get an understanding of the parts. And so on. I like to reserve some time to step back and make sure all the big parts link together. Its easy to simply think of each class or chapter as a discrete unit when you’re studying in a course, but everything is actually connected together and its important to understand this connection.

That all brings me to The Teaching Company. They seek out nationally-recognized professors (and I can tell you, its really worth it. The difference in learning and enjoyment from a good prof versus a great prof is very noticeable) and have them teach courses and record them on video and audio. They cover a very wide range of topics and have been in operation for many years. Here’s a list of the courses they offer. Truly an excellent business.

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