I know, lectures are so old fashioned – MOOCs are the new thing. And as I said before, I do think MOOCs, or more general “computer teachers” have a tremendous potential. Yet, I have to admit that I am still waiting to find an online course that really gets me excited and inspired. I don’t see why they shouldn’t, and they might get there one day, but currently most MOOCs seem rather mechanical to me, while a good lecturer may still build on millennia of experience with this medium, and on our natural instincts to interact with other people.
So, I think the lecture will still be around for a while – after all, it hasn’t been superseded by the book either. All the more reason to learn how to do it from the best, and thanks to youtube we don’t even have to leave the couch. Here’s my (rather eclectic) collection of three great lecture series. Happy to get hints about more noteworthy examples, especially from ecology.
Justice, from Michael Sandel, Harvard University
This lecture series on moral philosophy is maybe the best known of its kind on the Internet. The first video has currently around 4.5 million views, and (forgive me the pun, I couldn’t help it) not unjustly so – great setting, perfectly produced, and Michael Sandel is structured, funny and pedagogical bordering populism. I know a few people that didn’t like the lectures because they found them too basic or too slow (it’s true he’s taking his time between sentences), but I think he really delivers what this is supposed to be, namely an introduction for everyone that entertains, that doesn’t hurt and is easy to catch, and that does convey good information. Only the subtle advertisement for Harvard that pops up from time to time as well as the polished and politically correct student body is a bit annoying.
Introduction to Psychology, Paul Bloom, Yale University
Unlike Justice, which is really more of an event, Paul Bloom’s Introduction to Psychology is a regular class … there is really nothing special about that I could wrap my hands around, just that I really like it, I think it’s really well done – btw, Open Yale Courses, of which this lecture series is a part, is a really incredible source for good lectures in general.
Human Behavioral Biology, Robert Sapolsky, Stanford University
This again is a choice more easy to explain – Robert Sapolsky is colorful, intense, hilarious and simply a great lecturer. As this is a bit closer to my expertise, I was sometimes wondering whether all the examples and research results he discusses are really completely uncontroversial (he seems very convinced though), but they are certainly entertaining, and after all, it’s nearly ecology 😉 Anyway, a must see!