This course taught me a new way of thinking about how organizations make decisions. In my business minor classes I’ve learned most of these concepts before, but never in such a technical way (I think business professors are afraid of algebra). For example, I’ve always learned that organizations need to minimize their expected costs in situations that involve risk, but in this class I learned how different contracts can provide incentives or disincentives to exert more effort, and how they can include expected rent even though there’s incentive to put forth more effort. I appreciated the analytical approach to organizational problems which are usually approached as subjective.
The structure of the class was different from other economics classes I’d taken before, but only slightly different from classes I’d taken for my Informatics minor. Discussions followed by weekly responses work well when talking about non-formulaic concepts, which is most of what we did. The Excel homework provided the mathematical and analytical part, so as far as I’m concerned they were just an addition onto a formula that I’ve already had experience with. The concepts were easily connected to the blog posts since we wrote about them and talked about them in class together. I would have liked a little more lecturing on the mathematics behind the Excel homework – since they were easily done without understanding the concepts, my lazy side tended to take over and just complete the assignment for credit without learning the material behind it until an exam came up. I think I would have learned that side of it much better if we’d discussed the math and background in class before the Excel homework was due, then practiced what we’d learned in class with the homework. That said, the Excel workbook setup was very impressive and when I actually took the time to look through it, it was pretty straightforward.
As far as preparation and time taken for blogging and Excel, I tended to do them when I had the time – during class, or in a spare hour. As I mentioned, the Excel homework didn’t take a ton of time since my strategy was to look for the formulas I needed in the paragraphs of text and then plug in the right cell references. There were a few assignments that required outside algebra, so those required more time and concentration, but in general they usually took about 5-15 minutes, depending on how long they were. Usually with the blogging I’d look over the prompt a day or two in advance and think about it a little, then sit down and write it all in one sitting. The writing took less and less time over the course of the semester once I got the hang of it – going from about an hour to half an hour or 45 minutes. I started out really dreading doing the blog posts, but now at the end of the semester I enjoy it much more. I would probably prefer not to have to comment on others’ blog posts – all the commenting really did for me was force me to read others’ blog posts – but it was relatively easy so I guess it was harmless.
I would have liked to have seen more explanation of the mathematics, as I said earlier. A better understanding of what you were expecting on the exams might have been nice – maybe by providing some sort of answer key for the previous exam instead of talking through them in class? Aside from that, I think the structure and content of the course was interesting and appropriate.