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Tuesday, 18 August 2015

ISB’s first MOOC on happiness brings much joy to B-school

So, you want to be happy all the time? Buying that new car or new gadget hasn’t delighted you? You could sign on, then, like 57,000 others around the world have, for Dr Raj Raghunathan’s six-week online course on happiness, available free on Coursera.

This course, based on an award-winning class offered both at the Indian School of Business and at the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas, Austin, developed by Prof Raj Raghunathan (aka ‘Dr Happy-smarts’; he says he lucked out in the happy department and ranks himself 8 on a happiness scale of 10!) draws content from a variety of fields, including psychology, neuroscience, and behavioural decision theory to “offer a tested and practical recipe for leading a life of happiness and fulfilment.”
Launched in June, the six-week online course has already seen 80,147 visitors, as of date, visiting the website and 57,019 enrolments. Prof Raghunathan expects 10 per cent of those enrolled to finish the course every week. So, evidently, there are a lot of unhappy people out there searching for the holy grail of happiness.
Money can’t buy joy
When BLoC caught up with the happy Prof, wearing shorts and a half-sleeved shirt, in his room at ISB for a conversation, and asked him about the joyful sizzle on Coursera, he says gleefully: “Yes, it’s gratifying to see it’s struck a chord. A very big reason is that there’s a lot of people in the world who know it as a matter of personally experienced truth, as opposed to knowing at a conceptual level, that the more the wealth, status and other external symbols, they don’t necessarily add up to a fulfilling, happy life. In India, if you posed this question 30 years ago, people used to say ‘let me get there first’, but now that many people have money and status, they realise it really can’t buy happiness.”
The course, he says, is a light-hearted approach to happiness, though very vigorous. “There’s a whole field of positive psychology, where there have been thousands of papers. I have synthesised a lot of material for this course,” he says.
Action-plan for happiness
The course will feature guest appearances by several well-known thought leaders, including Dan Ariely (author of Predictably Irrational and the soon to be released Irrationally Yours), Ed Diener (‘Dr Happiness’), Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (author of Flow), Barbara Fredrickson (author of Positivity and Love 2.0), Marshall Goldsmith (author of What Got You Here Won’t Get You There and Triggers), Art Markman (author of Smart Thinking and Smart Change), and Srikumar Rao (author of Are you ready to succeed? and Happiness at Work). Prof Raghunathan says whoever wants can finish the course in two days, though he recommends six weeks as that’s how long it will take to absorb the learnings.
“My focus is a very practical objective; give a good conceptual understanding of what it takes to lead a happy life and what are the common pitfalls or traps one can fall into and how they can avoid them; and give people a chance to develop their own action plan for a life of happiness and fulfilment. If people can form those habits recommended, and are diligent with lectures and exercises, then what I call sins can be mitigated. And if that happens, you can have a deeper understanding of the science of happiness and be a happier person,” elaborates the happy Prof.
(Watch a video of Prof Raghunathan talking on whether happiness can actually be taught in a course).
(This story first appeared in BusinessLine on Campus website.)
(This article was published on August 17, 2015)

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