Great Big Ideas: One-hour lectures by experts summarizing entire fields
February 5, 2013 12:51 PM   Subscribe

In the Fall of 2011, The Floating University assembled a video course entitled Great Big Ideas. Each of its dozen lectures is the product of a challenge given to an eminent authority and expert teacher to take "everything a non-professional needs to know about your subject in less than 60 minutes" and to bake the result into "a multi-media presentation, produced with the highest quality video and graphics." The lectures cover topics as varied as psychology, demography, physics, political philosophy, and more. During its initial offering at Harvard, Yale, and Bard during the Fall 2011 term, GBI quickly became the most popular course at all three universities.
posted by shivohum (27 comments total) 117 users marked this as a favorite
This costs, no?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:57 PM on February 5, 2013

Nope -- all free. (possibly excluding some of the "course pack" materials)
posted by shivohum at 12:58 PM on February 5, 2013

So how would one actually watch the videos? It keeps asking me to purchase a "subscription".

Certain non-profit higher educational institutions may qualify for free access to Great Big Ideas. Please email [blah blah blah] for more information about offering Floating University courses at your school or organization. Etc..
posted by blue_beetle at 1:05 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

blue_beetle, if I click on the second link (Great Big Ideas), and click on any of the courses listed on the right side of the page, I seem to be able to watch the video.
posted by HuronBob at 1:08 PM on February 5, 2013

Click the "Great Big Ideas" link and you can play the videos by selecting them from the column on the right. Cool post.
posted by yoink at 1:08 PM on February 5, 2013

Huh. A Facebook friend was pushing Tamar Gendler's talk today. Are they doing some kind of PR push?

I haven't had a chance to listen yet, but she's pretty damn smart so it's probably good.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:12 PM on February 5, 2013

This seems like a way to learn a lot more than just this year's / John Brockman book. (Which I will read, enjoy, anyway)
posted by DigDoug at 1:15 PM on February 5, 2013

blue_beetle:Please email [blah blah blah] for more information about offering Floating University courses at your school or organization. Etc..

Do not email me about offering Floating University courses.
posted by blahblahblah at 1:39 PM on February 5, 2013 [14 favorites]

You can watch the videos, but if you want "to take the course" ...
"Great Big Ideas: An Entire Undergraduate Education While Standing on One Foot

... Duration: 12 lessons (40-60 mins per lesson) 6-Month Subscription: $199"*

A $199 enrollment in Great Big Ideas includes:

- 12 hours of HD Floating University lectures.
- A course syllabus including suggested and related readings.*
- Exclusive access to each lecture's online discussion board.
- Notes for every lecture and reading.
- Course access for 6 months (from date of sign-up).
- Full compatibility with the Apple iPad. *
posted by ericb at 1:46 PM on February 5, 2013

Huh, that was my 1,000 comment. A bad eponysterical pun. Fitting, I guess.
posted by blahblahblah at 1:47 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

As stated at their website: "Floating University is a joint venture between The Jack Parker Corporation and Big Think, a global knowledge forum where great minds engage the public about critical issues of our time. "

Adam Glick is President & Co-founder of The Floating University and President of real estate development firm The Jack Parker Corporation, and a managing director at the hedge fund Tesuji Partners LLC.

It's a for-profit MOOC (the topic of yesterday's interesting FPP on MOOCs).

So, I suspect the access to the videos are a tease, hoping for indiviuals to sign-up for the courses.
posted by ericb at 1:57 PM on February 5, 2013

I just noticed that the logo is literally a big, fancy FU.
posted by mochapickle at 2:03 PM on February 5, 2013 [7 favorites]

You can watch the videos, but if you want "to take the course" ...

I think it's bad website design and inconsistent messaging on their part. You actually cannot take the course right now at all (it says they're retooling it) and on their homepage they say "The Floating University is completely free and requires no sign-ups or trials." And each lecture has a transcript, discussion questions, etc. all available for free, as are most of the course readings (e.g. links to online articles).
posted by shivohum at 2:06 PM on February 5, 2013

It appears that they offer the courses for free to students of partner institutions (which have an institutional license)*.

For individuals they state in their FAQ:
"Are Floating University courses offered to the public, or just to universities?

Universities can offer full-credit video course offerings by The Floating University for students and alumni or for wider audiences. Floating University lectures are also available to the general public via the Internet, though the course pack must be licensed by the individual."*
Do those individual licenses cost money, as per the price listing mentioned above?

