Online Discussion Courses

Online Discussion Courses

Great Discourses uses the latest web-conferencing technology to host live, interactive discussion courses that combine the experience and quality of traditional in-person discussions with the convenience and affordability of online access. Participation requires an Internet-enabled computer or mobile device.

Read and Discuss the Best

Courses range from the ancient to the modern and the sacred to the secular, and often combine texts in unusual ways that highlight each work’s unique characteristics. Every course aims to help participants develop a deeper understanding of the text(s) being studied, the world around them, and themselves. And every instructor is a professional devoted to the close reading and careful analysis of the text(s) being studied; to the cultivation of students’ critical thinking, critical empathy and collaboration skills; and to the facilitation of individual and collective “Aha!” moments of profound discovery not easily attained through solitary reading, passive consumption of lectures and programs, or amateur book groups.

For Adults from All Walks of Life

Courses are open to adults from all walk of life (and mature teens with parental consent) but class sizes are limited in order to provide educational experiences of the highest-possible quality. No specialized prior knowledge or experience is required. Students typically do a modest amount of reading homework in preparation for each live class session, but there are no papers, no tests and no grades; and all readings and discussions are in English. Most courses are eligible for Continuing Education Units (CEU) as well as tuition discounts and waivers for qualified students.

Course Formats

Courses vary in course length and class duration. Courses typically consist of either of 4, 7, or 11 weekly class sessions, with individual class sessions lasting either 1:45 (one period with no break) or 2:45 (two 1:15 periods with a 15-minute break in the middle). Most courses offer two sections scheduled for different days of the week and different times of day. Students register and regularly attend the section that is most convenient for them but may attend the other section from time-to-time if needed.

Course Sequences

Some courses are designed and offered as part of a sequence of related courses. Unless otherwise noted, courses may be taken individually.

Not ...

In short, Great Discourses online discussion courses are not lectures, webinars or MOOCs; they are simply traditional live, interactive discussion courses that take place in a new venue — the online classroom.

The Zoom Online Classroom

Live, online discussions of classics take place in an online classroom hosted by Zoom (“The Cloud Meeting Company”). Participation in the online classroom requires an Internet-enabled computer or mobile device (preferably with a webcam) running free software downloaded from Zoom — as well as a suitable local study space. To ensure the best experience for themselves and their classmates, participants are strongly encouraged to use a headset with a boom microphone or earbuds with an inline microphone.

The Collaboratory Online Course Center

In addition to using an online classroom to host live, interactive discussions, Great Discourses uses an online learning environment called the Collaboratory ( to manage its ongoing educational activities. Participation in a Great Discourses discussion course requires a Collaboratory user account in order to access information about the course and to communicate with the instructor and classmates. The Collaboratory user account is free, easy to set up and can be closed at any time.

Master Challenging Classics Yourself, Together

We invite you to try a free online introductory class and participate in an upcoming online discussion course. You can also join our newsletter to get advance announcements about limited-enrollment courses, classes and events — plus exclusive money-saving offers — delivered directly to your inbox. We think you’ll find Great Discourses to be a great addition to your life and we look forward to meeting you. Please contact us if you have questions or want additional information.


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Sample Online Discussion Course
Great Discourses
Watch an excerpt of a Great Discourses online discussion course in action.
Blaise Pascal
Mathematician and Philosopher
17th Century, France
“People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come in to the mind of others.”