Ready to launch your next career by taking online classes?

The Great Courses Plus is an online learning platform that offers video lectures, among other things, to their subscribers. The brand itself has been around since 1990 and is owned by The Teaching Company.

But is it right for you?

In this The Great Courses Plus review, we will tell you everything you need to know.

What is Great Courses Plus?

This platform is well established for online learning and offers the ability to acquire new skills through their streaming service. The platform host content on a wide range of subjects covering everything from food and wine to mathematics and science. 

However, Great Courses Plus is more akin to something like Netflix or Hulu than it is to other online learning platforms. As a result, it does tend to lack some of the focus you can receive from a service like Khan Academy or edX.

What’s truly unique about this platform is that some content comes in the form of something that feels less like a course and more like a television series. This can be good or bad depending on what you want from your educational platform of choice. 

Who is Great Courses Plus For?

The Great Courses Plus is geared toward people who want some entertainment with their education. It could be a fantastic option for those that would like a way to have something to enrich their minds in the background of their daily life as well as those who want to join a large community of learners

Another avenue that learners have come across is using the platform as a jumping-off point. Somewhere to start as you leap into the inevitable rabbit hole of a newly discovered curiosity. 

Without taking a poll, it appears a large majority of The Great Courses Plus users end up learning about more topics than they originally intended to upon subscribing. It lends itself to a lot of knowledge discovery as well as actual instruction. 

To summarize here, the platform is designed to have a little something for everyone to enjoy and even more for people to uncover.

How Does Great Courses Plus Work?

Getting started on the platform requires you to at least start a free trial to get a feel for things. Without that, you end up not quite getting the full view of what The Great Courses Plus has to offer. 

Once you have done that you’ll have access to a plethora of online courses broken into 14 categorize to better get a handle of all of their content. You can add individual courses to your watchlist to keep track of for later, and your homepage will eventually populate with courses the platform recommends for you. 

When clicking on a class you will get an overview of course content and see who the instructor is. Most of their instructors hold a lot of prestige, and in many cases a lot of degrees, in the topics that the course will be covering.

Features and Functionality

Here are some top features of his platform to be on the lookout for. 

AutoPlay

While this might seem like a no-brainer, there is a surprising amount of platforms out there that do not support autoplay. A primary benefit of The Great Courses Plus is its utility as educational background noise. 

The autoplay feature allows you to set and forget the topic you are interested in and enjoy the ride. 

However, it can cause issues if you would happen to let the courses play and do something like fall asleep. You may end up losing your place and having to backtrack or rewatch material. 

Mobile Audio Streaming

The Great Courses Plus allows you to take your learning experience with you on your mobile devices. This is pretty common with online learning platforms nowadays, but audio streaming is what stands out against competitors. 

If you are driving, working, or exercising it can be impossible, and possibly illegal, to watch your courses. Being able to convert your content into audio form is a massive plus for users who are always on the go. 

These audio recordings are the same as the regular courses just without the visuals and with the added benefit of being able to lock your phone and stow it while still learning about your favorite subjects. 

Discounted Prices

With your Great Courses Plus subscription, you’ll get up to 80% off and free shipping on The Great Courses content. It does seem odd that the Plus subscription doesn’t just gain you access to at least all the online content of The Great Courses but something is better than nothing. 

The bigger benefit here is going to be on physical learning supplies like DVDs. If you prefer to have your content in a way that doesn’t require an internet connection this discount could end up saving you a lot of money. 

Great Courses Plus Pricing Model

The Great Courses Plus cost is about as straightforward as any subscription service can be this day in age. Their starting price is $20 per month. 

The platform does offer discounts if you pay for more than one month at a time though. If you wish to pay for 3 months at a time you’ll only have to pay $45 which ends up being a $15 discount. 

An annual membership is an even better deal in the long run at just $150, saving you a total of $40. 

Even though they’re technically different platforms, it’s worth pointing out here that you will almost definitely get a way better deal from this subscription than buy purchasing individual courses from the basic Great Courses. 

