The Great Books Program consists of eight semesters (four years) of online classes meeting 2 hour per week, September-May, discussing the reading from one of the great classics of Western civilization – Great Books – done that week. The syllabus in the sidebar gives program details. Students do the weekly Great Books reading and meet for a two-hour weekly discussion with two highly experienced moderators very familiar with the readings, and up to 22 students online, including some from various States and often from various countries. 1800-2000 word essays are required each semester. Students must pass an oral exam online at the end of each semester.
The classes are conducted in a conversational or Socratic format. Our method of teaching by conversationally discussing questions and answers in a spirit of mutual inquiry and discovery dates back to Socrates and is at the heart of the Great Books and classical traditions. It leads students to develop and practice the liberal arts of listening, speaking, reading and writing as well as the habits of reflective, critical thinking. In this environment students begin to develop their thoughts and insights with care and confidence and learn how to express those ideas in the naturally delightful and liberating experience of genuine learning. In this way students gain understanding of their own natures and the nature of the world in which we all live. This makes for a better, examined and thoughtful life, a point on which all the sages who wrote the great books agree. Visitors are welcome to attend the classes to experience them. We have some audio clips of the classes classes posted online.
There are two modes to enroll and be in the classes: either for high-school-level credit, or for college-level credit (which also includes high school credit). We refer to these two modes of participation and enrollment as the high-school-track and the college-track. In addition to the study described above, college-track students must submit extensive weekly answers – mostly of the short essay-type – to the Great Books Study Guide questions which accompany each reading.
Two 1800-2000 word essays per semester are required of college track students. These are graded for content as well as for English language arts, including grammar, syntax, spelling, vocabulary and style. These essays together constitute ten percent (10%) of the semester grade. Students must pass an oral exam online at the end of each semester. The extensive weekly grading, the coordination with colleges, more involved assessment and so on, make the college-track tuition considerably more than the high-school-track. Students in the classes are generally unaware which students are doing it on the high-school-track, and which on the college-track, as it makes no difference in the online classes where they come into contact.
Students must be at least 14 years of age (or 9th grade) to enroll in the Great Books Program. There is no upper age limit. The magnificent quality of the books read and discussed –which Dr. Adler called the “backbone of a liberal education – invariably elevate the conversation and enlighten the intellects of participants. The specific readings selected are arranged chronologically beginning around Homer’s Illiad about ancient Greece (1st year), and continue through ancient Rome (2nd year), the Middle Ages (3rd year), and conclude in our time (Modern or 4th year). This is typical of Great Books programs at colleges and universities.
We have been doing this since our founding in 2000 A.D. We have had thousands of students, in over 40 countries, many of whom have graduated and attend numerous colleges and universities. Our program was successfully reviewed by the American Council on Education (ACE) which recommended it for 48 hours of college level credit. The American Council on Education’s College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE CREDIT) has evaluated and recommended college credit for 8 courses (totaling 48 credit hours – 6 per semester) of our Great Books Program. The American Council on Education, the major coordinating body for all the nation’s higher education institutions, seeks to provide leadership and a unifying voice on key higher education issues and to influence public policy through advocacy, research, and program initiatives. For more than 30 years, colleges and universities have trusted ACE CREDIT to provide reliable course equivalency information to facilitate their decisions to award academic credit.
The Great Books Program is a purely distance education program with only minimal technical support staff needed to assist its professors who moderate our weekly, online, live-audio (i.e., not recorded, no delayed “chat” rooms) classes from their homes or offices around the country. This dramatically reduces costs thus enabling more students to attend and complete these high school/college level Great Books courses who would otherwise not be able to do so.
The Great Books Program students do not need to be enrolled in the Angelicum Academy, nor to have come from that program, nor to have had the 3-8th grade Socratic classes. The Great Books Program is operated independently of these, though they were designed to dovetail. Most of our students have not come from the Angelicum Academy – they come from many programs, from charter schools, from public or private schools, and from homes not using any formal homeschool program. Over the years some schools have adopted all or parts of our curriculum.
Many years ago – from the Middle Ages to modern times – the Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree signified completion of the secondary level of education (following the elementary or primary level) and so readiness to enter into the third level of formal education – the university, for specialization in one’s chosen field. With that background in mind, Dr. Mortimer J. Adler wrote:
“If I had any hope that in the foreseeable future, the educational system of this country could be so radically transformed that the basic liberal training would be adequately accomplished in the secondary