In 2018, when Professor Laurie Santos introduced her ‘Psychology and the Good Life’ course, a course on the science of happiness, it became the most popular in Yale history, attracting over 1,200 undergraduates to the first semester course. An online course based on these teachings has become a worldwide phenomenon. According to the latest tally, 3.38 million people have signed up to take the free Coursera.org course, titled “The Science of Wellness”.
But the popularity of the course posed an interesting question. Does taking the course and participating in homework – which include nurturing social connections, making a gratitude list, and meditating – really help improve feelings of well-being?
The answer is yes, according to two new studies that measured the psychological impact on people who have taken Santos or a similar course. The results suggest that free online courses that teach the principles of positive psychology can enrich the lives of millions of people.
In the latest study, published on April 14 in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers from Johns Hopkins University and Yale found that people who took the “Science of Well Being” online course reported a greater sense of well-being than those who enrolled in another Yale Coursera course, “Introduction to psychology”. Although learners in both classes reported seeing a significant improvement in their well-being after taking the classes, those who took the “Science of Well-Being” course reported greater mental health benefits than those who did. who learned the basics of psychology.
Unlike the psychology course, “The Science of Well-Being” requires participants to do exercises known to improve psychological health, such as improving sleep patterns, developing exercise routines, and practicing exercise. meditation, say the authors. Before and after the course, participants answered questions designed to measure factors related to psychological health such as positive emotions, commitment and relationship strength.
“Knowledge is great, but it’s not enough. You also have to do the job,” said senior author David Yaden, a researcher in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins.
A similar study in the Health Psychology Open, conducted by researchers at Yale and the University of Bristol, interviewed people who took a live or online course with credit based on Santos’ original class and found benefits. psychological similarities for registrants.
Yaden stressed, however, that the classes are not a substitute for professional treatment for those with diagnosed mental illness. “These classes are not a panacea or a replacement for psychotherapy or medication,” he said.
However, Yaden and Santos, who co-authored the study, say the results show that massive open online courses can deliver at least modest value to millions of people at no cost.
“We wanted to know if we can extend these benefits and we can,” Santos said. “Even bringing a small mental health benefit to millions of people can be of enormous value.”
Other authors of PLOS ONE are Jennifer Claydon, Meghan Bathgate and Belinda Platt of the Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning.
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Material provided by Yale University. Original written by Bill Hathaway. Note: Content can be changed for style and length.