No one has any excuses to stop learning about new and fun topics. Of course, the Internet has many tutorials and online courses (some free), but I found an affordable opportunity from a company named The Great Courses.

The company started in 1990, according to Wikipedia, by a man who reasoned that lectures from Harvard University might appeal to those outside of the university walls. Thomas M. Rollins, a former Chief Counsel of the United States Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, organized an effort to record the lectures. He went into debt and bought video equipment. He hired the videographers and arranged for lecturers to record their lessons in both audio and video format. The risk of indebtedness paid off within 10 years. In 2006, he sold the company to Brentwood Associates, which now operates as The Teaching Company. It is based in Chantilly, Va. In 2016, the company hired 200 employees and began offering streamlined services for as little as $20 a month. They offered customers about 280 courses. The company now hires lecturers from throughout the nation who are experts in their field.

The lectures, some of which cost more than a couple of hundred dollars, have dropped in price. Recently I bought four for $200. Included were one video course, three audio courses on CDs, and all of the supporting transcripts in book form. While driving, I have listened to two of the audio CDs, and I am studying investing on the video. I still have one lecture I have not begun.  

Also, because I am a customer, the company even offered me a free lecture. The topic was on how to train a dog. I declined because I don’t have a dog.

The lure of these lectures is the vast variety of topic offerings. In the privacy of customers’ homes, they can learn about history, better living, business and economics, professional studies, science, modern history, literature and language, philosophy, fine arts, music, mathematics, and religion and theology. Breaking those topics down further are lectures I can hardly resist. What parent does not want to listen to a lecture entitled, Scientific Secrets for Raising Kids Who Thrive? I would love to study Discover How 2,500 Years of Celtic History Helped Shape the Modern World. For athletes, there is Up Your Game with the Proven Practices of Performance Psychology. I am not an athlete, but I would like to be. Also, I would like to study, “Why You Are Who You Are.”

I am interested in dozens more courses on photography, sewing, cake decorating, embroidery, painting, woodworking, quilting, genealogy, meditation, cooking, chess, medicine, wealth management, oceanography, law, the military, Spanish, dreams in literature, writing, drama, music, and the list goes on and on. The courses I have listened to are easy to understand but challenging enough to hold my interest. The topics are broad and, as far as I can tell, non-controversial, a refreshing diversion from current news and television shows.

Now when I drive, instead of listening to the radio, I am improving my writing skills. A friend and I are studying investing together, which makes studying this topic more fun.

The company queries customers and does market research in order to keep the topics relevant.

Two more important facts about this company are these: courses are available in four formats, video, audio, discs, or downloading on digital devices. Also, the courses come with a guarantee of satisfaction.  

Every time I have spoken to the customer service employees, who also work on weekends, they have been prompt to answer the phone in person (don’t we wish all companies had that benefit?), and they are friendly and helpful. One representative said I would be the next person walking the red carpet after studying how to write a screenplay. Another said she drives through Anniston whenever she is in Alabama. I love that kind of personal touch from a company and find it so rare today with many companies, especially utilities, WIFI, appliance, and television companies.

Lastly, The Great Courses has a fan, Bill Gates. He studies as he travels. Of course, if Gates needs to continue learning, as smart as he is, we all do.

Visit www.thegreatcourses.com or call 1-800-832-2412.

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