The best of college is now available, for free, without unpleasantries such as 8 a.m. classes, pop quizzes or term papers.

In a new deal with Google Video, the University of California-Berkeley is sharing with the public, via the Internet, dozens of videotaped seminars, speeches, special events and even entire courses taught by some of the campus' leading professors.

“It's click and play,'' says Dan Mogulof, director of public affairs at the university.

Easy to view and accessible to everyone, the Web site offers more than 100 introductory-level lectures in subjects such as physics, biology, chemistry, information systems and bioengineering. Viewers can't earn credit, but they don't have to find a parking space either.

“We are a public university,'' says Mogulof. “We have fabulous faculty and incredible events. We want to share the wealth across the state, country and world.''

Also online are a noontime poetry reading series, a debate over the politics of obesity and speeches by luminaries such as economist Robert Reich, who proposed that a Massachusetts liberal will be the next president.

A growing number of universities are providing audio and video recordings of campus events. But at most schools, including Stanford and Santa Clara University, public access is limited to public lectures and sporting events. Complete course lectures are available only to registered students.

UC-Berkeley is the first campus to post entire course lectures online and the only school with its own page on the Web site of Google Video, a new, vast and often chaotic video marketplace that features everything from “I Love Lucy'' reruns to amateur footage of car crashes and cats flushing toilets.

“We're the first, but we expect others to follow suit,'' says Obadiah Greenberg, who helped design the project with UC-Berkeley's Educational Technology Services.

The campus already offers free videotaped course lectures and special events through a campus-based Web site ( But that site – which offers live and on-demand archives of lectures, including “administrivia” – requires installation of the program RealPlayer.

The Google Video project will be easier for those less technologically inclined – including legions of older Cal alumni, nostalgic for the intellectual inspiration of faculty members, says Mogulof. The Google site is more polished than the university's Webcasts, with higher resolution and light editing.

The school also uses iTunes to deliver podcasts of audiotaped course material. Users download the lectures individually or subscribe to semester-long podcasts, which transfer new sessions to MP3 players when connected to a computer.

“Google appreciates the opportunity to partner with progressive universities like UC-Berkeley to make undiscovered lectures and entire courses available to our users,'' according to a press statement by CEO Eric Schmidt, a Cal graduate.

“UC-Berkeley's content – much of which wasn't easily accessible online – will enhance the comprehensive and diverse range of offerings by Google Video,'' he says.

At Stanford University, audiotaped course recordings are available on iTunes, but only to students. The university is planning to record and post several courses for its Web site, available to the public later this year or in January, says Scott Stocker, director of Web communications for Stanford.

While Stanford is researching the possibility of video coverage, Stocker says that he believes audio is often a more effective teaching tool than video.

“You can listen on mobile devices, untethered from the computer,'' he says.

“Stanford is definitely exploring ways to make course content available on the Internet through a variety of distinct mechanisms,'' says Stocker. “We have had some discussions with Google Video but haven't made any agreement yet.''

“New technologies emerge so quickly,'' he says. “We are trying out a variety of them.''

Says UC-Berkeley's Greenberg: “There is a move in higher education to provide open access. We look forward to more schools joining us.''

More than 250 hours of UC-Berkeley content is now available online (

© 2006, San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.).

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