I was browsing distractedly when I encountered a smiling, curly haired business school professor who had made it his life’s mission to ask tough questions such as “If you’re so smart why aren’t you happy?" The best part was that he taught a free online course on happiness. Alas! I was a dropout after the first week and I remain as angst-ridden as before, but online course mania has hit almost everyone around me.
One teenager I know experiments with esoteric courses such as Dog Emotion and Cognition and Moral Foundations of Politics, both on Coursera, even as her mother implores her to pick something more useful. My niece, who sleepwalked through her last years of school, has magically morphed into a diligent student in the US who spends a large chunk of her free time taking history courses on Khan Academy and The Great Courses. Indians sign up for everything from art appreciation to magic in the Middle Ages, my Twitter query found.
We are Coursera’s second-largest market after the US. In 2015, Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of Tata Sons, invested an undisclosed amount in non-profit Khan Academy to provide free online education to Indians.
I want to contribute to this online learning revolution too. Here are four guaranteed hit courses entrepreneurs can consider starting and their possible course descriptions, using borrowed language from popular Mooc (massive open online courses) websites.
The truth about cows
About this course: We will explore how nationalists study bovine behaviour, and in particular how this behaviour is shaped by the rapid mainstreaming of the political fringe. We evaluate the scientific rigour of studies, and highlight the often ingenious methods adopted by researchers to understand the behaviour of the desi cow (the Jersey cow module is unavailable for users in the Indian subcontinent).
What is your cow revealing to you when she moos? Understanding bovine behaviour will enable you to better understand her needs and strengthen your relationship with her. We dispel common behavioural myths by looking through a scientific lens via a syllabus especially designed in Rajasthan.
This Mooc explores different scientifically validated methods that can help you to better understand bovine behaviour, to enrich your lives and help you to be a better, more confident citizen. Plus: How to use panchgavya (if you don’t know what this means, this course will change your life) to improve your happiness and fulfilment levels in New India.
Religious and cultural diversity in Indian life and history
About this course: Learners will deepen their understanding and appreciation of ways in which religious and cultural diversity have destroyed Indian institutions, ideology, law and social relationships, from Aryabhatta to the present.
The primary focus of the course is on how the Mughal empire “oppressed" the country during its more than two-century rule and is responsible for every modern-day evil, right down to the high incidence of diabetes because of the proliferation of Mughlai cuisine in all parts of the country.
The course will include video lectures from celebrity politicians who have previously accused (and rightly so) Mughals and Britishers of “looting, ruining and cheating India". The course will highlight the wastage incurred by various emperors, chief among them Shah Jahan, who, in 1632, had the absurd idea of constructing an ostentatious Islamic ivory-white marble mausoleum on the south bank of the Yamuna. Assignments will include a 2,000-word paper on strategies to redirect the 200,000 international tourists that visit the Taj Mahal every year to more nationalistic sites such as the Akshardham temple in Delhi.
Those who enjoyed this course must also try: Experiencing Great Events of Ancient and Medieval India (about wonders such as huge aeroplanes that could move in all directions, including backwards, unlike modern planes which only fly forward, and the real story of how Greek philosopher Pythagoras stole credit from an Indian mathematician).
Gender, family and social change in contemporary India
About this course: Participation is restricted to Indian men so they can speak openly and without criticism from the fairer sex. The course will focus primarily on contemporary discourses concerning gender inequality. It critically analyses themes of gendered performance and power in a range of social spheres, such as education, law, culture, work, medicine and the family, paying special importance to the growing irrelevance of the Indian man in a disturbing new world where women do as they please. The class will be highly interactive, combining case studies, videos, debates, guest speakers (all male, of course) and in-class simulations. Students will brainstorm on several themes, such as how to bring back the Golden Era before women started wearing jeans/owning cellphones and how to reclaim PornHub from women. The popular porn website revealed in 2015 that women constituted 30% of its viewers from India.
Patriotic education and fitness
This is inspired by the US college that recently introduced a mandatory course for freshmen with the same name. The four-credit course is a general education course. The US college website that came up with this genius idea says it is designed to support the institution’s patriotic goal: “To encourage an understanding of American heritage, civic responsibilities, love of country, and willingness to defend it."
“We have seen a decrease in the understanding of our military and the important role it plays in our democracy," the college president said on the website. “We will do our part to correct this." This course can be immediately indigenized and implemented here. We already have many of the basics in place; we term anyone who doesn’t toe the official line a “traitor" and we believe many of them live on our college campuses. We chant Bharat Mata Ki Jai and have “Proud Indian" Twitter bios, we think it’s patriotic to keep Pakistanis out of our films and concert halls and we get angry when anyone criticizes the military. A smart entrepreneur would offer it free for citizens with a valid Aadhaar card.
Priya Ramani shares what’s making her feel angsty/agreeable.
She tweets @priyaramani