Wondrium is a subscription-based video streaming service that's also an online learning site. If you were familiar with The Great Courses Plus, Wondrium is the new, rebranded version of that old site. Much of the content comes from the now-retired The Great Courses Plus, and there's new content, too, thanks to partnerships with a few nonfiction video production companies. The style for many of the courses resembles a series of TV lectures or simple documentaries. To classify Wondrium as a streaming service feels apt because you can watch video courses not only on your computer, but also via Apple TV, Roku, and other devices. The service teaches you about philosophy, religion, and the natural world from your couch.
Wondrium is ideal for couch-side edutainment. It's not as helpful as some other sites for learning hands-on skills or achieving a specific learning goal, though it does have some skills-focused classes. For hands-on skills, you're better off with a site that speaks to exactly what you want to learn, whether it's management training, fine arts, software skills, or something else.
How Much Does Wondrium Cost?
To watch courses on Wondrium, you need a subscription and you have three options: monthly ($20 per month), quarterly ($45 per quarter), or annual ($150 per year).
You can get a free trial only after you put down your payment details, and the length of the trial varies based on which subscription you choose. Sign up for the monthly plan and you get a 14-day free trial, whereas the quarterly and annual plans come with a 22-day trial. Again, you must put down your credit or debit card details first, which means you have to remember to cancel if you don't want to be charged.
The cost of other learning sites varies tremendously. MasterClass, for example, costs $180 per year, and you can pay more than that if you want to watch offline and stream on multiple devices simultaneously (i.e., share your login with someone else). Skillshare, which is focused on teaching skills related to creative fields, costs only $29.88 per year. LinkedIn Learning costs considerably more at $239.88 per year.
Some learning sites, such as Udemy, let you pay for each class that you want rather than charge a subscription fee. Udemy does offer subscriptions as well, but you don't need one if you're interested in just a specific course or two.
There's a streaming service focused on documentaries called CuriosityStream that costs as little as $20 per year. It's fairly similar to Wondrium, except that Wondrium has more lecture-style content, whereas CuriosityStream tends to look more like episodic television.
Courses on Wondrium are, by and large, styled as lecture series, and they are all videos. A few are done in a tutorial style. Some come with an accompanying PDF of course material. The courses cover topics such as history, science, art history, math, science, travel and culture, among others. As mentioned, some courses are more focused on concrete skills, such as cooking and playing musical instruments, and they're almost all branded content from partners, such as Craftsy and CLI Studios. While Wondrium is certainly educational, it does not offers certificates or accredited courses. It's more along the vein of educational television.
If you're keen to learn something specific, it's to your advantage to head to a learning site that caters to what you want. For example, LinkedIn Learning has a lot of content specific to learning business skills, such as management and leadership, as well as software skills, such as Photoshop. That makes sense given LinkedIn's business focus. For academic subjects, including the math and physics background you'd need to get through the US school system, Khan Academy (free) is one of the best resources. For creative skills, such as sewing and drawing, Skillshare is much more useful. The lessons from Craftsy on Wondrium do cover drawing, cooking, sewing, woodworking, and so forth, but Skillshare simply has a lot more variety and depth in what it offers related to creative fields. Wondrium's sweet spot is content catering to your curiosity, not your need to be a better manager, pass an exam, or run a business selling handmade candles.
Your Wondrium Account
Once you have a Wondrium account, you'll want to explore the catalog to see what there is to learn. The homepage shows you some suggested courses. A search bar lets you look for courses by keyword. You can browse by category, such as art, business and finance, history, literature, mathematics, music, philosophy and religion, and so on. You can also view all content available from one of the partners. I mentioned Craftsy already, and CLI Studios, which teaches dance. Other partners include Magellan, with nonfiction videos similar to what you might find on The History Channel, and Commune, which makes videos related to health and wellness.
When a course catches your eye, the best way to remember it is to save it to your Program Watchlist. The Watchlist is nothing more than a list of courses you've saved. Something that isn't immediately apparent is that you can add individual lessons (i.e., single videos instead of entire courses) to a separate Episodes Watchlist. It's not clear that you can save episodes until you start exploring a course and see the option alongside each lesson description and thumbnail image.
