Rather than subjecting yourself to a mind-numbing straight-to-DVD movie on your next business trip, try passing the time on the flight by watching something that can actually boost your knowledge.  

Starting this week, Virgin America is offering free in-flight audio/video college lectures through the airline's Red in-flight entertainment console. The lectures come from The Great Courses, a 530-title library of recorded lectures from renowned professors including "The Inexplicable Universe: Unsolved Mysteries" by Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium; and "What is Big History?" by David Christian, history professor at Australia's Macquarie University. Other on-demand topics include ancient Egyptian history, cooking like a pro chef, and the art of high-stakes decision-making.

The move by Virgin America could signal a new trend of in-flight education. JetBlue launched a similar initiative in December, offering marketing classes from University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, as well as the Berklee College of Music's intro to guitar class and an astronomy course from the University of Edinburgh. Each lecture is part of a full course offered through Coursera, a massive open online course (MOOC) platform. 

Virgin America will rotate in new courses every month, according to Money magazine. Take advantage of all the offerings on the plane you can--when you return from your trip, viewing the Great Courses lectures online is decidedly not free.