The Floating University

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

The Inaugural Course of The Floating University

Watch this video overview of Great Big Ideas. The Floating University e-learning platform is fully compatible with the iPad.


  • Duration: 12 lessons (40-60 mins per lesson)
  • 6-Month Subscription: $199

Course Overview

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. It is an effective introduction to thinking differently, and 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 and discussions presented in an intuitive, self-guided format on our exclusive e-learning platform. There are no tests or written assignments for individuals, 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.

Who Should Take Great Big Ideas?

Great Big Ideas will benefit a wide variety of students. 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 to 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.

What You’ll Gain From Taking the Course

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 thought independent.

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.

Learning Goals

• Learn the fundamentals of the 12 Great Big Ideas subjects.

  • After watching each lecture and meeting the assessment benchmarks, you will have a strong grasp on the central concepts of the study of demography, physics, political philosophy, linguistics, economics, psychology, sociology, investment, biomedicine, the arts, the classics, and education. 

• Draw connections between disciplines.

  • Using the core intellectual conceits provided by Floating University lecturers, you’ll gain fresh and unexpected insights into each field that would not arise if you learned about each topic in isolation. The dynamic approaches to problem solving you’ll learn from the course will permanently enrich your perspective and provide you with multidisciplinary tools to use in your life and career. 

• Participate in academic discourse.

  • Most correct solutions are reached through discussion, debate, and argument, and Great Big Ideas facilitates these dimensions of learning through our online e-learning platform. Students are encouraged to participate actively in the discussion questions posed by each Great Big Ideas lecturer, moderated by experts, and to post their own questions about what they don’t understand.

Readings: Every lecture in the Great Big Ideas course comes with an assigned reading list designed by the associated lecturer. Most of these readings are found in our course pack, which must be purchased separately for $107.45 through University Readers (select your State as Online and your School as The Floating University). Additionally, there are three books recommended for purchase: Moneyball by Michael Lewis, Analyzing Politics by Kenneth Shepsle, and Connected by Nicholas Christakis. Beyond the course pack and recommended books, the Great Big Ideas course provides a variety of free online and downloadable readings from the syllabus. 

This Week's Sample

Malthus Miffed: Are People the Problem, the Solution, or Both?

Joel Cohen, Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of Populations, Rockefeller University, Mathematical Biologist, Columbia University, looks at the global food crisis through the lens of demography. 


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