Blended Learning, Continuing Education, Domestic, Economics & Business, Faculty, Feature, International, Interview, Minorities, Open Source Education, Opinion, Required, Startups, top, Universities & Colleges - Written by on Friday, September 14, 2012 6:00 - 3 Comments

Interview: Star Economists Launch The Upcoming Marginal Revolution University

 Alex Tabarrok
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: fling93 via Compfight, Alex Tabarrok in the dark sportcoat

An economist friend recently told us to check out posts by Matthew Yglesias at Slate and by Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok of the esteemed economics blog, Marginal Revolution. It turns out Cowen and Tabarrok are big fans of online education and are launching the Marginal Revolution University. Its goal is to teach economics online, particularly development economics. The first course starts Oct. 1 and focuses on economic development in the nation of India.

Cohen and Tabarrok write on their blog:

The motto of MRU is “Learn, Teach, and Share.”  You can register for the course to come here.  Background on MRU is here.  Background on the development economics class is here.

The  opening course on Development Economics is about India and its topics will include: History of the East India Company; The economics of Gandhi’s attack on the salt monopoly; Was British rule good for India?

Here are some additional questions we asked Tyler and Alex about the new school via e-mail:

WA - Is this a non-profit or a for-profit institution?

Tyler - MRU is just Alex and myself and we own and control it, it is an offshoot of MR the blog.  It is a zero revenue model with no ads or fees.

Alex - Our teaching whether it be in the classroom, on our blog,  Marginal Revolution, or with our textbook Modern Principles has always been motivated by the belief that learning economics can make the world a better place.Our first course at MRU, Development Economics,  deals with perhaps the most important question of all ‘why are some countries rich while other countries are poor’. For billions of people this is a life and death question. We think economics has something of importance to say about this question and with MRU we hope to reach a global audience.

WA - Who is funding it? 

Tyler  - We have put our own money into the project.  The Mercatus Center at GMU has helped with software management.

WA - Will GMU have a role/stake/name in it? 

Tyler  - Of course we both teach at GMU and GMU as a whole has been very enthusiastic about our efforts but still it is our material, just as say a blog would be.  We would gladly do more with the school in this area.

WA - What video platform will you use? YouTube? And other notable ed tech platforms? E.g. Moodle, Blackboard, Pearson? Will students find the course only at MRU? Or will it also be found in iTunes U, Udacity, edX etc?

Tyler - YouTube, and only at MRU.

WA - What’s your future goals for MRU itself? How many courses and students and professors would you like to see teaching there in 5 years? 

Tyler - We don’t place an upward cap on how much activity we would like to see there.  What these kinds of sites and classes will look like is still in the midst of a Hayekian “discovery process.”

WA - Why are you investing your precious time into this project? 

Tyler - I am a big believer in the American notions of “mission” and “project.”  Teaching the world economics is a very good personal mission to have.  I view MRU as an extension of our work in blogging.  The blog has fundamentally changed our lives and we hope MRU can too.

WA - Thanks Alex and Tyler. Good luck with the upcoming course!

Also, check out what Yglesias had to say about their course. He writes:

It’s pretty clear that big change is coming to the higher education space through digital technology, but it’s also worth asking who’s going to really benefit from this kind of change. The key winner, it seems to me, is someone who’s intelligent, focused, and motivated but whose parents don’t happen to have much money. If you’ve got the inputs that make you a promising college student—the kind of person who selective universities would love to add to their roster—being able to learn at radically lower cost through online means is going to be a huge win. For starters, you might get an education on the cheap! But for second, the traditional college experience is still going to have lots of appeal and now selective schools will have to bid harder in terms of merit-based scholarships to try to get kids like you since you have a much better fallback option.


OMG! OMG! Tyler Cowen!!
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: fling93 via Compfight, Economics professor and Marginal Revolution University co-founder Tyler Cohen



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