As I head into the sixth and final week of “A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior,” a Coursera MOOC,* I have to proclaim my enthusiasm for the course as well as its format. I’ve enjoyed this course more than nearly any other course I’ve ever taken—free or paid—and found both the subject matter and presentation of the course fascinating.
(A note before I proceed: I had already read two of this course instructor’s books and developed a fascination with the topics before I even knew about this course. Thus, I was somewhat “primed” to enjoy the instructor’s style and the course content. Would I have found the course as appealing had I not had some base knowledge already? I cannot say.)
In this MOOC, Dan Ariely, a researcher and author in the area of behavioral economics as well as an instructor at Duke University, shares research findings—which also appear in his three books (Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality, and The Honest Truth about Dishonesty)—generously and humorously through lecture videos. These videos are made more “personal” by pausing periodically for quiz and survey questions. Guest speakers also enhance the course through video, and a number of Google+ Hangouts with Ariely and guests also make up part of the course.
Ariely assesses students through two weekly multiple-choice quizzes—one covering lecture content and one covering the readings, a short paper due in Week 5, and a final exam. As is true for other MOOCs, students are not required to complete assessments unless they want to earn a certificate at the end of the course. I have enjoyed this course so much that I do want the certificate, so I am completing all assessments and hope to earn a sufficient overall score to receive the certificate after the course is done.
Of course, Ariely is not the only person responsible for such a great course. An entire team at Duke has done a fabulous job designing the course site, developing engaging videos, making Google+ Hangouts available, and giving Ariely a “superhero” aura. As an instructional designer, I realize the time and effort this must have required on the part of everyone involved, and I appreciate how hard each person must have worked to make the course successful.
If you’re looking for a free online course that is as thought provoking and educational as (and maybe better than) a typical university course might be, seek out this MOOC or any other that Ariely and his team provide. You won’t be disappointed.
*MOOC: Massive Open Online Course