Monday, December 2, 2013

Final Blog Post

                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.


  1. Thanks for the comments. Your post is almost the mirror image of what William Baumol wrote in that Baumol preferred the blogging but each of you put in less time on the part you preferred, which to me remains a bit of a puzzle.

    The part of what you've written here is where you talk about your lazy side taking over. I'd like to add here that this course is outside your major and you've already secured employment post graduation. So I can understand a lazy side. I've got one too. The issue is whether it should be indulged or combatted. I don't know the answer. But I'd like to consider each possibility.

    A related issue is whether you have the competence on your own to teach yourself the math and background (say by reading in M&R and working through problems from the book as well as going through the Excel in a more deliberate way). If you don't have that competence, then your conclusion about wanting lecture prior to the Excel is understandable. If you do have that competence, however, then it would seem a different issue is at play. Students like you have grown accustomed to initiate on something new conceptually via lecture. But perhaps that is a habit that should be broken.

    On the commenting, I didn't quite get whether you would have read the posts of your classmates or not, absent the requirement. I'm also curious as to whether you see value in that, say for benchmarking your own blogging.

  2. Part of what I like about the Excel is precisely that it takes less time to do. I also like the nature of the work much more than the blogging. Problem solving has always been more enjoyable for me than deep thought and reflection, and as a result, I tend to work through it a bit more quickly.

    For the math work, I think would have liked more of it in class for a few reasons: first, because I like that type of course content a little more than the qualitative ideas, and second because I think it helps me know a little more of what you're looking for on exams. While it would be possible to learn what you wanted us to learn through our own work with the formulas, there's no guarantee if we've caught everything that you wanted us to or that we're picking up on the right things. In non-graded work I'm happy to try to come upon new things on my own, but when I'm going to be graded on whether I understand something or not, I tend to like to know what it is I'm supposed to understand.

    Without the commenting I don't think I would have read other students' blogs - maybe once or twice out of curiosity, but definitely not weekly. I don't think it was terribly helpful for benchmarking, since I tend to look at instructor feedback to know if I'm on the right track as opposed to what my peers are doing. In that way, your comments are helpful but I don't think peer comments were very helpful for me.

    It's interesting that you mention whether a student's lazy side should be indulged or combated once they've secured a full-time job, because I've thought about that a lot. My conclusion has been that if the outcome of spending the time and effort on the task will be beneficial down the line - developing a new skill, gaining new knowledge, etc. - it's worth it. Otherwise, enjoying senior year wins out. I've heard so many people telling me to "enjoy college while I can" that it's much more justifiable in my mind to shirk a little more often now, before my work product becomes a permanent part of my professional reputation.

  3. Just on the last bit. If you immerse in something that most would call work, it can be quite enjoyable for itself. Whether it produces dividends down the line or not is a different matter and you can't always know that ahead of time. As I mentioned in class today, I graduated after the fall semester and more or less took it easy the following spring, so when I started graduate school I was fresh and motivated for that. But there can be too much of a good thing. I'm sure your own good judgment will let you find the right balance.

  4. I have a business minor as well so I can relate to never understanding the technical side. I think that now with the conceptual and technical aspects of the topics covered in economics of organization, that will make the information I learned stick with me in the future.