If you find yourself sitting on the couch during winter break, twiddling your thumbs and wishing you were back in the classroom, you don’t have to wait until January to return to class. Instead, you can get your academic fix online: talented professors from universities spanning the globe are offering free lectures—and even entire courses—to anyone interested via the Internet. Academic Earth and LectureFox have categorized a wide variety of lectures available for free online viewing. I’ve recently been blown away by engaging and provocative lectures from Harvard University professor Michael Sandel. His entire course “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” is available online. (See below for his titillating introduction to the course, “The Moral Side of Murder,” and in the second part, “The Case for Cannibalism”).
Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative (OLI) offers options for both learners and instructors. Free courses are available for anyone to join. Not to be outdone by Carnegie Mellon, M.I.T.’s Open Course Ware offers over 2,000 courses as potential resources for students as well as other instructors. While not all courses offer audio/video content, most include syllabi, course calendars, readings and assignments.
Less exclusively academic, the website BigThink offers video interviews from a diverse set of experts (including Rainn Wilson of NBC’s The Office). Issues can be explored topically (“Life & Death,” “Business & Economics”) or by expert (Stephen Hawking, Cornel West).
So instead of watching Arrested Development re-runs on hulu.com during break, check out some of the above resources in order to keep your mind sharp until the beginning of Winter Quarter!