Review: One Day University Is a Low-Cost Way to Watch College Lectures

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One Day University; Alyssa Powell/Insider

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What it is: Live and pre-recorded lectures from top universities on interesting topics.

What it costs: Free with a 2-week trial; $8.95 per month after the trial ends

If you’ve ever lamented missing out on “fun classes” in college and wanted to revisit the experience — minus the sleep deprivation or shoestring budget — we recommend One Day University.

Like traditional academia’s spin on TED Talks or a much more varied version of the recently launched New Yorker Live event series, One Day U brings together world-renowned professors from some of the world’s top schools — like Harvard, Yale, and Columbia — who speak on diverse, interesting topics, from Four Films that Changed America to The Mind of Abraham Lincoln. A more intellectually nutritious alternative to ambient television, One Day University is a great way to learn something new without committing to a long course — each lecture is only about an hour long.

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One Day University/Business Insider

The site has a two-week free trial, after which access is $9 per month (it’s slightly cheaper if you buy an annual membership). With a subscription, you can watch live lectures or access the hundreds of past talks in the video library. There are also multi-lecture “premium courses” as well as access to special events with professors, small group discussions, and discounts to future live events.

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What role do money, IQ, marriage, friends, children, weather, and religion play in making us feel happier? Is happiness stable over time? How can happiness be increased? Professor Catherine Sanderson discusses positive psychology research.

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Yale’s Marc Lapadula highlights four films that, for better or worse, altered the course of American history.

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To understand Abraham Lincoln, Professor Masur believes you have to read him. Here, you’ll be invited to read and explore Lincoln’s writings in a seminar-like setting — and Masur will provide biographical information and analysis.

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This lecture analyzes power and influence in international politics and five individuals — some expected, others unexpected or unknown — who are really calling the shots in global affairs today.

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Georgetown’s Anna Celenza traces the origins of the distinctive “Sinatra Sound” and shows how, over the last half century, it’s influenced disparate musical styles and genres.

On top of only being about an hour-long on average, One Day U lectures are fast-moving and concise. The topics are diverse, and, in my experience, the professors are endearingly impassioned — like my favorite teachers typically are. That, plus their expertise, makes for an engaging one-sided conversation. I watched a handful of lectures — the art of aging, the science of happiness, how to watch movies like a film professor, and a 400-year history of religion in America — and loved every one. I also found the topics naturally bled into conversations with my friends and family, which gave us new things to talk about. And if you’re an auditory learner, as I am, you may find the lectures easier to retain than if you’d read the same information, especially now when so many of us are experiencing various stages of burnout.

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One Day University/Business Insider

You won’t find the same production value as MasterClass (my other favorite video-based edu-tainment option); these are cheaper, shorter, and as mercilessly lit as most college classrooms. But ultimately, it doesn’t really matter for 60 minutes. And, while MasterClass has the allure of celebrities, One Day U does have some academic rockstars — you just may not have heard of them before. This, too, is beside the point; You’ll learn something new from an impassioned expert who either spearheaded the theory or is at the frontier of the research.

This is not the best option for in-depth courses. We’d recommend Coursera, edX, Udemy, or FutureLearn for that. One Day U can entertain and teach you in a conversational way, but it doesn’t bestow any college credits or certifications.

If you’re sick of watching reruns and don’t have the bandwidth for a book, One Day University is fun and, given its brevity, surprisingly enriching to pop on while you eat dinner or fold the laundry. It’s also great if conversations have gotten stale in the group chat or in the virtual speed dating scene because nothing new is happening. It’s also ideal for anyone who’s homebound or social distancing and in need of anything fresh or stimulating — I’ve personally emailed my grandparents a link so they could watch, too.

Like listening to an audiobook, One Day U is a good, low-lift, low-commitment option for learning — or just being entertained. After the two-week free trial, it’ll cost you the same as one large coffee per month and deliver hours of enjoyment in return — including new topics to connect with people in your life.

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