Summer is a great time to learn something new. These videos, audios and books are some of the best resources available for broadening one's horizons.
The Great Courses is a series of college-level lectures produced by The Teaching Company. The courses are available in audio or video format and are aimed primarily at adult lifelong learners. Each course typically has 24 or 36 half-hour lectures and is presented by a professor who is an expert in the course's topic. Many courses include supplemental materials.
The library offers several ways to access The Great Courses:
The Great Courses on video
Approximately 400 Great Courses on DVD are available to borrow through the library. If supplementary materials come with the course, they are usually bundled with the DVD's packaging. (If you don't have a DVD player, you can borrow a portable one or a Blu-ray player from our Library of Things collection.)
If you are interested in a particular course but can't find it in the catalog, you can try searching the Commonwealth Catalog to see if it can be requested from a library outside our network, or see if it's available to stream through one of the following video services:
Normally, MHL card holders are limited to watching a maximum of eight videos per month through Kanopy, but none of its 267 Great Courses count against that limit. A link to supplemental materials, when available, can be found in the course's description. Kanopy videos can be played on just about every device.
Accessing OverDrive collections from other library networks
You can access a library network's OverDrive collection three ways: the network's OverDrive website, the OverDrive app, and the Libby app.
Website: go to MVLC's OverDrive home page and choose another network from the Partner Libraries link at the top of the page. Once on the other network's site, click Sign in and choose "Merrimack Valley Patrons" where it asks you to select your library, then enter your library card number without spaces.
Libby or OverDrive app: open the app and follow these instructions to add the other network(s) to the app. Then you can begin searching for items within those networks. Once added, the app will remember these networks and you will not need to add them again.
Normally, each network has to be searched separately, but if you use the Library Extension browser extension, you can search across muliple OverDrive collections at the same time.
MHL card holders can view 288 Great Courses through the Libby app or OverDrive's Libby website (https://libbyapp.com). Supplementary materials for many courses can be downloaded as PDF files. Access is essentially unlimited: use your library card to check out a 7-day pass and view as many courses and lectures as you like. When the 7-day pass expires, just check out another. Checking out a 7-day pass does not count against your OverDrive ebook/audiobook checkout limits.
Hoopla Digital's catalog includes 215 Great Courses on video. MHL card holders are limited to checking out a maximum of eight titles per month. Unfortunately, each lecture counts as a checkout, so completing a course could take several months. Also, supplementary materials are not available through Hoopla.
The Great Courses on audio
Approximately 250 Great Courses on CD are available to borrow through the library. Supplementary materials usually come with the CDs' packaging, either as a physical booklet or as a CD-ROM. Some courses fit on just six CDs, but larger sets are not unusual. (One set—How to Listen to And Understand Great Music—contains 48 CDs!) If you don't have a CD player, you can borrow a portable one from our Library of Things collection. You can also download the audios using Hoopla or OverDrive:
While Hoopla may not be the best option for Great Courses videos, it is excellent for Great Courses audios. It currently has 396 courses available. And, while MHL card holders are still limited to a maximum of eight checkouts per month, each checkout contains the entire set of lectures. As with other Hoopla audiobooks, checkouts last 21 days.
The greatest number of Great Courses in audio format is available through OverDrive, thanks to a reciprocal lending agreement that lets you borrow titles from OverDrive collections in all the major library networks in Massachusetts (see sidebar). For example, while our own network's OverDrive collection has just nine Great Courses in audio, the Boston Public Library's OverDrive collection has 441, and the North of Boston Library Exchange's OverDrive collection has 98—all of which are available to borrow with your MHL card!
The Modern Scholar was a series of audio lectures produced by Recorded Books and is widely considered to have the same high production value as that of The Great Courses. Most courses consist of 14 hour-long lectures. Substantial course guides accompany each CD set. Ways to get these excellent audios include:
- Our catalog, which shows 57 Modern Scholar courses available to borrow. Most are on CD, but a few are available on Playaway devices.
- The Boston Public Library's OverDrive collection has 78 Modern Scholar courses, but they are only visible and available to borrow if you log in with a BPL card or ecard number. (Unlike the majority of digital audiobooks in OverDrive, these are not available through the recipricol borrowing agreement. You can, however, get a BPL ecard in minutes by visiting https://bpl.org/ecard.) Course guides are available to download, but as with other OverDrive ebooks you may need to download and install the Adobe Digital Editions software in order to view them on a computer.
- Hoopla Digital has 24 Modern Scholar courses. Course guides are not available directly through Hoopla, though.
If you are looking for a Modern Scholar course guide, many are available to download from Audible.com—no Audible.com account required.
This series of books has been published by the Oxford University Press since 1995 and covers a wide variety of topics in history, philosophy, religion, science, and the humanities. Each is written by an expert in the field. Its intended audience is "anyone wanting a situmlating and accessible way in to a new subject." There are more than 600 books in the series and more are being written every month. Each is well indexed and contains references and/or suggestions in the back for further reading.
Ways to get these books:
- Memorial Hall Library has a full run of the physical books. Find them on the Ground Level near the Biography section, in the nook under the stairwell.
- The Boston Public Library lets you read the books online. Very handy for searching across the entire collection! You will need a BPL card or ecard to access this collection.
- Hoopla Digital has audiobook versions of 79 of the titles, all produced by Tantor Audio, an imprint of Recorded Books.
If you are new to Very Short Introductions, check out this short video to learn more about it:
Back when this educational service was called Lynda.com, it was easily one the most popular services we offered. Now that it's LinkedIn Learning, we are happy to be able to offer it again. Its library of 16,000 video courses covers a wide variety of topics, focusing mostly on business, creative and technology skills. New courses are added constantly, and all are taught by recognized industry experts. Most courses include project files you can download to supplement your learning. There are absolutely no limits to how many videos you can watch or how often.
The post highlights several resources and several more ways to access them. If you have questions about any of this, please get in touch with us—we are here to help! Happy learning!