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The Great Courses
Founded1990; 33 years ago (1990)
  • Thomas M. Rollins
United States
  • The Great Courses
  • Wondrium
Some of the course materials produced by The Teaching Company.
Content available through "Wondrium", an affiliated subscription service.

The Teaching Company, doing business as Wondrium, is a media production company that produces educational, video and audio content in the form of courses, documentaries, series under two content brands - Wondrium and The Great Courses.[1] The company distributes their content globally through a mix of Direct to Consumer models such as their streaming service Wondrium.com and TheGreatCourses.com,as well distribution through third party platforms like Audible, Amazon and Roku.[2]

Wondrium, founded by Tom Rollins in 1990, is currently owned by Brentwood Associates PE and is headquartered in Chantilly, Virginia.


In 1990, the company was founded by Thomas M. Rollins, former Chief Counsel of the United States Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources.[3][4] Rollins had been inspired by a 10-hour videotaped lecture series by Irving Younger he watched while at Harvard Law School, and he began recruiting professors and experts to record lectures.[3][5] Rollins invested all his money in the company, at one point using up all his credit cards, selling almost all his suits from his Washington days, and living in an attic.[3] Because his company was for-profit, Rollins adapted course offerings to please customers; he threw out one course because the professor constantly insulted the viewers during lectures, and he asked some other professors to re-record segments that had unsupported political commentary.[3]

By 2000, the company was well established, with about $20 million (USD) in annual revenue.[3]

In October 2006, the company was acquired by Brentwood Associates, a private equity investment firm.[6]

In 2011 the firm had 200 employees.[3]

In 2016, the company began offering a streaming service, charging $20 (USD) per month, with on-line access to about 280 courses from its catalogue.[5] In April 2021, the company announced the rebranding of its global streaming platform from the Great Courses Plus to Wondrium, along with new licensing agreements to include content from Kino Lorber, MagellanTV, and Craftsy.[7]

Courses and instructors[edit]

As of December 2019, the company lists the following categories and numbers of courses:

  • Better Living (187)
  • Economics & Finance (27)
  • Fine Arts (31)
  • High School (39)
  • History (229)
  • Literature & Language (109)
  • Mathematics (48)
  • Music (36)
  • Philosophy & Intellectual History (120)
  • Professional (75)
  • Religion (83)
  • Science (191)

The following academics, among others, have authored courses. This list covers only instructors about whom an article exists.

Business model[edit]

Courses are offered on DVD, direct Internet download (video or audio), or streaming. In 2018, the firm's competitors included MOOCs such as Coursera and Khan Academy.[5] In 2016, the firm was earning $150 million annually in revenue.[5]

The target market for the courses is primarily "lifelong learners".[5] Customers tend to be older professionals and retirees who have had successful careers.[5][3] As of 2018, the catalog included over 600 different courses, ranging in cost from US$35 to over US$500.[5]

The firm sometimes sends recruiters to sit in on the lectures of college professors identified as being good teachers, to assess whether they might be suitable for course development; the best prospects would do a lecture for the Teaching Company, and if enough customers liked what they saw, the company would develop the course.[3] Professors submit detailed outlines for each course, and company personnel would work with them to make sure that each 30 minute lecture was coherent and logical.[3]

The production quality of the courses is "a cut above" free courses offered on YouTube, according to a report in The New York Times.[5] Chief executive Paul Suijk described The Great Courses as the "Netflix of learning".[5] Bill Gates has been a fan of the series.[8]


American conservative analysts described the social science courses offered by The Teaching Company as more suitable to general audiences than what is offered at traditional American liberal arts colleges. Noting that the company's audience is not similar to current U.S. college admissions, the indicated result was that the catalog has had less emphasis on issues such as sexism and racism, more common to historical lenses used after the 1960s, to prioritise content that describes "everything the civilization has figured out so far and to discover new things". The conservative analysts further note that the survey format of instruction predominates, with few in-depth courses on Western-specific thinkers or philosophical schools, and more emphasis on covering the fundamentals of a subject, as if it were an introductory college course.[3]


  1. ^ Spangler, Todd (2021-04-27). "The Teaching Co. Wants Bigger Bite of Streaming With Rebranded 'Wondrium' Service". Variety. Retrieved 2022-12-23.
  2. ^ "The Great Courses Signature Collection Now Available Through Apple TV Channels". MacRumors. Retrieved 2022-12-23.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j MacDonald, Heather (2011-06-21). "Great Courses, Great Profits". City Journal (New York).
  4. ^ Bales, Kate (1994-02-16). "Ivy League Courses for Price of a Video". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2009-07-14. Retrieved 2009-06-21.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Max, Sarah (2016-05-27). "Born in the VCR Era, Great Courses Seeks to Evolve". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-03-27. ... top educators accessible to the masses, the Great Courses built a loyal audience of lifelong learners by making "the world's greatest professors" ...
  6. ^ Max, Sarah (2013-07-29). "If Its Customers Love a Business, This Equity Firm Does, Too". The New York Times.
  7. ^ "Leading Educational Streaming Platform, The Great Courses Plus, to Rebrand as Wondrium and Expand Nonfiction Content Offering for The Lifelong Learner". Yahoo Finance. Retrieved April 27, 2021.
  8. ^ Gates, Bill (2018-01-04). "The 4 Learning Hacks Bill Gates Swears By". Time magazine. Retrieved 2018-03-27. ...One of my favorite sources for interesting lectures is The Teaching Company. They get incredible professors to teach courses on pretty much every topic you can think of. I always take at least one of their DVDs to watch when I travel. Right now, I've got their courses on oceanography, the surveillance state, and physiology....


External links[edit]