Friday, December 2, 2016

Final Review Post

My largest gaining from this course is that I learned to look at things through the lens of economics. Tying the course with my own experience and interest, I found I gained a deeper understanding on many of the economic concepts and how they work in the real world.

I have an interest in Business and HR, and through this course I saw many activities that happen in the business and HR fields have their economics principles and models behind, which made me feel that everything is connected. Merger and acquisition, organization structure, building high-performance teams, performance pay, efficiency wage, people management, conflict management, coordination and motivation… these topics that we have discussed in class and also analyzed through excel homework coincides with my interest, and have provided me a new perspective of approaching business problems: through economic analysis. I had a very shallow understanding of these topics before, but our class helped me to understand the underlying reasons why these activities and issues exist, how do they work, how to solve them and produce the most efficient outcome.

For me, blogging and commenting is the part that took me the longest time. I feel I’m more comfortable with writing academic papers. I have experiences in writing academic topics, but I do not have much experience in writing personal experiences and thoughts. I sometimes have trouble with finding personal examples that reflect the economics we learned in class. Besides, I am a slow writer, not matter in my first or second language. Trying to write down what I have in my head and express it clearly to someone in my second language was quite difficult and also very time-consuming for me. I remembered that in the midterm reflection post some students wrote that they only needed about half an hour to write the post, while I usually spend a few hours writing a post. However, as I write more throughout the semester, I found myself more comfortable with writing blogs and spent less time on it. I guess everything needs practice, and there is a learning curve for everything.

I found this very beneficial because it forces me to think and analyze my past experiences, which helps me to reflect on many things that I would never think about otherwise. By connecting my own experience with Economics and what we talk in class, I see how Economics is reflected in practice and everyday life. The blogging assignment also made me wanted to develop a writing habit.

The excel homework was much less time consuming. The content of the excel homework itself is actually pretty demanding, but the questions in the excel homework are not that difficult. Reading through the explanations and illustrations is the difficult part of the excel hw, instead of the questions. If I only skim through the explanations and answer the questions, I’ll be able to finish it in about 20min, but it takes much longer time to understand all the contents in the excel hw, and this may take me about half an hour to one hour more depending on the specific hw.

I do have a few suggestions for the course. The first one is about the classroom sessions. The discussion mode of the course is much better than the traditional lecturing. It guides us to think critically. However, I get lost sometimes… I think it would be helpful if a PowerPoint slide could be accompanied during each class session, so that we could be clear about the class flow, and we will also be able to recall the class discussion when we are reviewing for exams/writing project papers. Then, the excel homework. I feel that if the excel hw could be explained more in the class, I mean the concrete math of the models in the excel hw, but not only the idea of the models (which I believe is what we are doing now), we would be able to gain a deeper understanding of the economic models.

Overall, I think this is a challenging course for me, but it is a great learning experience. This course invoked my interest in I/O Economics, and I would seek for opportunities in the future to further explore this field.


  1. I’m glad you learned a lot and became more comfortable with blog posting over the semester, and I really enjoyed reading your blog posts.
    I personally would agree with what you have to say about how writing about your own personal experience is difficult. During my freshman year, I took a class about creating stories. In the class, we had to write a paper about very personal topics every single week and read our paper aloud to the class. I thought it was terribly nerve-wracking because I usually had to come up with an entire story in two or three days - but reading it aloud was the worst part. It made me very uncomfortable in the beginning to read to strangers about my own thoughts, experiences, and beliefs, mostly since I am a shy person. Over the course of the semester, I became much more comfortable in reading aloud about myself. I noticed a similar thing happen as I wrote my own blog posts for this class. I think that any time students get to write like this is really valuable because we can learn a lot about ourselves and gain confidence in our writing abilities.

    In terms of suggestions about the course, I agree with all of your suggestions, especially about the PowerPoint for class flow. I gave a similar suggestion of creating an info-graphic or diagram detailing the course concepts to make progression of the course a little clearer.

  2. Let me talk about theory behind the blogging and also suggest some issues based on that. The issue is what you internalize when you learn something new, particularly in economics classes, which tend toward the theoretical. There is a tendency to understand the theories in the context that they are presented, but to be unable to translate the theories into other contexts where they are relevant. It's the latter which is the test of whether the idea has really been learned or not. Tying into personal experiences forces you to make some translation of the ideas. It doesn't mean you can do the translations in other contexts. But it is a step in that direction.

    Now as to whether the blogging takes a long time or not, many students will have an early intuition pop into their head, go with that, and then be done with the exercise. But from my point of view, I doubt the students has gotten much out of it. An alternative that would take long is that after the first intuition manifests would be to ask whether that is all there is to say on the matter or if it is possible to get deeper into the subject. That would require a second or third intuition, each different from what came before, to also appear. That is time consuming.

    Then the other time consuming thing with the blogging is if you plot this out ahead of time or if in the process of writing the post some of those later intuitions start to emerge. (That is called writing to learn.) When that happens you have to follow the intuitions but that may detract from the narrative, so you have to backtrack and rewrite. That is time consuming. It is also better, in my view. Mostly the idea of deep learning and doing it quickly are not mutually compatible.

    On the Excel, you are right that the concepts are deeper than the question I ask about them. I wonder if the homework which had video lectures attached were more satisfying to you than the others. The bargaining homework, in particular, has a lot of sophistication to the underlying model, without that much in other explanation than the text discussion.

    As for the PowerPoint, maybe I will hire one of you students to produce that. It is not quite what you have said, but I did have early PowerPoints in the class for students to view ahead of time. The rate of access to them was very low. I am not sure why, but it doesn't offer encouragement to me to produce more of them myself.

  3. Thank you professor Arvan for your comments.

    I think the second explanation you offered accounts for why blogging is time consuming for me. Usually even if I have an idea in mind, when I start to write, new thoughts/details start to emerge, and I have to decide which ones are better for the prompt. These thoughts might never come to mind if I don’t start writing.

    For the Excel hw, yes, video lecture strengthens my understanding of the concept/models. But since these hw could still be done without seeing the video lectures, and we are actually never tested on these video lectures, sometimes I lack the motivation to watch them carefully, especially when I’m busy with my other coursework/exams. I do think that students should be proactive and learn on their own, but it is very difficult to do so when I have plenty of work to do. Including the content in the quiz/exam might increase the incentive to go through the video lectures/excel hw with more effort, which will definitely deepen our understanding. However, I feel that the workload for this course is already large enough, and requiring a deep understanding of all the math/models in the excel hw might be a little bit overwhelming.

    About the PowerPoint slides, I did not view them ahead of time as well. But I did read all of them after class. I think many students might be the same with me, that they tend to review but not preview. One way that might improve this is creating discussion questions at the beginning of each class, and students have to preview the ppt/course materials to participate in the discussion and answer the questions. I have had this kind of experience in my other classes, and when I look back I did feel I’m well prepared for each class, but I’m still not a big fan of this kind of forced discussion. My attention is transferred from thinking about the course contents to being anxious about what questions will be asked next, which make me feel stressed, and it’s not a pleasant learning experience. I thing well organized discussions are ones that make everyone comfortable and willing to share, instead of forcing everyone to participate by assigning grades/credits.