WBS set to launch course on pioneering FutureLearn

19 September 2013

Nick Chater

Warwick Business School is launching one of the first Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs) on the new UK-led  platform FutureLearn.

FutureLearn was launched on Wednesday September 18 and Warwick Business School, part of the University of Warwick, will see its first free online course go live on it on November 4.

The six-week course is entitled ‘The Mind is Flat: The Shocking Shallowness of Human Psychology’ and will challenge our notion that we have 'deep' motives and beliefs that govern our behaviour.  Instead, Professor Nick Chater, who has put the course together, 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.

Professor Nick 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.”

‘The Mind is Flat’ will also feature interviews with Financial Times journalist Tim Harford, the former Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service Lord O’Donnell and many more, with Professor Chater adding that the course will reveal a new understanding as to how we make decisions and interact.

“Our everyday conception of how our mind works is profoundly misleading,” said Professor Chater. “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.”

Dean of Warwick Business School, Professor Mark Taylor, believes MOOCs are part of the future of education and Universities should embrace them.

“Universities historically have always reached out to their local community, but now they are reaching out to their global community,” said Professor Taylor.

“A MOOC is a way of being philanthropic and offering knowledge globally at a low or zero price, but they are also a way of giving people a taster of the quality and the opportunity of courses on offer at the University. It will allow us to become truly global in terms of its student reach and branding.”

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

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


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