Yale’s most popular course ever is now online for free
The most popular course ever at Yale? Surely Political Science, CompSci, Global Affairs, one of those? They are the courses that young, ambitious ivy leaguers need to launch their professional careers, right?
Well, yes, but there’s one course that goes straight to the heart of what all that study is for: to get what you want out of life and be happy. And that is the course that a quarter of Yale’s intake signed up to this January, making it the most popular in the University’s 317-year history. Because what’s the use in having a great career if you don’t know how to enjoy it?
Psyc 157, Psychology and the Good Life was launched at Yale in January 2018 by Professor Laurie Santos and was an instant, massive hit with students. Prof. Santos conceived of the course partly in response to a 2013 report by the Yale College Council which uncovered a mental health crisis among Yale undergraduates. She attributed this to having had to to deprioritise their own happiness back at school in order to get into Yale, and in the process losing touch with how to be happy.
“Students want to change, to be happier themselves, and to change the culture here on campus,” Prof. Santos said in an interview. “With one in four students at Yale taking it, if we see good habits, things like students showing more gratitude, procrastinating less, increasing social connections, we’re actually seeding change in the school’s culture.”
Some students have suggested that the course is an easy option, with its lack of stressful exams and non-technical subject matter. But Prof. Santos refers to it as ‘The hardest class at Yale’ because it requires students to hold themselves accountable for real positive change in their lives.
The course became so oversubscribed that the Psychology department ran out of staff to teach it and had to draft in fellows from the School of Public Health. Which is apt, seeing as how demand for the course has overspilled the walls of Yale and attracted interest worldwide.
The course will not be taught at Yale again, due to the logistical demands of lecturing to over 1,200 students and “It wouldn’t be fair to other courses and departments to take all of their students away” (Dr. Ahn of the Psychology department).
Instead, Prof. Santos has adapted and abridged the course into a 6-week online program on Coursera that is free for anyone to take.
The first half of the course reveals misconceptions we have about happiness and the annoying features of the mind that lead us to think the way we do. The second half of the course focuses on activities that have been proven to increase happiness along with strategies to build better habits.
Let’s see if it becomes the most popular course on Coursera as well. It’s definitely an important one.