I briefly mentioned finding the 2012 UCLA lecture series, ”History of Indian Civilization”, a couple days ago. I’m about halfway through and have found it thorougly illuminating. I learned a lot about India growing up, but never in a formal way, so it’s nice to have someone as skilled as Vinay Lal connect all the loose threads into a coherent history. One of the things that surprises me is that aside from the fact that classes are being streamed over the internet, there is nothing different than the lectures I skipped (I mean religiously attended!) about 20 years ago. It’s a large auditorium of students watching a very charismatic, knowledgeable speaker pacing at the front of the class, occasionally making mostly-legible markings on a chalkboard. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I learned a lot back in college and I’m enjoying these lectures immensely. It just seems strange that so little has changed in the university clasroom (at least this one from 2012) when so much has changed in the world at large.
Actually, I find it reassuring that little has changed, at least in some classes. There was a time when the ability to download the audio of any university class was absolutely new. For me, that was around 2002 or so. I listened to CS61A (UC Berkley’s intro to CS course) and a few other similar courses back then. The limitations of internet bandwidth and storage made anything more than audio difficult back then. But now with those barriers crushed, I was afraid that everything would be “multimedia”, and not amenable to listening while I commute to work. So, it’s reassuring to find that audio-only dissemination of knowledge is still a thing.