The goal of this course is mastery of the content.
Mastery is a very different approach to learning than you are probably used to. It is one of those concepts that is profound, but difficult to put into words. But let’s try.
Mastery means developing expertise.
Mastery is something like pass-fail, but “passing” requires a higher level of learning than a D or a C in a more traditional course. It doesn’t mean just being exposed to a topic, or reading about it. It means being able to use what you’ve learned. For example, if this course is a prerequisite for subsequent courses you take, you will actually find that your knowledge of macroeconomics helps your learning in those later courses.
At the same time, as Alyson Indrunas writes, mastery doesn’t mean perfect. But it does mean learning is an ongoing process.
So how does one achieve mastery? Mastery requires more than going through the motions of coming to class on a more or less regular basis, skimming the text books and cramming your class notes the night before exams. It’s not about memorization. Mastery means you still know the material and you still know how to use the material, a week or a month or a year after taking this course. (If this is not what you want, you might want to take another section of ECON 201.)
The way you achieve mastery of a sport is by practice, practice, practice. The way you achieve mastery of an academic subject like principles of microeconomics is similar—you need to engage with the material in a number of ways, over and over. It is like you want to develop a deep relationship with the material. Think about how you develop a relationship with another person. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes more than just memorizing what they say when you meet them.
So how do you develop mastery with macroeconomics? To start, you need to read the text materials, watch the videos, and play the simulations that you’ll find (primarily) in the Waymaker modules. But it’s not enough to read, watch, or play. You need to think about what you’ve read, seen and experienced.
• What is the key content? (Not everything is key!)
• What makes sense to you?
• What can you relate to the real world, to your own life experience?
• What don’t you understand?
• What do you disagree with?
You will want to write the answers to these questions down, just like you would write down lecture notes in a class session. For those things that you can’t figure out on your own (and there are likely to be at least some of those), you can discuss them with your study group (more on study groups later) and with me.
This is an online course. There will be no lectures in this course. There will be no class sessions (though see below about Google Hangouts). How are we going to learn the course content? How are you going to learn the material? If you have never taken an online course before, if you have never taken one of my online courses, the way you learn will probably have to change.
This course should cause you a fair amount of confusion. It’s actually designed that way. It’s your task (and the task of your study group) to make sense of the confusion. It’s through making sense that your learning will happen.
Your job is to find the material, identify what’s important, and then learn both what that key material is and how to use it. Your study group will help with this.
You can find this material in a number of places:
• The Waymaker modules (aka “The Text”)
• The other readings
• Other textbooks that you find or I suggest
• The internet (Google, YouTube, etc.)
• Twitter (more on this later)
• Google Hangouts (more on this shortly)
• Working with your study group
• Coming to my office hours (virtually or physically)
The course will “take place” in a number of digital and physical locations:
• The main course website is at http://econ201online.umwblogs.org. This is the first place you should go to get information about this course. When I mention the course website, this is what I mean.
• Canvas. The primary way that we will use Canvas is to host Waymaker, which is the principal “text” in this course. You will find the Waymaker modules under the Modules tab in Canvas. Please note that the Canvas gradebook only records your scores from the Waymaker module quizzes, and your scores on the two midterm exams. The official gradebook for this class is in my office. If you ever want to know where you stand in the course, just send me an email.
• Weekly Google Hangouts. Every Wednesday at 7pm, we will have a Google hangout to give me an opportunity to talk to you about what we’re learning, and to give you an opportunity for you to ask questions of me in a virtual face-to-face environment. These hangouts will automatically be recorded and archived on YouTube.com so if you can’t make the hangout live, you can watch the recording. The URL for each hangout will be published on twitter. The first hangout will be done from the Hurley Conference Center (HCC) 327, so if you want to see me in person, feel free to come by. The first hangout will also be streamed and archived, so if you can’t make it in person, no worries. You can watch it online.
• Daily Twitter. Twitter will be the location of the regular, daily conversation about this course. All assignments (other than the Waymaker module quizzes) will be announced first on twitter. If you don’t have a twitter account, you need to get one (http://www.twitter.com). Twitter is an acquired taste, but it won’t take you long to get up to speed. Twitter messages are called “tweets.” Anything you tweet relevant to this course should include the “hashtag” “#ECON201online”. (“Pound Sign” is the symbol for a hashtag.) When you have questions about anything course-related, tweet them! If you know the answer to someone else’s questions, don’t wait for me to answer. Respond yourself. Find someone (or some organization) who tweets on economics. A good example is @TheEconomist, but that’s mine so you’ll need to find another person or organization . Tweet their twitter address to the class. Retweet anything interesting they tweet. You’ll see that it’s pretty easy to tweet regularly. And I know you’re going to have questions from time to time. For more on how you should use twitter, see the “How to Use Twitter” link on the right side bar.
- Online Discussions. In a face-to-face class we have the opportunity to discuss, in person, interesting issues relevant to the class. In this online course, we will discuss the same issues using the Canvas discussion board. I anticipate having four-to-six such discussions this semester.
• Study Groups. Each of you will be assigned to a study group to help each other learn and to complete several group assignments. You may find it useful to do these activities in Google Drive. I will post information about study groups later this week, in time for the first study group assignment. It will be to your advantage to work with your study group; otherwise, you’ll have to complete the group assignments on your own. If you don’t plan to work with your group, please let them know so they won’t count on you.
• Office Hours. I am available for face-to-face office hours in my office at the ECON House. See the Contact Info tab on the header bar for the location. I am also available generally for virtual office hours using Skype or a Google Hangout. A good time to reach me virtually is during my scheduled office hours, but I’m also generally available Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Email me to make an appointment, please.
Open the Course Outline which you can find as a tab on the header bar of the course website. You should always check the Course Outline first to determine what you should be working on content-wise. The Course Outline has 3 columns: Weeks, Topics & To Do. All class assignments (except the Waymaker module quizzes) will be listed on the Course Outline, and announced on Twitter.
This course will last 14 weeks; each week is listed on the leftmost column of the Course Outline. The course will consist of 11 topics, so each topic will last approximately (but not always) one week. The To Do column lists the content you should study for the topic. The content is primarily in the Waymaker Modules, but there will also be a few other readings, which will be available on the course website under the Readings tab. Note that this tab is password protected—I will email you the password.
Note that the Course Outline starts with Week 0. That lists the activities that will orient you to the course. You should start those immediately since we’re doing them as well as the Week 1 activities this week.