I'd love to see a few more options for managing the Watchlist, such as being able to create multiple lists and add labels. For example, I might want to save courses on cooking separately from history courses, but Wondrium doesn't offer anything so advanced at this time.
As you play through the videos in each course, Wondrium keeps track of your progress, making it easy to pause and resume at any time.
What Are Wondrium Courses Like?
To get a sense of Wondrium's courses, I first watched several hours of a linguistics course about language families of the world by John McWhorter, a professor at Columbia University. Then I moved onto a baking course about making croissants. Back when The Great Courses Plus was still around, I had watched a series on the geology of US national parks and another called Survival Mentality: The Psychology of Staying Alive. Both of those courses are exactly the same now that they're part of Wondrium.
All the courses are broken into lessons that are roughly the same length. Many lessons run about 25–30 minutes, although I stumbled across some courses with videos that are much shorter.
Every course I watched had a professional, highly produced quality. For the most part, you're watching someone talk. In the baking course, the instructor, Colette Christian, shows you how to do each step of her recipe, so it looks like a standard cooking show. You get close-up shots of the dough as she's working with it as well as wide shots of her talking you through the technique. The linguistics course is simply McWhorter speaking on a studio stage with a few overlays of text to better show you relationships between words or languages. The geology course incorporates a lot of cutaways of photographs, maps, and videos of some of the spectacular sights you see in the national parks.
Depending on the type of course you're watching, what you see can be a little boring, which is fine if you like to multitask while listening to a course.
The instructors are professionals in the their fields, though they're not typically celebrities. For example, I was familiar with John McWhorter prior to watching his Wondrium linguistics course, but I wouldn't be surprised if most people had never heard of him before. What you don't get on Wondrium are unvetted amateurs uploading courses to the platform. Sites such as Teachable let anyone develop and upload a course. While you may find rather instructive content on Teachable or even YouTube for that matter, there's no guarantee of the quality. Wondrium doesn't have that issue at all. All the content is professionally created and produced.
Wondrium's video player is nearly identical to the one used in The Great Courses Plus. It offers closed captioning in English. You can change the resolution of the video player to accommodate a slow internet connection. An Accessibility Adjustments panel lets you toggle on and off an array of settings, from a seizure safety switch to an ADHD-friendly option.
Sometimes when you're in the middle of watching a video, you want to quickly check how many lessons you have left or other details about the course. Because of the way Wondrium sets up its video player, you can't see that information while you're watching. In The Great Courses Plus, you could, and you can in MasterClass as well. A workaround in Wondrium is to simply open another tab and navigate to the course page. The video will continue to play even if you're actively in another tab or window.
Interactivity and Course Material
Depending on the courses you choose, course materials may be included. Materials are typically a PDF with a summary of points from the course or printed instructions. In some cases, like with recipes, they're helpful to have.
You don't get any interactivity from a community of learners, which is probably fine for most people. Wondrium does allow members to leave reviews of courses, and some of them can be quite lengthy. If you're looking for an online learning environment that fosters participation and interactivity, Skillshare and Coursera offer more.
For Curious Dabblers
The type and variety of content that Wondrium offers is indeed growing, but it still seems best for people who want to dabble in subjects that pique their curiosity. If you like watching lectures made for TV, Wondrium gives you much to explore. Perhaps you'll see the course on croissant-making and think, "That sounds interesting. I'd like to try that." But if you're keen to master, say, dough lamination, you'll want a learning service that offers you multiple croissant courses and maybe a few on puff pastry, too. Skillshare has that. Or maybe you're really interested in becoming a better baker overall, in which case you might sign up for MasterClass and work your way through hundreds of hours of lessons with Dominique Ansel (French pastry), Joanne Chang (cookies, pies, brioche, cakes), and Apollonia Poilâne (bread making).
Our Editors' Choice winners among learning services are MasterClass for inspiration and insight from masters in their fields; SkillShare for helping creative types with specific skills; Khan Academy for academic learning (K-12); and Coursera for access to university courses.
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Per Month, Starts at $20.00
The Bottom Line
The educational video service Wondrium, formerly known as The Great Courses Plus, satisfies curious minds that like to dabble in a variety of subject matter. It's not targeted at people wanting to learn specific skills, however.
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