Count me confused.
posted by ericb at 2:14 PM on February 5, 2013

You actually cannot take the course right now at all ...
Enrollment for new students is closed at this time as we restructure and improve our offerings.

If you are an existing student, you may continue to log in at this page. You will continue to have access without being charged for renewals.
So, it appears that the first course offering was a full trial with students at Harvard, Yale and Bard. As they relaunch, it's obvious that they will charge for access.
posted by ericb at 2:18 PM on February 5, 2013

Just in watching the sample of one of them, I didn't appreciate the sound effects on a zoom in. I'm not sure the added production isn't going to dumb the subjects down. Stock video clips are rather annoying, too.
posted by Catblack at 2:22 PM on February 5, 2013

I didn't appreciate the sound effects on a zoom in.

God, I HATE it when "documentaries" do things like that. camera pan HUGE LETTERS OF THING WE'RE TALKING ABOUT whoosh past those OTHER THING IN RED LETTERS SCARY MUSIC then CGI gladiators fighting with Zeus for some reason whoosh interview with Important Guy sitting in front of bookshelf edited to make him sound dumber whoosh SHAKY-CAM POV SHOT OF MONSTERS W/ SFX OF SQUEALING PIGS OMG. And all of it orange and teal.

I haven't watched these videos yet, I hope camera zoom sound effects is the worst of its crimes.
posted by JHarris at 2:30 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Chronicle of Higher Education | July 29, 2011:
The project is a collaboration between the ideas Web site Big Think and the Jack Parker Corporation, a New York real-estate-development company. It faces competition from other educational-video providers, like TED, TeacherTube, and even YouTube. And there’s already a course in “Big History,” backed by Bill Gates. But Adam Glick, Jack Parker’s president, hopes his “Floating University” will stand out because of its production quality, with graphics, animations, and multiple camera angles. His plan is to license the materials to educational institutions and to sell “Great Big Ideas” subscriptions to the general public. The price of those subscriptions is still undetermined, but a spokeswoman ballparked it at “under $500.”

The roots of this project go back to Mr. Glick’s job running a real-estate company and an investment portfolio. He wanted to hire employees with broad general knowledge, he says, but struggled to find them. And disciplinary silos prevent universities from creating courses that sprawl across so much intellectual turf, he argues.

“It’s very, very difficult politically to have a course that involves 12 different professors,” Mr. Glick says. “So we did it for them.”
posted by ericb at 2:31 PM on February 5, 2013

Per the Harvard Crimson,

"With approximately 30 students, the class will be double the size of a typical freshman seminar class. To facilitate discussion, the students will break up into two groups, each led by one of the seminar professors, to discuss the lecture after watching it in the larger group each week."

If 30 students makes it the most popular course at Harvard, they've shrunk class sizes a fair bit since I went there.
posted by escabeche at 3:17 PM on February 5, 2013

If 30 students makes it the most popular course at Harvard, they've shrunk class sizes a fair bit since I went there.

Freshman seminars are the small classes with about a dozen students. Mine was right after lunch and, man, I felt bad every time I accidentally dozed off during it. Partially because it was so obvious to the other 12 people at the table and partially because it was really good.
posted by snofoam at 3:27 PM on February 5, 2013

Right -- but being "the biggest freshman seminar" is, to say the least, very different from being "the most popular course." I took courses there with 800 people in them. (And they were among the best courses I took.)
posted by escabeche at 3:29 PM on February 5, 2013

Oh, yeah, I see what you're saying. It's no Justice.
posted by snofoam at 3:34 PM on February 5, 2013

Colleges today offer 3000 courses but no guidance on which of them to study.

Uh, what?
posted by King Bee at 5:32 PM on February 5, 2013

The political philosophy in the Tamar Gendler lecture is pretty good, but her history is atrocious.
posted by cthuljew at 10:57 PM on February 5, 2013

It was nice of them to include a Token Female.
posted by Dr. Send at 11:06 PM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Disappointing reception here to these videos. I've only watched two (demography and political philosophy) and I'd have enjoyed a vibrant discussion here about the two hour lectures I watched rather than a meta-discussion about the business model, the size of "freshman seminars" and (ffs) the fact that only one lecturer is female (apparently).

I want *more* high production educational internet delivered knowledge, not less. Stop the snark.
posted by panaceanot at 4:52 AM on February 6, 2013

There is a playlist of the videos on YouTube.
posted by Tarn at 5:22 AM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

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