LPS launches free online course to teach resilience and increase optimism during the pandemic

“Resilience Skills in Times of Uncertainty” has been released for free so more people can access them during the coronavirus pandemic.

Credit: Melanie Hilman

The College of Liberal and Professional Studies has launched an online course to teach resilience skills during coronavirus pandemic.

The course is free to the public and will cover topics such as increasing optimism, managing anxiety, enhancing positive emotions and strengthening relationships, according to the program.

The course, titled “Resilience Skills in Times of Uncertainty”, is taught by a 1988 College graduate Karen Revich, who is the director of the resiliency and positive psychology training programs at the Penn Positive Psychology Center. The course was published in April on Coursera — an e-learning platform — with along with four other classes taught by Penn positive psychology professors, said Reich. Students who complete all five courses and pay a fee will receive a certificate of completion for the foundations of specialization in positive psychology.

Reich, who also earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in Psychology from Penn in 1992 and 1996, respectively, said the course was not designed specifically in response to the pandemic, although the material changed slightly to suit the circumstances.

“We created this course a few years ago, but released it for free during this pandemic so even more people could access it without having to pay,” Reivich said. “I feel like these are skills and interventions that can really help people right now.”

The Resilience course currently has a 4.9 out of 5-star rating based on 108 reviews, and 9,704 students have enrolled as of May 3, according to the Coursera website.

“There are so many interesting stories, activities and ideas to learn in this course. The information can sometimes seem somewhat out of date, but the deep dive really takes you to another level,” said one critical wrote.

Reivich said the goal of the course is to teach the science behind resilience in a way that is applicable to different professions and student demographics. She said she wanted students to focus less on completing all the homework in orderand focus instead on finding positive habits that will stick.

“I hope students learn one or two additional strategies that will help them feel like they’re not just coping effectively, but thriving,” she said. “I think that’s the goal of the class – for people to find out what works for them and stick with it.”

Reirich said a resilience course is not currently offered at Penn. “Introduction to positive psychologyis the closest course Penn students can enroll in, she added.

“I think very strongly that [the resilience] I want Penn students to have access to this course because these are techniques and skills that benefit college-aged students,” Reivich said. “I’m glad Penn is making it available not only to staff and faculty, but to the student body as well.”

Prior to releasing the Coursera course, Reirich gave resiliency workshops to student athletes through Penn Athletics Wharton Leadership Academy and various professional groups. She said she doesn’t believe there is an ideal student for the course because anyone could benefit from it.

“I have taught these skills to middle schoolers, college students, army soldiers, [and] Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team,” she said. “I don’t think there’s a subgroup of students for whom it’s more relevant.”

Although the course has ties to the pandemic, Reivich said the skills students will learn will have wider applications.

“I don’t want people to think this was a course designed specifically to help people with the pandemic,” she said. “[Resilience is] much wider than that. It’s not just about managing stress; it’s about filling your life with people who matter, having strong relationships, and knowing deeply who you are at your best and how to bring out those parts of yourself.