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A New Project, And Why I Am Proud To Be An “Edupunk”…

September 8th, 2009 · 6 Comments
Econ 101 · Videos

Happy fall semester everyone! Maybe you’re still in school, or maybe you are in the real world and just wishing that you could revert back to a time when your biggest concern was how to finish all of your upcoming problem sets on time.

When I tell people that I teach economics, the most common response is “gee, I would have paid more attention in class if you had been my teacher.” Uh, thanks? =P I am going to be optimistic and take that as a reflection on my perceived teaching abilities. Luckily (or unluckily) for these people, they will get the opportunity for me to be their teacher, in a way. Starting tomorrow, I am going to be shooting some mini-lectures and putting them up on the web site and on YouTube. Here are some FAQs regarding the project:

  • What material is going to be covered? I am going to go roughly in tandem with an introductory microeconomics course, and then in the spring I will consider doing the same for macroeconomics after I see how it goes. This will give new students something to use as backup material, and it will give people who haven’t seen economics in a while a good refresher.
  • What text are you going to follow? I am going to follow Mankiw’s Principles of Microeconomics. There are a number of reasons for this: a. It’s the most popular text nowadays, b. I like it and think it is a good read, and c. I have 5 instructor’s editions sitting here on my shelf, so it’s convenient. (Hint: You can get an older ediiton of the text pretty cheap, and either the third or fourth edition is not overly outdated.)
  • What is the format going to be? Because of the limitations on YouTube (I am working on this), lectures are going to come in 10 minute segments. The segments are basically me with a white board (I may have turned the spare bedroom into a studio because I am a bit of a strange bird), but I am going to go back with the video editing software and add some text and whatnot to leverage the technology I have at my disposal. In general, I am going to summarize the content of the text and then do some relevant example problems.
  • Why is this better than what I can get in the classroom? It’s not meant to be better, it’s meant to be in addition to. Maybe you didn’t get everything in class when your instructor said it the first time. Maybe there is value to seeing different/more examples. Maybe I’m more entertaining that your nerdy TA. You know, whatever.
  • Is there an interactive element? I am thinking of ways to do this. For now, if you leave questions in the comments section of the video posts I will try to address as many of them as I can.
  • Are the videos going to be funny? Um…not intentionally? Actually, let me think about that one, since I would like them to be entertaining, but I’m not sure how to integrate humor with actual textbook content. That said, I will admit that the friend who originally suggested this to me was rather insistent that I follow a Hot For Words sort of model. As a start, I will at the very least try to have a reasonably conversational tone (i.e. the opposite of Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) and come up with some witty-ish examples.

Basically, this is the ideal that I am striving towards:

It appears that I am not the only one who is working on this. Fast Company has an article that outlines where the industry is heading and how “edupunks” are transforming the way that education in conducted. The article points out that much of what is currently available online consists of video feeds of traditional classroom lectures. While this is a step in the “right” direction, I hope to take the concept a bit further and utilize technology to make the online content a bit more user friendly. (P.S. I find it really funny that the URL of the article is “who-needs-harvard.” Why do people feel the need to pick on Harvard so much? On second thought, don’t answer that.)

I like the concept of online learning options if for no other reason than it gives an alternative to students who want to learn the material but are frustrated because they don’t like the way it is being presented to them. (Note to students: No, “my TA doesn’t speak English” is not a good excuse for you to not learn the material.) In fact, online education has been shown to be quite successful in getting students to understand and retain academic material. From the NYT:

Over the 12-year span, the report found 99 studies in which there were quantitative comparisons of online and classroom performance for the same courses. The analysis for the Department of Education found that, on average, students doing some or all of the course online would rank in the 59th percentile in tested performance, compared with the average classroom student scoring in the 50th percentile. That is a modest but statistically meaningful difference.

You go, online courses…

Social media blog Mashable then followed up on the matter with a framework with what advantages online learning can give over the traditional classroom experience. (Unfortunately, I do not have the resources to provide all of these advantages!) It also posed the question: “What happens to teachers if more education moves online?”

My hypothesis is that this mass production in education is going to push the industry in the same direction that we saw music and movies go when reproduction of those types of media became easier and cheaper. For example, when musicians only had live concerts as their product, then were limited in how much of the market that they could serve. As a result, the industry had a relatively large number of moderately successful artists, most of whom catered to a local or regional market. Now, once we have things like CD’s, mp3’s, etc., it’s much more possible for one artist to (in a way) satisfy the entire market. Largely because of this dynamic, we now see a “winner-take-all” type of industry that has a few superstars and a lot of artists, often operating at a short-term loss, working in hopes of becoming one of the winners. If we move teaching out of the physical classroom, we could very well see the same scenario in the education industry. Here’s hoping that I end up as one of the winners. 🙂

Tags: Econ 101 · Videos

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Rob Munk // Sep 8, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Best of luck. I used videos on you tube to help in my calc 1 and 2 classes. I think whoever, PatrickJMT is deserves a lot of credit for my pretty good grades.

  • 2 SteveO // Sep 8, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Looking forward to it. Using (consumption of) beer and/or (production of) condoms [and latex surgical gloves, to be fair] for nearly every example was a winning formula for my micro teacher.

    Something I’ll put in as a request: I’ve never seen anyone academically address the “stripper” demand model. It’s “pay as much as you have”. Not many other exchanges where you literally try to impress the commodity. (showing off your rims is one thing, but you’re not literally trying to impress the rims)

  • 3 Laura // Sep 8, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    I’ll be following this with interest. Just don’t use guns and butter!

  • 4 Ben // Sep 8, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Thank goodness things are starting to go in this direction. There are two characteristics of the current system that I find appalling: first, educators with great talent for presenting information are wasting their talents on needless vocal repetition and second, educators with little talent for presenting information are impeding otherwise talented students’ educational development. Both will be fixed by the movement of lectures from live events to pre-recorded videos. The difference in education will be almost exactly the same as the difference between a world where only live-action plays and musicals exist, and a world where TV, movies, etc co-exist with the plays and musicals. It is truly mind-boggling to me that public schools (of the pre-college variety) continue to prefer the use of high-cost, ineffective lecturers who are physically present in front of the students to vastly superior content recorded by a master of the subject.

  • 5 Susan // Sep 8, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    Haha, Laura, I have to agree and hope you stay away from guns and butter.

    Also I don’t know how much software you have at your disposal, but I find Sony Vegas to be a very nice program for editing videos. It crashes less than MovieMaker, and has neat ways to add in comments and text. Good luck with this new project, and I will be sure to keep my eyes open on YouTube for your lecture series.

  • 6 Taylor Erbst // Nov 22, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Hello there! I know this is kinda off topic however , I’d figured I’d ask. Would you be interested in exchanging links or maybe guest writing a blog article or vice-versa? My blog covers a lot of the same topics as yours and I think we could greatly benefit from each other. If you are interested feel free to shoot me an e-mail. I look forward to hearing from you! Terrific blog by the way!

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