Six free ways to make yourself smarter in 2016
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Jan 02, 2016  |  Vote 0    0

Six free ways to make yourself smarter in 2016

From Berkeley to Princeton to U of T, MOOCs — massive open online courses — can school you in everything from canine cognition to the financial crisis


1. The Science of Happiness

Offered by: University of California, Berkeley

What: The course provides a “basic overview of what researchers from psychology and neuroscience have discovered about happiness,” says co-instructor Emiliana R. Simon-Thomas.

Students also explore how research on happiness can be applied to their own lives. But make sure to take it seriously. The course has both a mid-term and a final exam.

Duration: Eight weeks of material. Four to five hours per week.

Student review: “I was a bit iffy at first about joining the course and I just wasn’t sure if my time would be well spent. Well, it was.”

Cost: Free. Verified certificate: $49 (U.S.)

2. Dog Emotion and Cognition

Offered by: Duke University

What: This course on dog psychology covers the latest science behind those puppy-dog eyes.

“Dogs are helping people in more ways than ever before,” says Brian Hare, associate professor of evolutionary anthropology. “(The course is about) how we use the information about how they actually think, to help them help us even more.”

Duration: 10 to 15 hours

Student review: “The information in this course teaches you a tremendous amount about how your dog thinks.”

Cost: Free. Certificate of completion: $64 (Canadian)

3. Introduction to Sustainable Development

Offered by: Columbia University

What: You don’t have to fork over thousands of dollars and move to New York to be taught sustainable development by world-renowned expert Jeffrey Sachs.

In a YouTube video, Sachs describes the course as “a way to look at the complexity of our interconnected world and its impact on the planet.”

Student review: “You don’t need to be an expert to join in these amazing classes that talk about development and the challenges for all the people of the world.”

Duration: Five hours

Cost: Free

4. Effective Altruism

Offered by: Princeton University

What: This course examines how to be a good person.

Student review: “Effective altruism is an emerging movement of people who want to make the world a better place and are using their abilities to reason and use evidence to decide how best to do that,” says bioethics professor Peter Singer.

Duration: 10 to 15 hours

Student review: “A very nice course, it tells you that altruism can help you live a happy life and help others.”

Cost: Free

5. The Global Financial Crisis

Offered by: Yale University

What: For those of us who never quite understood the global financial crisis of 2008-09, this course features guest lectures by someone who was there: former U.S. treasury secretary Timothy Geithner.

“It’s trying to explain the causes, the government policy reactions and the consequences of the financial crisis,” says Andrew Metrick, professor of finance and management at Yale.

Duration: 11 weeks of study. Four to six hours per week.

Student review: N/A

Cost: Free. Certificate of completion: $69 (Canadian)

6. Introduction to Psychology

Offered by: University of Toronto

What: The first time this course was offered, the students came up with the name “the cognitive cannibals” for themselves, says psychology professor Steve Joordens.

“The idea was these were a bunch of human minds kind of feeding on themselves. Learning about their own minds,” he explains. “It’s an opportunity to learn about yourself and the people you interact with every day.”

Duration: Eight weeks of study. Four to six hours per week.

Student review: “An inspiring instructor and an amazing topic.”

Cost: Free

Toronto Star

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