Making Stars Out of University Professors

Portfolio Company: The Great Courses

The Great Courses, a Brentwood Associates portfolio company, is the nation’s leading developer and marketer of premium-quality media for lifelong learning and personal enrichment, but its television-quality studios in Chantilly, Va., also are a learning ground for the university professors that get behind the camera, reports the New York Times.

The professors, who deliver lectures on a wide range of subjects from game theory to ancient civilizations, receive coaching on how to adapt their classroom performance style to resonate with the company’s customers who will view or listen to the lectures in audio and visual formats.

“It had a transformative effect on me as a teacher,” said Jennifer Paxton, who teaches at the Catholic University of America and has recorded two history courses for the company and is working on a third. “One of the things they told me is that I should not hold back from really demonstrating the enthusiasm that I felt for the material. I think that, in a sense, I had drunk the academic Kool-Aid: You present something in a serious, sober manner.”