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In Case You Are Bored And Want To Revisit Econ 101…

July 22nd, 2009 · 6 Comments
Econ 101

Because I start teaching a “boot camp” type summer course starting on Friday, I’ve gotten a number of emails from my colleagues regarding sources of examples and whatnot for our students. (We teach midcareer graduate students, so they always insist on understanding how concepts are used in real-world situations. Shame on them- don’t they know that they are taking a theory course?) The most interesting of these was the one I received this morning, which gave a link to the following:

http://econblog.aplia.com

Aplia is an online system that is used to accompany Greg Mankiw’s popular Principles of Economics textbook. (Sidenote: Good lord is that textbook expensive. I remember now why I tell my students to get the previous edition for $35.) Basically, Aplia provides a way for students to do their homework online and have it graded automatically, which greatly lowers the burden on the instructors of introductory courses. This is crucial because a lot of these instructors, even at schools where students are paying $30,000 per year in tuition (yeah, I’m looking at you, Northeastern), aren’t given resources for teaching assistants and have somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 students. (I taught two lectures with 49 students each. The reason I couldn’t teach one bigger lecture was that various college rankings use the number of classes with fewer than 50 students as one of their criteria, so enrollment in each class was capped at 49. Hat tip to U.S. News and World Report for giving me extra work.) Unfortunately, there is a fairly significant downside to the system in that the homework designers are limited to asking questions in either a multiple choice or a single number format, so the Aplia system doesn’t so much generate deep philosophical thought about economic questions. I’m pretty sure that if I designed the system it would consist of more open-ended questions coupled with a bunch of economics TA type people in India or Thailand or wherever things are offshored to nowadays who would sit there and grade the questions. Not perfect, but arguably better.

But I digress. The site link above is a companion blog for the Aplia system that gives a number of real world scenarios and has discussion questions that ask students to link the examples back to the economic concepts discussed in the text. If you find any to be particularly engaging, post a comment and I will answer some of the discussion questions when I get a chance.

(ignore this: 25pmetgzna)

Tags: Econ 101

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Bray Ellison // Jul 22, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    I hated aplia for my micro theory course. The use of graphs was pretty sweet, but overall, I had to spend more money for a system that told me the understanding of differentials was inconsequential and that I ought to just do the problem just because. I feel like it really marginalized (no pun intended… but it’s good) the importance of calculus concepts as applied to micro.

  • 2 Jasmine // Jul 25, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    I tutor for Econ 101, and the students I talk to find aplia to be a big pain! I guess most of it has to do with the professor assigning the problems and having them due before they even go over the material.

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