- About LIKES
- Workshop 1: SCU, 2007
- Workshop 2: NC A&T
- Workshop 3: VT, 2008
- Workshop 4: Villanova
- Workshop 5: VT, 2009
- Workshop 6: Durham, 2010
Computers have changed many classrooms across universities, and the economics classroom is no different. Although computers do not appear to be essential to the learning that happens in the economics classroom, computers are most certainly used as tools to aid students in the learning process.
At a research institution, such as Virginia Tech, one might assume that computers are an integral part of classroom pedagogy. However, in the Economics Department at Virginia Tech, students are not required to use computers, at least for the Principles of Economics class. Rather, computers are viewed, not as necessary pathways to knowledge and learning, but rather as tools to assist students in solving problems. For instance, students regularly use computers to create graphs that visually communicate findings from research and homework questions. Computers are also used to help solve formulas for algebraic or calculus based derivations in most economics courses. Specific software aids students in creating tables, descriptive statistics, and formal statistical analyses to display what they are learning in class. It seems that a great deal of computer use in the teaching of economics is through IT skills training. For example, students learn to use spreadsheets, databases, and word-processing programs. Computer-assisted learning, though, seems to be a growing trend across universities in Economics Departments.
In the ECON 2005 class at Virginia Tech specifically, some professors use no computer products or software at all. However, computer use is a growing trend. For instance, many courses are now moving towards online homework assignments. As one professor at Virginia Tech explains, “These online homeworks allow students to do their HW online and the homeworks are then automatically graded. The instructor can decide what questions to put in the homeworks and can see each student’s homework if desired. A few examples are Aplia and MyEconLab. Basically these are very specialized versions of Blackboard that are fully integrated with the text being used.” Additionally, many professors rely on the use of PowerPoint presentations to deliver lectures to such large classes, and iClickers allow students to actively participate in class discussion, even when classes include over four hundred students. In this way, computers are used as pedagogical tools to ensure that students understand course material.
At higher level economic courses, students analyze data using more specialized programs, such as Excel and Strata. With these programs, computers are used as extremely sophisticated calculators in the area of econometrics, where students are responsible for applying quantitative and statistical data to principles in the field. Michael P. Murray has published an article in the Journal of Economic Education about teaching econometrics in computer classrooms, and he is enthusiastic about how computer classrooms can improve teaching pedagogy. With this increasing attention to computer use in the field of economics, Murray seems to suggest that computers are changing the ways that teaching gets done in the economic classroom. Today is a time for teachers of economics to reexamine their own pedagogical goals to include computers while understanding how computers influence the management of course material.
Murray, Michael P. “Econometrics Lectures in a Computer Classroom.” Journal of Economic Education. Summer 1999 (308-321).
Murray's article can be found Here.