About the Course
This is the first course in a two-semester introductory sequence that is a prerequisite for further work toward an economics major. In this course, ECON 1201, we study microeconomics, which is about how, under various institutional arrangements, individual behavior creates the social structures we call markets. In the companion course, ECON 1202, you will study (or maybe have already studied) macroeconomics, which is about topics in the larger economy like recessions, the money supply, and economic growth. Although macroeconomics is certainly important, microeconomics is the core of the discipline — it is what most professional economists study.
One important theme for the course is that understanding economics makes you see the world differently — and that many of people’s intuitions about how the social world works are flat-out wrong. In many respects, this course is about deflating urban legends about the economy and society generally. Economists are happiest when they are mythbusters.
Course Format and Requirements
In a typical course, class time is devoted mostly to lectures, usually with PowerPoint slides. We are going to do things in a slightly different way. This course will deliberately try to push some of the “lecturing” online so that we can devote more class time to other, more interesting, things like discussions and hands-on practice. This approach is often referred to as a “flipped” course.
Here’s how it will work. The course material is divided into 12 “modules,” which you will find under the Learning Modules link at the left in the HuskyCT menu. Each module will contain all the material you need for one topic.
- Link to the relevant chapter(s) of the electronic version of the textbook on the LaunchPad platform, which will also provide access to the relevant online homework (on which see below)..
- Online video lectures.
- Other (not required) readings, often fun articles from newspapers or magazines; videos and links of interest; and maybe PowerPoint slides or other materials.
We will study one module each week, more or less, except for the two weeks devoted to the two midterms exams.
In effect, the modules provide a completely online version of the course, which you can work on at your own pace — as long as you meet the deadlines. That will free us up in class to have discussions, work on problems, or talk about ideas not covered in the textbook. Don’t think of the class meetings as “lectures.” Think of them as “workshops.”
One aspect of the online part of the course will be homework and quizzes, which are tightly linked to the textbook. (See textbook and signup information below.) There will be two parts to the online assignments.
- Learning Curve: This is an adaptive learning system that allows you to practice problems at your own pace. It chooses problems adaptively based on which topics you are finding most difficult. You continue to do problems until you reach a pre-set target score. You will be graded strictly on whether you complete each assignment (reach the target score), not on how many problems you get wrong or right. Learning Curve will count five per cent of your grade, but its value goes well beyond that, because it is a great way to practice for the quizzes and the exams.
- Graded Homework. Achieve is the platform that comes with the textbook. We will cover 17 chapters in the textbook, and there will be a graded homework quiz on each chapter except chapter 1 (which means 16 quizzes in all). Obviously some modules will have two — closely related — chapters in them. Consult the calendar in Achieve to see when the homeworks are due. The main function of the quizzes is to keep you up with the material so you will benefit from the in-class activities and be prepared for the exams. I will drop the lowest three quiz grades, which means that you have three “free passes.” The free passes are intended to take into account any problems, including computer problems, you might have: so don’t ask to retake quizzes you miss. The homework quizzes count 10 per cent of your grade, but, again, their value goes beyond that in helping you prepare for the exams.
Most of your grade will come from two midterms and a final.
Two midterm exams (25 per cent each), October 6 and November 10. These will be in-class exams. They will be mostly essays and problem-solving, not multiple choice. The midterms will be cumulative only in the sense that later material will build on ideas presented earlier in the course. No makeups. We will spend time in class preparing for and going over the exams, and I will provide you with sample exam questions.
Final exam (25 per cent). The University will announce the final exam schedule late in the semester, and I will then post the time and date here. The final will be cumulative, but will emphasize the material covered after the second midterm. It will probably be a mix of multiple-choice and essay/problem-solving.
The grades in this course will almost certainly be curved. We will talk about that as we go along. I am well aware that this is an Honors course, and you can expect it to be graded accordingly.
The final ten percent of your grade will come from class participation. Active participation is a crucial part of this course. You participation grade will involve (A) showing up almost all the time and (B) leading a class discussion. I will randomly assign you in groups of two or three to be discussion leaders for each week’s topic. (Of course, I have no problem if you want to trade topics with others — that, as we’ll see, is what a market is all about.) In advance, I will send out a discussion question, maybe involving an article or a video clip, for everyone to think about. You do not have to stick to the that topic so long as you enrich our understanding of the topic. If you do A and B in a creditable way, you will get full marks for participation.
So this course has lots of alternative pieces that you can use to tailor your experience to your own learning style and interests. If you have any questions, ask me.
Note: The Economics Department provides free tutoring for students in Principles of Economics classes.
Course Grading Summary:
Textbook and Achieve
The textbook for the course will be Modern Principles of Microeconomics, by Tyler Cowan and Alex Tabarrok (Macmillan Learning, fifth edition, 2021). The book is associated with the Achieve platform, which includes the etext version of the book along with the Learning Curve adaptive learning program and the online homework quizzes.
You access Achieve through the Achieve link in the left menu of HuskyCT.
Here is a getting started guide.
There are several ways to get access:
- You can buy access to Achieve (and the e-text) directly from the publisher.
- You can buy a card at the UConn Bookstore that gives you an access code for Achieve and the e-text.
- If you want a hard copy of the book, you can buy one at the Bookstore; it will come bundled with an access code. Even if you buy the hard copy, you still get access to the e-text. Note, however, that with the all-electronic alternatives, you are purchasing only semester-long access to the e-text. The hard copy is forever.
- Start with 14 days of free trial access. With free trial access, there is no excuse not to get started on LearningCurve and the homeworks right away. Note: The free trial is available only during the first 1/4 of the semester, which means you can can start a 14 day free trial on the last day of the 4th week and still get a 14 days grace period.
In addition, I am recommending that you buy this inexpensive little book, Economics in One Virus, that talks about the economic concepts we will be learning (as well as others) in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. What could be more relevant?
Help and Resources
My office hours are Mondays and Wednesdays 9:00-11:00 or by appointment. I am also around other times. Come talk to me if you have any problems or questions about the class. Also feel free to come talk to me about other things, including economics or academics generally.
Room 304 Oak Hall
In addition, the Economics Department offers free one-on-one tutoring for all student in principles of economics classes. Feel free to take advantage. When meeting with a tutor, it is always best to come prepared with questions (from the chapters or exams).
For support for HuskyCT:
Technical Support Center, north entrance of Homer Babbidge Library.
Phone: (860) 486-4357
The Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) at UConn provides accommodations and services for qualified students with disabilities. If you have a documented disability for which you wish to request academic accommodations and have not contacted the CSD, please do so as soon as possible. The CSD is located in Wilbur Cross, Room 204 and can be reached at (860) 486-2020 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Detailed information regarding the accommodations process is also available on their website at www.csd.uconn.edu.