Sunday, December 6, 2015

Econ 490: A Semester in Review

     I had been recommended to take Econ 490 classes by older students because of the breadth of topics covered. When I searched through the types of classes, I took Econ 490: Economics of Organizations because the class description described a class that looked into actual organizations and how economics influence how they operate. I took Professor Arvan because there was no other teacher offered and upon reading online reviews about him, I had found that he was both an interesting and challenging teacher.

    The class website being seperate from Moodle or COMPASS 2G was interesting because I have never taken a class in the past three and a half years that used an independent website run by the teacher. I like this because it was customized to the format of the class. The blog topics, the Excel homeworks with descriptions, discussion boards, class topics, and additional sources were all covered in one place which most classes fail to have. A lot of class formats are designed to fit the structure of their operating system as opposed to the other way around.

     There were a few things that I really disliked about the class. First, I felt like the critiques on the blogs were sometimes too harsh. I appreciated a lot of the feedback especially in regards to the structure of the pieces, but what I did not like was that sometimes they felt rather personal and like a disagreement with my opinion as opposed to a constructive critism or counter viewpoint. Additionally, the classroom sessions were sometimes difficult to maintain engaged in. This was because I sometimes felt like when I answered questions, but I answers were not regarded as valid. It made my participation dwindle towards the end of the semester. I think the class could really benefit from a no technology rule to foster more of an open discussion environment. Also, I purchased the class book and I used it a few times if I needed more information about a single topic, but for the most part I felt like it wasn't very necessary.

   While the things listed above are mild, there are a lot of things I really loved about the class. First, I felt like the Excel homeworks taught me a ton. I took the time to actually read through each of the homeworks as opposed to just doing the math and I felt like I was getting an extra class assignment with each homework because I was learning while doing them. Additionally when I had a question, I looked back to past semesters discussion board and was most often able to find any answers to questions I may have. Next, I did like that in class Professor Arvan had a plan, but it was more discussion based. Classes that have pure lecture base with minimal engagement or painfully difficult to pay attention to. Therefore I've really enjoyed the format of the class. Finally, the blog post concept was pretty cool. I liked that the blogs were discussed in class as opposed to just being an assignment we just did and then never carried over into class. There were a lot of really interesting things we talked about in class that stemmed from topics being brought up from the blog posts.

   Class was unique in that it covered a really wide range of topics. One thing I will say is that while I didn't necessarily see the connection between all of the topics, each of the topics individually were really interesting. I think Professor Arvans goal was to cover: introduction to a topic, personal experience (blog), mathematical application (Excel), and then moving on to real life application. The most valuable topic for me was in regards to insurance because it had mathematical application that I have not touched in any other classes and really did not understand. The only thing I would have liked is if it was more generally applied to organizations and not just to the University.

   Co-authoring actually was a really great experience for me. I got paired with Marissa and we came up with a really great system for doing the drafts. We took turns authoring the piece and then reviewing to make sure both our ideas came together and had a second check. Also, we had a really great case that was intriguing and easy to understand. I'm actually so interested in the case we covered that I will probably continue to revise the feedback even though we have progressed to the next stage to make sure that the piece could be used in the future. I could understand how the process could be frustrating, but it illustrated the importance of clear communication. Marissa and I had check points via email and in person where we would discuss some of the concepts we disagreed on. I think the group project may have been one of the most valuable things that was covered in this class.

   Overall, I really enjoyed Economics of Organizations and have already recommended it to a few friends to take in the future. I think it is a class that is meant for learning, not just a class that a teacher teaches to teach. A lot of the lessons, particularlly referring to managing, I will carry with me into the future. I think there were a ton of important things about incentive and how to treat people that were covered in the class. It was a realistic interpretation of organizations, no "fluff". Thank you for a great semester Professor Arvan.

1 comment:

  1. This was a pretty thorough review and critique. I wonder if you could clarify this particular phrase:

    "I felt like I was getting an extra class assignment with each homework because I was learning while doing them."

    Does this imply, among other things, that in homework for other classes you feel you don't learn while doing the homework? In the old style way of teaching, presentation preceded assessment. When I was in college, it pretty much had to be that way because it was all on paper and there were lags between turning stuff in and getting it returned in class. Now the technology allows for much more rapid response, so the ideal to consider both presentation and assessment as parts of an ongoing conversation is easier to approximate.

    Yet the old approach persists in many ways. Several other students said something like - they wished there had been videos for all the Excel homework. In contrast, you seemed to be okay just reading the text content that was provided. Is that right?

    I'm glad the project worked well for you and that you had a good experience with your teammate, although, truthfully, I'm still confused by it on the issue of who the recruits were. I seem to recall an early conversation about the paper that this was for management positions at headquarters, which is why I was so confused in reading the first draft. Did I dream all that up or did we have that conversation (perhaps in some email)?

    As to my teaching goals, I do believe in taking many different threads to consider the same broad issues but from different angles. Your review of that was good. I wonder if some of those threads started to converge for you into a larger picture - the Excel and blog posts being different pieces of the same puzzle. That was the goal, though whether it was approached is something the students would have weigh in on.

    I regret that some of my responses to you, in class and online, were too harsh and that the cumulative effect of that was to discourage you. Other students have noted that I have very high expectations for students. Sometimes that gets in the way of giving an appropriate response for the immediate situation. However, I also fear that other classes don't ask enough out of students, though I only am aware of this by anecdotes that students tell me. The ideal, perhaps hard to approximate, is to be relaxed about the learning and willing to take some risks on behalf of that, yet ambitious about making progress and willing to put in substantial effort toward that end.

    You already had the ability to produce a reasonable deliverable before taking my class, much of which I gather you learned from working for IBC. So my question is what would it take for you to move forward from that? Having a decent answer to that question is more important to me than learning about any of the topics in our course, though, of course, it was my hope that should happen too as part of the package.