Tuesday Two.Oh! is not meant as an endorsement, but as an exploration of the tools that are out there. Click at your own risk. 🙂
Today on Tuesday Two.Oh! we’re going to talk about the classic lecture. Now, I know what you’re thinking: are we talking about the kind of lecture where some dusty old professor stands at the front of a lecture hall and talks at you for 50 minutes? Well, sort of. Think, YouTube for academics.
Many people like to think of education as a human right: no matter your background you deserve to have access to knowledge. But with the cost of many colleges and universities skyrocketing, that reality might be hard to attain for some of us. But the Internet age seems to be changing all of that. Universities are starting to make their lectures freely accessible. For example, Stanford University is making its’ educational content available on iTunes.
Let’s take a look at AcademicEarth:
From the site: “Academic Earth is an organization founded with the goal of giving everyone on earth access to a world-class education. As more and more high quality educational content becomes available online for free, we ask ourselves, what are the real barriers to achieving a world class education? At Academic Earth, we are working to identify these barriers and find innovative ways to use technology to increase the ease of learning. We are building a user-friendly educational ecosystem that will give internet users around the world the ability to easily find, interact with, and learn from full video courses and lectures from the world’s leading scholars.”
The site is relatively easy to navigate- and registration is not required (though you can mark lectures are “favorites,” as well as rate lectures after you have watched them). Keep in mind that the site has been developed to reflect the academic environment, meaning the “lecture” is a sub-category of the “Course.” AcademicEarth allows for guest lectures without an overall “course,” but they do offer entire courses on the site.
There is a bar at the top of the screen to guide your navigation:
Clicking on any of the above links will carry you through the site. The first link, “subjects” will take you to a page of clickable subject links. Here you can browse by topic in order to find the lecture you’re interested in watching.
The second link for navigation is “Universities.” This link will show you the participating universities that are recording their lectures and uploading them to the site. If you’re interested in listening to a lecture from a particular, your choices are impressive:
The third link, “Instructors,” is an alphabetical list of the speakers. This page will definitely be useful in finding specific lecturers.
The last link, “playlists,” is a list of lectures collected into “topics.” This means that the editors of the site collected lectures on AcademicEarth about a specific topic, for instance:
The playlists will not be given by a specific speaker, but a collection of any speakers on a given topic. It’s a great way to introduce yourself to a topic, at the same time maintaining objectivity by hearing varying viewpoints.
Once you have chosen a lecture to watch, you will be looking at a screen that has the video of the lecture, a description of the lecture and course, and various related videos. The video will look something like this:
As a librarian, one of my favorite features of the site is their citation tool. It can be found just below the video. You will want to make sure that you check the citation type against your professors needs and desires. It looks like this:
In the same tool bar there are also options to download the video, share it, embed it, and add it to your favorites if you have created an account. I’ve embeded a video on the post below in order to give you an idea of what that might look like.
If you set up an account, you will be able to rate the videos using a grading system of A, B, C, D, and F.
By looking at these grades you can also tell which lectures are the most admired.
The last thing we’re going to look at is the search function. I have to admit, some of the search terms I tried came back with no hits, or with very few. This is probably a function of the relatively small collection of universities donating lectures: a broad scope of topics has yet to be accomplished. But to give you an idea, a search on AcademicEarth will look like this:
In closing, the mission of this site is a lofty one. Much content on the web is from dubious sources which must be evaluated in order to detect bias. Of course, watching these videos will not result in a “Harvard Education” per se, but will result in you widening your own horizons. There is no grading or credit given, even though some of the lectures come with related assignments. These are done at the students lesiure, for no real academic reward in the form of a diploma.
However, knowledge as a right is what we’re talking about here. AcademicEarth assumes that even though the site offers no diploma or grading system, the student will want to better themselves for free.
And, after all, who said you couldn’t get a free Harvard education?