Using the Great Courses for content

I have used 2 of the Great Courses(GCs) in learning circles and have 3 more scheduled for the New Year. I find the level of content just right for my audience; that is, the lectures go into enough depth to be a bit challenging, no homework is required, the accompanying handbook in pdf format suggests discussion questions for each lecture.

One issue is the length of these courses, usually 24 to 48 half hour lectures. I prefer to run between 6 and 8 lectures for a learning circle. Much longer seems like too much of a commitment.

I’ve handled this in two ways. For An Introduction to Infectious Diseases, I am breaking it into parts of 6 lectures each. The second part will start in January and will, I think, make sense without the first 6 lectures. These earlier lectures, unlike most of the GCs, are also available on YouTube.

For all the others (Mayans, Outer Planets, Music & the Brain), I selected from the full course. That would be difficult to do with some of them where the lectures build on each other to a greater degree.

Some of the shorter GCs are travelogues. I find that these are too light in content. I started with Mayan World, but after watching the first 2 lectures, replaced the remaining 6 with individual lectures extracted from the course on Mesoamerica. This was much appreciated by the LC participants.

I have some concern about if I might be infringing on copyright. Having carefully read the Terms of Service, I think we are okay as long as we don’t charge for sharing the content. I started with An Introduction to Infectious Diseases because it was on YouTube and clearly not in violation. If a lot of us start using the GCs, perhaps P2PU could approach them for clarification. Personally, I think we are offering GC a service in marketing their courses through exposure to a wide audience. Could they become a sponsor of P2PU?

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I’m not sure I have an answer for you as I can only go off the ToS, but if it’s helpful at all I am in the same boat. Of the LC’s I’ve offered, all prior to my current program have been facilitated via Coursera content. For my current prg we are using content from The Great Courses, and I agree that the length of each series can be daunting for attendees.

In the case of my current prg, I’ve selected individual episodes that have the most relevance to our topic and am trying to weave them together with other bridge-gapping content. We watch all our lectures separately and come together for each meeting prepared to discuss them with questions readied beforehand. This helps us make the most of our hour for each week and it also makes me feel a lot safer about the distribution aspect of things.

I agree that forming some sort of partnership would be really beneficial for LC facilitators with regards to The Great Courses as there is some excellent content there that typically just takes some adapting to fit a group discussion model.

I have just discovered that our local library subscribes to Kanopy. Anyone with a library card can stream one Great Courses series per month.

This would make it possible to follow your model of watching the content beforehand.

That’s exactly what we use as well. I highly recommend it as many of our cardholders are already very familiar with Kanopy.

Hi Julie,

This is encouraging news. The length of some of the courses is daunting not just for learners, but for facilitators. We’re going to being using The Science of Well Being course from Yale in January and I’d be interested in hearing more about your process for whittling down the content in a way that hits all the important marks, but doesn’t involve having to actually take the course ourselves. Any tips you can share would be welcome!


In selecting from P2PU suggested courses, I look for those already used more than once, rating, number of modules/time commitment, and level of difficulty. Some of the sites like Coursera and Edx also give some of this information.

In most cases, I have had to register for the courses that I am considering, but just sample a few of the lectures to determine if it will work for my audience.

I have misjudged the level; e.g., Mayan World. In that case, I simply replaced the remaining lectures from another source.

Regarding copyright, I think we are okay showing the lectures since we do not charge, but sharing all or part of the accompanying handbook is a pretty clear violation. The following is extracted from the copyright page:

This book is in copyright. All rights reserved.
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of The Teaching Company.

Would it be possible for p2pu to approach The Teaching Company that produces the Great Courses for guidance and permission?

I would consider going even further to suggest some form of alliance with this company as they also have the goal of “lifelong learning and personal enrichment”.

Hi Julie! I reached out to TGC to ask for their recommendations about using their materials in learning circles. I’ll share here when I hear back!

Many thanks

Julie Chahal
613 226 3915

As of 8 June, The Great Courses is being integrated with a new larger service at This may explain the inconclusive response to our queries.