Friday, January 30, 2009

UCSD's lecture podcasts

The University of California in San Diego (UCSD) has its own particularities of posting lecture series as podcasts on line. This will be a longer post in which I will sum up a couple of generalities I think I have figured on the basis of a combination of lectures.

All of the current podcasts by UCSD can be found on their, clear and accessible podcast website. This site, however, is redone at the start of every new learning cycle and at the same time, almost all of the feeds are removed. It is therefore always recommended to download UCSD lectures as soon as you can.

In addition, UCSD spends no time on the post-production of the podcasts. You get the lectures as is, with silences, interruptions, disturbances and whatever is the result of failures during recording. The recordings are apparently automatic and so they start at the proposed time, even if lecture was canceled, microphone not applied, an exam is held or lecture starts earlier or later. Similarly at the end. The recording stops at exactly the allocated 50 or 120 minutes regardless whether lecture has long ended or is still going on.

If you are ready to bear with all this, you can embark on a learning journey. I have picked up the following courses for you:

CAT 2 - Culture, Art & Technology II (feed) Cultural history series that tries to show the dialectic of knowledge and society. Professor Tal Golan (previous review)
HUM 4 - Enlightmnt,Romnt,Rev/1660-1848 (feed) a lecture series in the humanities, trying to map the cultural development since the 17th century. Professor Eric Watkins.
MMW 2 - The Great Classical Traditions (feed) History of the classical era covering not just the west. Professor Charles Chamberlain. (previous review)
POLI 120A - Pol Develop of Western Europe (feed) Political science course that assesses European history and attempts to explain the kind of sovereignty that developed. Professor Victor Magagna (review by DIY Scholar )
PSYC 105 - Introduction/Cognitive Psych (feed) Introduction to cognitive psychology. Professor David Peterzell (review by DIY Scholar )
SOCD 188J - Change in Modern South Africa (feed) Overview of recent history in South Africa. Professor Ivan Evans (review by Baxter Wood )
SOCL 1B - The Study of Society (feed) Lecture series in Sociology. Professor Ivan Evans (review by DIY Scholar )
VIS 22 - Formations of Modern Art (feed) Art history class covering the last centuries of painting. Professor Salley Yard (review of previous course by Professor William Bryson)

What I found the courses have in common is a strong personal touch by the professor and a heavy theoretical leaning. This allows for fascinating, but very abstract and demanding lectures such as those by Tal Golan and Victor Magagna. It can mean the lecturer is rather exclusively showing his personal perspective and style such as Charles Chamberlain and Ivan Evans even if this is not the main stream. It can also result in a strong overlap between courses such as the one by Eric Watkins and Tal Golan.

What all of this boils down to is that generally the UCSD podcasts have a high entry threshold. If however, you are determined to apply yourself and your interest is raised by the professor's approach, you are in for a great and rewarding personal experience. Otherwise, the lectures are seriously off putting. Try half an hour in a series and you will know whether you have a course that might suite you. If it does, cherish it. If it doesn't, stop torturing yourself.

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