As long as the course you want is on both platforms, it would almost always make the most sense to get the subscription.

The Great Courses Plus does not offer any refunds on its subscription model. If you pay for a month then it is final, so be wary of that if you wish to cancel a subscription. You must cancel your subscription in the previous month before your next month’s payment comes out to avoid the extra payment. 

Support

The platform allows for email inquiries and phone calls to get your problems solved. To get a phone call, you’ll have to call from 9 am to 10 pm on weekdays or 9 am to 5 pm on the weekends. 

The Great Courses plus unfortunately does not have a community messaging board like a lot of online learning platforms. So either emails or making a phone call to them directly is your only hope of reaching out on any issues you may be having. 

The platform also does not support direct contact with instructors which for many students is a large downside. 

The Advantages (Pros) of The Great Courses Plus

Here are some of the biggest advantages of entrusting The Great Courses Plus for all your learning needs. 

Large Catalog

There is a huge emphasis on The Great Courses plus supporting lifelong learning and with the massive amount of content, they hit the mark each and every time. 

From ancient history to modern economics the platform covers a massive expanse of diverse subjects. This makes it a wonderful supplement to those that enjoy discovering new curiosities as well as diving deeper into old academic loves.

The platform currently offer s14 major categories and over 11,000 individual courses to choose from. 

Course Quality

While the creative tastes of the courses could use an overhaul, there is no getting around the fact that they are professionally produced and edited. You won’t find large mistakes or overlooked blunders in their courses. 

The Great Courses Plus also offers some of the best instructors for their chosen field. Most, if not all, are well-respected professionals in their specialty and hold several degrees. 

Learning Paths

No online educational platform is going to be complete without the addition of curated course lists designed to give a solid understanding of a topic. These are very commonly called learning paths.

The Great Courses Plus offers a few of these for you to take advantage of but it does operate a little bit differently than a lot of the other platforms out there. 

There are seven different learning paths at the bottom of the homepage and instead of each having a clear starting and ending path, you’ll be able to select what interests you most on a broad topic and begin there. 

If you navigate to The Great Courses Daily then you’ll see this platform also has a learning paths section. It is recommended that you use the lists provided there to give you a good idea of what courses you should take when to get the best results. 

The approach is a little odd because it doesn’t automatically track progress but it does allow for a bit of flexibility if one of the courses on the list is not to your liking. Many of the learning paths have a list of five videos and they recommend that you only have to pick three to attain solid comprehension. 

It adds a bit of customization to a feature that is usually very rigid and structured on most platforms. 

Accessibility Controls

Having accessibility controls on a platform is not new, and it should be standard for anything and everything that gets built in the present day. Most of the time it isn’t worth mentioning them because they are usually standard and common. 

The extent that The Great Courses Plus went in their accessibility features is something special. They have options for customizing just about everything on their platform to make it as easy as possible for everyone to learn. 

The Great Courses Plus even has specific presets for certain ailments. Like the ADHD setting that turns down the distractions and ensures you can focus on what you want to be thinking about. 

The platform offers special profiles for people that are prone to seizures, are visually impaired, have a cognitive disability, are blind, or have a motor impairment and can only use the keyboard. 

Beyond just the profiles they also allow full customization of your experience, you can change the colors of just about anything. The text-align and font can be changed to suit you as well. 

The Great Courses Plus went to a lot of care here to add many extra features to make the platform suitable for every kind of person. 

The Disadvantages (Cons) of The Great Courses Plus

Great Courses Confusion

The Great Courses Plus has a counterpart platform called The Great Courses. The latter hasthe same name just without the “Plus”. These platforms have different websites as well as some different materials.

There is a lot of overlap in what they offer but not everything is available on both. Just because you have a Great Courses Plus subscription it won’t guarantee you all the material from The Great Courses. 

The major difference is that the basic Great Courses is not a subscription service and you must pay for individual courses. 

