Our Heritage

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The Great Courses Story

It all began with just a few videotapes—and a brilliant inspiration.

Tom Rollins, the founder of The Great Courses, was a law student at Harvard University and was facing an important exam on the U.S. Federal Rules of Evidence—an exam for which he wasn’t prepared.

Dreading the notoriously boring subject but knowing his success depended on understanding the material, Rollins obtained videotapes of 10 lectures by a noted authority on the subject, Professor Irving Younger. Rollins planted himself in front of his television late at night and put the first tape into his VCR. What he discovered changed his life.

The tapes were unlike anything Rollins had experienced in his Harvard lecture halls. Professor Younger’s lectures were outrageously insightful, impressively thorough, and engagingly witty. Most important: They hammered home the concepts in a way that made the subject both accessible and interesting. They made learning not a chore to be accomplished but an adventure to be experienced.

  • Our Values
  • Improvement

    There’s always a better way to do things, which is why we constantly seek to improve our products and our way of doing business.

  • Dedication

    We work tirelessly to make sure that every Great Course is the most engaging intellectual adventure it can be.

  • Relationships

    We pride ourselves on fostering an open environment where new ideas can flow freely and collaboration is encouraged.

  • Customer Commitment

    Everything we do is guided by our commitment to enthusiastically satisfy our customers.

Rollins played all 10 hours of those lectures nearly nonstop. A few days later he passed his exam and went on to make an “A” in the course.

He never forgot the unique power of recorded lectures by a great teacher—the way that a bright mind could ignite a passion for lifelong learning. And years later, in 1990, Rollins founded The Great Courses to share that unforgettable experience with the rest of the world.

Rollins’s concept was simple:

  1. Find the top 1% of college professors in the world, selected entirely for their ability to teach.

  2. Use feedback from customers to help craft courses into formats uniquely designed for the lifelong learner.

After more than 25 years and 19 million courses taken, The Great Courses still adheres to the strict principles on which the company was founded, supporting every course with a 100% Lifetime Satisfaction Guarantee. We invite you to learn more about Our Professors and Our Team who make it all possible; and Our Customers, a discerning community of lifelong learners who demand “the best of the best.”

Our Values