January 23, 2010 | By Bill Gates
Great Lectures from The Teaching Company
One of the real challenges in education is finding ways to give more people access to brilliant teachers who inspire and excite with their ability to bring material to life. Today there are some great examples of how technology can enable almost anyone to learn from the world’s greatest minds.
A lot of people ask me what I’m reading and how I learn about new topics that interest me. I am fortunate to have time to read a lot and I also like to view courses online from MIT’s OpenCourseware, Academic Earth, and others. These courses have ignited a passion of mine, which is to think about how to harness this approach so students who otherwise wouldn’t have access can experience these great courses and learn from these great teachers.
One of my favorite sources for great lectures is The Teaching Company. Most of their courses are available as audio downloads and on DVD. I had a chance to meet with The Teaching Company team, and the way they find the very best professors and best courseware is impressive and it shows in the overall quality of the teaching.
Most of my friends know how much I enjoy these courses as they’ve received many of them as holiday gifts.
At first I just watched all their science courses – geology, biology, medicine. Those are quite good and I learned quite a bit.
Then I watched Big History which is taught by David Christian and is still my favorite course of all. The course is so broad that it synthesizes the history of everything including the sciences into one framework.
I’ve gotten to know David over the past couple of years and we’re starting some work now to offer a version of Big History for high school students free online – it’s something that I am incredibly excited about.
The first economics course I watched was Modern Economic Issues by Robert Whaples.
This course does a very good job explaining the economic viewpoint and how it applies in lots of situations.
I try to bring this type of thinking to problems. You could say this course is mostly a microeconomics course – individual and business decisions based on price signals.
Whaples also talks about government policies relative to wages and improving the economy.
I would say Whaples is a very good teacher – clear with great examples and explanations.
My second economics course was America and the New Global Economy by Timothy Taylor.
This is a fantastic course focusing on macroeconomics (overall economic results). He really explains what has happened in the world economy.
I found his region-by-region analysis incredibly valuable. I knew some of the facts but I had never seen it explained as a whole like he did.
I would say he is an even better teacher than Whaples – one of the best even by the very high standards of The Teaching Company.
His discussion of government policies including investing in education and infrastructure are extremely lucid.
I agree with both of these economists almost 100%, even when they talk about some issues that are considered controversial.
Neither of these courses requires you to know economics before you watch them. They both explain the terms they use very well.
If you are going to watch both I would suggest doing it in the order that I did.
I’ll be writing more about some of my OpenCourseware favorites as well as other good sources for online educational material.