It can be a little confusing if you’re just getting started on the platform. If you’ve accidentally been looking at the basic great courses catalog you may not get everything you want from The Great Courses Plus. 

Scattered Content

It appears that a lot of what The Great Courses Plus offers isn’t just on their platform. It is spread between The Great Courses Daily and The Great Courses. And a Plus subscription won’t automatically entitle you to all of it anyway. 

Another thing that people like to point out is the lack of quizzes to track your progress on the platform. While this is true for the Plus site, if you travel to The Great Courses Daily you’ll find that quizzes are available. 

There just does not seem to be a good reason not to have all of these features and all of the content under the same roof. It would make it much easier to discern what you are getting for your subscription payment. 

No Direct Instructor Feedback

Not being able to reach out to an instructor through a message or email is a very strange thing to see on an online learning platform these days. So much so that we spent a good bit of time looking and researching to see if we were somehow overlooking it. 

Even platforms that host content from professors similar to The Great Courses Plus have some way of reaching them even if it isn’t instantaneous. Somewhere to pose a question and have it answered when the instructor has a moment. 

No Community Feature

Along the same lines as not having instructor feedback, the platform also does not have any community features either. This is arguably even more bizarre than not having any contact with the instructors. 

The only way to get anyone else’s opinions or information on the platform is through the star rating system of their courses. At the very least you’ll be able to see what other people thought about the courses whenever they took them. 

But without having any way to talk to other people about the content, it makes it difficult at best if you have course-specific questions that need to be answered. Or perhaps the content does not lend itself to online research and Googling it returns poor results. 

 

Bland Content

While this is not true for everything in The Great Courses Plus’ catalog, some of the content can be a little lackluster when it comes to extras like visual effects. This does make a bit of sense because all of the content can be converted and consumed in audio format. 

On the other hand, visuals can be an extremely helpful aid in some topics to help illustrate a point. A lot of the content just ends up being someone talking on-screen and explaining a subject, so it’s more of a lecture than anything else. 

Poor Interface

The Great Courses Plus interface is trying to look like popular entertainment platforms like Netflix and Hulu. And in terms of the way it looks they’re pretty much on the mark so no complaints there, the design is alright.

However, because the platform looks so similar to those powerhouse platforms you end up expecting it to have similar features. But that is not what you are going to get from this at all. The interface only has basic functionality. 

There is no “return to watching” section which should be on the homepage so you can quickly get back to the content you have been consuming. 

There is a recommended for you section at least that will populate with courses that the platform believes would be of interest to you. 

No Certifications

Any educational platform that does not at least give you some sort of online badge for completing a course nowadays is simply behind in the times. 

But if you are meant to believe the course you are watching is worth potentially $300, then it would make a lot of sense to offer a certification. Especially if you go through the trouble of finding the accompanying quizzes that are on an entirely different website e.g The Great Courses Daily. 

Great Courses Plus Alternatives

Alternatives to The Great Courses Plus are a dime a dozen. Here are some other options. 

Skillshare

Skillshare doesn’t have the number of categories that The Great Courses Plus offers. They do offer a lot more individual classes though at 20,000, which are broken into 4 main categories: creative, technology, Business, and Lifestyle.

The platform is also cheaper with a monthly cost of $15. But if you pay for an annual membership then you only have to pay $99 total, meaning it would only be $8.25 a month.

Even their shortest videos are broken up into easy-to-consume chunks that don’t take up very much time. They save your place to continue with later and have a diverse community where you can pose questions and get timely answers. 

Udemy

The amount of content on Udemy is pretty mind-boggling. They have a course on just about everything. The downside to them is that they allow anyone to make and sell a course on their platform. So if you are looking for accredited instructors this may not be the platform for you. 

They don’t offer a subscription service so you’ll have to pay for the courses individually. But the classes are much cheaper than they are on The Great Courses, some of them only cost $5.

Khan Academy

As far as online education systems go Khan is probably one of the best on the market, especially given that it is completely free to use for everyone. You won’t even need to make an account to get you started. 

