Thousands flock to register for WBS' first MOOC

27 September 2013

NIck Chater

Warwick Business School’s first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) has reached its subscription limit in less than 48 hours.

The University of Warwick is one of a host of higher education institutions signed up to the new UK-led online platform FutureLearn.

It launched on September 18 with Warwick Business School’s course ‘The Mind is Flat: The Shocking Shallowness of Human Psychology’, which has been devised by Professor of Behavioural Science Nick Chater, one of an initial batch of 30 offered on FutureLearn.

And less than two days later the six-week course was full up, with thousands registering to learn more about Warwick Business School’s research. The course starts on November 4, with plans already in place for a second running of it in early 2014.

The University of Warwick is now planning a second MOOC on the life, times and work of William Shakespeare, which will be in partnership with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT). It will be illustrated by rare items from Shakespeare’s time held by the SBT in their archive and which have not previously been seen by the public.

Professor Mark Taylor, Dean of WBS, said: “This is wonderful news. To have so many people interested in the first Warwick MOOC and to hit the maximum number of subscribers so quickly is very exciting. People have registered from all over the world and this course will really help to spread the word about the cutting-edge research that is being done here at Warwick University.

“It really shows the global potential for MOOCs out there and the appetite for learning. Nick Chater’s course has obviously caught the imagination of the public and I hope people will not only enjoy learning about Behavioural Science but be inspired to find out more about this burgeoning subject - perhaps by studying in person here at Warwick.”

Those registering are from all over the world, from countries as diverse as Indonesia, Peru, Mexico and Iran, with an age range from 17 to 70, and from all walks of life:  pensioners, journalists, businessmen, full-time carers, IT workers and many other fields.

‘The Mind is Flat: The Shocking Shallowness of Human Psychology’ will challenge the received notion that people have 'deep' motives and beliefs that govern our behaviour. 

Instead, Professor Chater will argue through experiments and research that our choices and actions are made up 'on the spot' using surprisingly shallow rules, which we later rationalise post hoc, and that our behaviour is often astonishingly unstable. Professor Chater will explore the implications of this viewpoint for understanding ourselves, our society, and our ethical choices and will look at the hidden psychological forces behind business and society.

The course will also include appearances by Financial Times journalist Tim Harford and Lord (Gus) O’Donnell, the Warwick alumnus and former Head of the British Civil Service who formed the Government’s ‘Nudge Unit’ to apply Behavioural Science to policy problems, to which Professor Chater is an advisor.

Professor Chater is head of Warwick Business School’s pioneering Behavioural Science Group, the biggest of its kind in Europe, and believes MOOCs can not only democratise knowledge but allow universities to reach a wider audience.

“Our course is a taster for what we have on offer at Warwick Business School - exciting, cutting edge perspectives on human behaviour, organisations, business and society,” said Professor Chater

“The emergence of MOOCs is a very exciting development in education. FutureLearn is a platform that we can use to share our knowledge and research with more people and hopefully to encourage people to find out more about research frontiers being explored at Warwick and elsewhere.

“People will be able to find out about the latest developments in many subjects through MOOCs. I would still expect, though, that there will be a continuing strong demand for the personal interactions with academics and fellow students which is an integral part of an undergraduate degree, Masters or MBA.

“Our everyday conception of how our mind works is profoundly misleading. We are victims of an ‘illusion of mental depth’ - we imagine that our thoughts and behaviours arise from hidden motives and beliefs and that we can understand ourselves by somehow uncovering these hidden forces, whether through therapy, lab experiments or brain scanning.

“This course will show you that the very idea of these ‘mental depths’ is an illusion. When this is stripped away, our understanding not only of minds, but also morality, markets and society is transformed.”

To find out more about FutureLearn and Warwick Business School’s course ‘The Mind is Flat: The Shocking Shallowness of Human Psychology’ go to

Professor Nick Chater teaches Behavioural Sciences for the Manager on the Warwick Executive MBA and the Principles of Cognition on MSc Business.


Join the conversation

WBS on social media