A world-class liberal arts education for all
CourseWorld is a free library of the web’s best educational videos in the arts and humanities. A not-for-profit initiative, we want to make it easy for anyone to receive a world-class education in the classic liberal arts by giving everyone the chance to discover and watch exceptional content in one convenient place.
Our growing hub features more than 16,000 videos—all hand-selected, keyword-tagged, and indexed into more than 700 categories. A global grassroots project with a budget of $0, CourseWorld relies entirely on the efforts of freelance volunteers.
Join us, and together let’s craft a more thoughtful world.
1. Everyone in the world deserves a world-class education for free.
2. Educational videos should be easy to discover and access.
3. In a world that glorifies celebrities, sports and music icons, politicians, entrepreneurs, and the like, it’s time we turned teachers into rock stars.
4. Technology is only as good as the humanity behind it; people give meaning to platforms (e.g., via curating, categorizing, and crowdsourcing).
5. The liberal arts are core to who we are and merit the best resources we have.
Today, information is everywhere; wisdom is harder to find. The world needs better ways to discover what matters most.
When it comes to free educational videos online, YouTube is the largest outlet—a remarkable resource. But while the site is easy to search, it can be difficult to browse; there’s just too much content, the categories are too broad, and quality is inconsistent.
CourseWorld is a crowdsourced solution. We rely on site users and hand-picked volunteers to suggest and organize videos based on educational value and topical relevance. Like art gallery “curators,” we frame worthy educational works for visitors to easily discover and enjoy. Specifically, within the “Arts” or “Humanities,” each video is indexed up to three levels: Categories (e.g., “Literature”), Topics (e.g., “English Literature”), and Specialties (e.g., “Shakespeare”).
Decisions of how to sort this content are largely subjective, often echoing debates in academia itself. As such, we allow users to weigh in and correct mistakes, making this a project by the people, for the people, in the name of art and backed by online technology.
It’s our project to make sense of our world.
No employees or investors. CourseWorld is wholly the product of passionate volunteers—the site’s “co-creators” in every sense. (Learn how to intern/volunteer.)
Special gratitude is owed to our pioneer class. In the summer of 2013, 50 volunteers working virtually from around the world collaborated to index videos—from high schoolers to professors, from Boston to Botswana. Each tackled a specialty—or several.
Kudos to our star contributors, each of whom indexed several hundred videos: Nich Schools, Daya Bihm, Kevin Ogunniyi, Monica Bushling, Kevin Williams, Michael Marpaung, Sara Parker, Elisha Goberdon, Anna Romagnoli, Gloria Park, Veda Darling, Hunter Thomsen, Kyle Lesniewicz, Kate Kiley, Benny Mattis, Susan Mackey, Devan Manning, Christopher Marsala, Tati Wardi, Kylie Ladenburger, Sara Srisoonthorn, Anastassia Bougakova, James O'Connor, Jason Luna, Joe Misseri, Jordan Winn, Niamh Sheehan, Amber Ferrero Laub, Mary Harrison, Tram Nguyen, and Kelsey Hill.
The following volunteers also made a meaningful contribution: Sabrina Abdulla, Brian Belmont, Nneka Black, Srimayee Dam, Nikki Davis, Shannon Dutra, Nicholas Fernandez, Jacqui Hertz, Phil Hong, Fay Huang, Margo Jacobsen, Tumo Masire, Michael McGrath, and Madeline St. Amour.
Additional thanks are owed to YouTube itself (for hosting the content) and to the true heroes—those “content creators,” the teachers. Much is owed to the instructors and institutions that perform the greatest public work and share it freely. This site is honored to play a small role in spotlighting your essential work.
Learn More OUR STORY
You should’ve been there. Stunning theories, lively anecdotes, raucous jokes—this lecture had it all. For 90 minutes, the Oxford literature professor practically danced behind the lectern singing, laughing, nearly crying as he imparted a lifetime of learning to a rapt audience—of three.
“Nice job,” I muttered, shuffling out, feeling grateful but somehow uneasy. This amazing lecture: Was it simply over, never to be seen again? A performance for a privileged few—the handful of students who happened to show up on a cloudy morning in 2002? What could be done?
CourseWorld began as a failed grant proposal (linked above) in 2005. Titled “NetLecture,” the idea of the site was similar to how it now appears—as a catch-all portal for vetted videos in the arts and humanities. The larger vision: Create a nonprofit, non-commercial video library co-operated by universities (i.e., not companies) in a consortium of sorts. The proposal was lightly circulated to foundations and schools but—fairly enough—deemed impractical and expensive. It was dropped.
The first line of the proposal quoted Victor Hugo: “No army can withstand the strength of an idea whose time has come.” In a way, that time is now. Technology is cheaper; bandwidth faster; content abundant; and public interest in online education is on the rise. The age of e-learning has arrived—and with it, a wealth of worthy tools and efforts.
Thankfully, the “consortium” concept has been realized (e.g., by EdX). And yet, the web still lacks a comprehensive repository for higher education videos—much less, one dedicated to the liberal arts. So, starting in the summer of 2013, volunteers assembled to build CourseWorld as a modest effort to help fulfill this basic need.
Justin Belmont is the founder and CEO of CourseWorld. The site is funded by modest personal savings. After receiving an MFA from Columbia’s School of the Arts in 2008, Justin served as the internal editor-in-chief at Google and then as director of communications for Endeavor, a nonprofit social enterprise. Based in New York City, he is founder and editor-in-chief of Prose Media, a writing service for businesses and nonprofits. He has published two books, formerly managed Columbia’s arts and literature journal, and has written for a variety of national publications. He has founded several enterprises. While he loves the arts, he can only draw stick figures. Learn more about Justin on LinkedIn.
“Only through art can we emerge from ourselves and know what another person sees.”
- Marcel Proust