The biggest drawback to Khan is the type of content. You won’t find anything on there related to lifestyle. There is also a lack of skill-building courses unless you’re talking about programming. 

Basically, everything on the platform is focused on bolstering formal education experiences and it goes so far as to include college-level courses. 

Conclusion

The Great Courses Plus does a good job of giving you a wide array of subjects to choose from and discover. The platform lends itself to finding new things to learn about and is mostly a streaming platform as opposed to an educational one. 

Meaning this platform is going to be best for people who want exactly that, a streaming service to get some entertainment with your education. Best used as something to watch at the end of a day or while you are completing other tasks. 

It can also be beneficial for lovers of podcasts. While they don’t host podcasts, all of the content can be converted to audio form and listened to on the go.

If you are looking for more specialized learning, or want to be able to interact with other learners or your instructors then this is not the platform for you. There are a lot of platforms that can offer you exactly what you are after, and for a lot cheaper than The Great Courses Plus. 

In short, for The Great Courses Plus to be the platform you’ll benefit from most,  you’ll have to want the specific type of “edutainment” that they offer. 

So is this online learning platform right for you? Only you can be the judge of that, but hopefully, this review of The Great Courses Plus has been helpful as you make your decision.

FAQ

Is the Great Courses Plus legit?

Yes, The Great Courses Plus is a legitimate learning platform. And they offer you a free trial to use so you can test out their platform before you spend any money.

They do not offer a refund for their subscription service though. The refunds are only available for The Great Courses basic classes that have a 100% satisfaction guarantee. 

Is the Great Courses Plus worth it?

This depends on what you expect out of your educational platform. If you are interested in the type of content The Great Courses has to offer and the individual course you want is offered on Plus, then you almost certainly will get value from a subscription. 

As far as the value for money, there are cheaper platforms out there that offer comparable quality content. 

What’s the difference between Great Courses and Great Courses Plus?

This is a significant place of confusion for those that are just learning about these two systems. The content they offer is similar and most of it is available interchangeably between the two platforms. 

The main difference between them is that The Great Courses basic forces you to pay for individual courses every time you want to learn about a new topic. These courses are very pricey with a lot of them costing several hundred dollars. 

A Plus subscription gives you access to everything on The Great Courses Plus website for a flat monthly or yearly rate, so you won’t have to spend money on individual courses.

What courses are available on Great Courses Plus?

There are too many courses to list them individually here, since there are over eleven thousand of them. However, this platform offers 14 different categories to choose from which cover everything from advanced mathematics to ancient history. 

They also do a good job of covering lifestyles and hobbies with things that include dance, drawing, yoga, and even some cooking courses. 

Something The Great Courses Plus does well is the number of topics that they cover, so you won’t be short of variety here.

How much is membership to Great Courses Plus?

The annual membership for The Great Courses Plus is going to cost you $150 for the entire year. They also offer a quarterly membership for $45 every three months. 

Both of these options are going to save you money if you end up utilizing them instead of paying every month. The annual membership saving $40 per year and the quarterly saving you $15 off the top. 

How much is The Great Courses Plus per month?

The Great Courses Plus monthly cost is $20, this is the only level of membership. It gives you access to everything on their site without having to pay anything for individual classes. 

It also gives you up to 80% off The Great Courses basic site and free shipping on any physical learning supplements that you may order from there. 

How long is The Great Courses Plus’ free trial?

The platform offers a very expansive free trial of 30 days to get a taste of The Great Courses Plus. They do require you to use a credit card when you sign up, however. The card will not be charged until after the 30 days are up. 

You may also cancel your free trial within 30 days to avoid being charged at all. 

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Rebekah Pierce

Rebekah Pierce

Rebekah Pierce is a writer with a B.A. in English from St. Lawrence University and a Master’s in Special Education from SUNY Plattsburgh. She has worked both as a college admissions counselor as well as a high school English teacher and has also written extensively on topics related to educational technology and the college selection process.

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