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Free Online Course Providers item created by MoocLab, Mar 20, 2015
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Gresham College is a bit of an oddity: a higher education establishment with no students, no courses and a total of eight professors... but a history dating back to its foundation in 1597. Originally founded by bequest with the intention of widening access to the new ideas that were appearing in the 16th Century, particularly to connect the worlds of commerce and academia, for example in improving navigation. In its early years it was instrumental in the formation of the Royal Society (the UK's national academy of science) to which it provided accommodation for some years.
While it was in the past involved in research the main focus (under the terms of the original bequest) has always been on providing free public lectures and these reached a height of popularity in the first decades of the last century. So what we now have is essentially an independent public educator served by eight distinguished Professors (each appointed for three years) who present, with guest speakers, as regular series of free lectures. The seven ancient chairs of Astronomy, Divinity, Geometry, Law, Music, Physic and Rhetoric where joined late in the last century by a Professor of Commerce. The areas covered by each Professor have been somewhat redefined over the centuries, for example 'Physic' covers medicine and biological sciences.
Coming up to date, Gresham College has long sought to distribute the content of its lectures beyond the audience actually present. Traditionally that was through the publication of transcripts (an early example, still extant, is from the mid-18th Century) and Gresham was among the first to make its lectures available as audio and video recordings as early as 1986 (audio) and 2000 (video). This means that there is now a substantial library of lectures on an amazing range of topics from some of the most distinguished speakers in their various fields and all freely available via the Gresham website.
What Gresham doesn't do is try to present 'courses' in the sense that they are understood in the current MOOC paradigm. Dip in, supplement courses you are taking elsewhere or simply enjoy exploring a new area. If you are in London, check out the upcoming lectures and consider taking advantage of the 400 year old legacy of Sir Thomas Gresham in person.
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