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.
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.