The Great Courses are very popular all over the world. For founder Thomas Rollins teaching had to be done in a different way, giving people with particular learning styles the opportunity to learn as much as possible as well. He developed the Great Courses in an interactive way, delivering video lessons on a variety of subjects. He was committed to delivering the highest quality courses possible, which means he spent a lot of time in trying to identify the right teachers.
Finding Great Courses Professors
Naturally, a professor’s experience and knowledge was important. However, at the same time, they had to demonstrate engaging personalities, particularly because they deliver their courses virtually. Essentially, Rollins looked for both brains and bravado. He spent many years trying to find the right people for this.
One way in which he achieved this, was by encouraging learners to suggest professors that they believed would be good at the job. He has considered each and every one of the suggestions and, indeed, found a number of excellent candidates. In all cases, he met the lecturer personally before agreeing to have their courses turned into Great Courses. This meant frequent travel across the country, attending academic conferences, auditing classes, visiting association meetings, and more.
Interestingly, Rollins was often confused by the fact that he was the least intelligent person at these events and meetings, while at the same time being the most interesting. This is because many professors would relish the opportunity to have their lectures turned into a Great Course. While it was all very time consuming, Rollins was able to find the best of the best.
Understanding the Audience
Another key element of Rollins’ quest to develop the best courses, was understanding the audience. He knows that two people will buy into the Great Courses for two completely different reasons. However, what all participants have in common is that they expect high quality. He also found that:
- Most participants already have an advanced degree.
- Most participants have an annual income of $100,000 or more.
- Most participants are at least 50 years old.
Naturally, cost was also an important factor. Because the majority of students of the Great Courses have high earnings, Rollins believed that he could also charge a substantial amount of money for the lectures. At the same time, however, his target demographic has a keen eye for value for money. As such, he had to charge prices that were realistic, while at the same time being high enough to cover all the associated costs and still make a profit. Each course now has its own price, and the Great Courses also has a number of subscription programs in place.
This was a risky choice, particularly because there are now so many MOOCs (massive open online courses) available, which are all free. However, the Great Courses are of such high quality in terms of how they are delivered and who by, that participants have been more than willing to invest in them.