Part of the campus at Yale

(thanks to a tablet, earphones and the Internet)

I received my Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard College, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1966. Who could have imagined that 50 years later I would be attending Harvard’s arch rival, Yale, located in New Haven, Connecticut? But that’s what is happening and I would like to explain how.

For the past seven years, Yale College has been videotaping some of its most popular college courses. They are recorded in the lecture hall in real time and they are the real thing: professors lecture and the students take notes and ask questions. Each one-semester course is made up of about 25 lectures, each about 50 minutes long. So far, 40 courses have been recorded and made available on the Internet. The video and sound are excellent. Of course, one receives no college credit for viewing the class - it is pure learning for learning’s sake. And it is absolutely free. That’s how I’m attending Yale from my home in Israel.

At Harvard, we were required to take four courses per semester – 32 courses in all – to earn our degrees. At present, I’m taking three courses at Yale, and it’s enough for me.

“Listening to Music” is taught by Craig Wright, a professor approaching retirement age. In each lecture he reveals a little about himself.  In playing a short selection by Chopin, he tells the class, “That is pure musical genius. In all my life, I’ve never had one second of creative musical inspiration. My life story is all about perseverance.” That moved me.

Prof. Jonathan Holloway, himself an African-American, teaches “African-American History: From Emancipation to the Present.” One can feel his anger as he recounts his people’s tragic history. In his opening remarks, he bristles: “Don’t think that the election of America’s first black president will solve our racial problems. They won’t. They are here to stay.”

Prof. Paul Bloom teaches “Introduction to Psychology.” He spices his lectures with humor. In talking about Sigmund Freud, he mentions that Freud was nominated twice for the Nobel Prize; once in medicine and once in literature. The award committee reached out to past recipients for their input. Albert Einstein advised against giving Freud the prize. “He’s only a psychologist,” he wrote.

That’s what makes these courses interesting and enticing – they have the feel of real human interaction.

I attend the lectures lying down, on the sofa during the day or in bed at night. I own a seven-inch tablet, which fits easily in my hands. I also use earphones. I am a very technologically challenged person, so if I can do it, you can do it too. The courses can be found at:  Give it a try.

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Words of encouragement to the sometimes lazy person... I would love to check out art and philosophy courses. Thank you.
haim lerner
Oh what a wonderful world we've become! Imagine a Harvard man becoming a Yalie while lying on his livingroom sofa in Israel, about as far away as you can get from New Haven, Ct.
thank you for this information -- the availability of free courses offered from Yale. I thank MY contact person in relaying this gem of a resource: Sandy Wasserman, a fellow traveler and learner and worker when we meet in during our volunteer mission in our beloved Israel.
Diane Romm
Great story and a wonderful incentive to make lifelong learning a reality!
emil murad
I love it . Please keep it . Looking forward to receiving more of your letters . Please keep in touch . I need a friend . You may be the one !
Talya Dunleavy
I can relate to your enjoyment of learning again at this point in life. I am currently close to retirement age (no such plans) studying (social sciences) full time and loving it .

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About the author

Eli Libenson

Eli Libenson is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York, and served as a Conservative rabbi in Plainview, NY, for 13 years before making aliyah in 1984. He taught junior ...

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