The Floating University

Current Course Offering:
Great Big Ideas: An Entire Undergraduate Education While Standing on One Foot

Course Overview


In the Fall of 2011 Big Think teamed up with the Jack Parker Corporation to launch The Floating University, an online educational initiative that debuted at Harvard University, Yale University, and Bard College. Seeking to upset the status quo, evolve the structure of higher education, and democratize access to the world's best thinkers, FU's inaugural course, Great Big Ideas, became the most requested class at all three schools where it was offered. FU spearheaded the movement toward open-access higher education, with a focus on professional production values, ease-of-use, top academic talent, and online collaboration between individual learners and participating institutions. Since that time we've seen Harvard, MIT, Stanford, and many more of our best universities take the leap forward, and now, one year after our beta launch, we're pleased to present portions of the Great Big Ideas course offering to all comers. No fees, no sign-ups: just pure, unadulterated learning from the best minds academia has to offer, aided by Floating University's arresting style and Hollywood production values. Members of our inaugural class retain full and unfettered access to the original e-learning platform via the Sign In link in the upper right hand hand corner. 

Our inaugural course, Great Big Ideas, delivers the key takeaways of an entire undergraduate education. It's a survey of twelve major fields delivered by their most important thinkers and practitioners. Each lecture explores the key questions in the field, lays out the methods for answering those inquiries and explains why the field matters. The course is a primer in the diverse modes of problem solving essential for success in the 21st century.

A wide range of subjects are covered including Psychology, Economics, Biomedical Research, Linguistics, History, Political Philosophy, Globalization, Investing and more. Within each topic, we will discuss the most current, innovative ideas in the field, dissect them, and look at how they impact not only the world-at-large, but our own lives as well. How does Demography predict our planet's future? How is Linguistics a window to understanding the brain? What are the fundamentals of successful Personal Finance and Investing? Each of these lectures is presented by top experts from top institutions around the country.

Individual learners will find all Great Big Ideas course materials presented in an intuitive, self-guided format. There are no tests or written assignments, just straightforward, easy-to-access videos, readings, and discussions that allow you to learn what you want at your own pace and participate in a global knowledge forum. Get Started now, or keep reading to learn more about the future of higher education.

Learn the secrets of universe
from Dr. Michio Kaku



Learn about the future of globalization
from Lawrence Summers


Who Should Take Great Big Ideas?


Great Big Ideas benefits a wide variety of learners. The exposure to a comprehensive selection of academic subjects will provide insight and guidance to high school students and people early in their college careers who want to explore different major options, or develop an interdisciplinary approach to their chosen fields.

The course is also ideal for learners of any age who wish to gain access to the country’s top academics and develop their problem solving skills and innovative faculties. Those involved with continuing education can also petition their schools to accept the Great Big Ideas course for credit. Anyone who takes the course will learn how to think better, bigger, and more creatively, skills that will improve everything from your household budgeting, personal relationships, and critical engagement with media to your career, political, and entrepreneurial prospects.

The Floating University is completely free and requires no sign-ups or trials. Learn the basics of our approach to online learning, or simply jump to our Lectures page to start your journey through the Great Big Ideas course. Still not convinced? Keep reading to find out what FU can do for you.


Learn the ins and outs of finance and
investing from William Ackman


What Can FU Do For You?


Great Big Ideas provides more than just a survey of the 12 academic subjects represented. It is our firm belief that more than hoarding specific knowledge, the innovators and thought-leaders of the future must be able to draw connections between fields once treated independently.

Moreover, there is an increasing separation between the hard sciences and the humanities, as people are funneled toward niche specialties. The Great Big Ideas course seeks to flip this paradigm and teach independent learners the titular big ideas of each field, and help them develop the critical thinking skills to apply these ideas to other arenas of inquiry.

To succeed in the 21st century, you’ll need to draw connections that haven’t yet been drawn, find new perspectives on age-old problems, and develop interdisciplinary problem solving skills. By taking the Great Big Ideas course you’ll learn what the classics have to say about medical research ethics, what physicists can add to the political debate about entitlements, and how sociological insights can improve economic planning, and much more. Check out our syllabus, or jump right to our Lectures page to start learning.

NOTE: If you are an institution of higher learning interested in using Floating University course materials, please read our Terms of Use. All Floating University materials are copyrighted and may not be hosted on outside domains.


Learn about the astonishing gift of  
language from Dr. Stephen Pinker