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Economics of Crime

Virginia Tech

Welcome to the Course!

With the start of the semester approaching, I wanted to share some important information about the course before we officially begin. My goal is to ensure that you are familiar with the course expectations, which will hopefully make you more at ease when classes officially start.

In our Canvas course, there will be an orientation module that offers detailed information about how to signup for various platforms, assignment instructions, and official course policies. For the most part, you can relax for the next few weeks and take care of most things when you get to campus. I'll post an official course announcement when our Canvas course is unlocked and ready to access.

Econ of Crime 
Course Site

10 things you should know before the semester begins:

  1. Unique Course Design: This course (and my teaching style) is VERY different from other electives offered in the Economics Department. The most notable difference is that this course has a heavier reading/writing/discussion component than the other electives. Keep in mind that Virginia Tech expects you to spend around 6 hours each week working on material related to our course in addition to the 3 hours we spend together each week. 

  2. In-Person Format: The lectures for this course will be held entirely in person, and there won't be an online/Zoom option this semester. The majority of your assignments will be completed online, but a portion of your final grade is based on some class activities.

  3. Assignment Weighting: Instead of a few exams worth a large portion of your overall grade, our course will emphasize weekly small-stakes assignments. It's important to keep track of due dates throughout the semester and avoid a heavy reliance on the Canvas calendar. If you've never used a planner before, it's a great time to get in the habit of keeping track of your busy schedule.

  4. Attendance and Participation: Active class participation is important and contributes to a portion of your final grade. We'll use the iClicker Cloud platform to help keep the class interactive. The physical iClicker remotes won't work with our course, but you can participate with your laptop or cell phone. You will be able to register and pay for iClicker Cloud once our course officially opens on Canvas. 

  5. Online Discussion Boards: Packback is a discussion board platform we'll use weekly. I have negotiated a reduced price for your course, so it's important to purchase your subscription directly from Packback instead of the bookstore. If you're using Packback in other courses (or you used it in previous classes), Packback will give you an additional discount on our class. You don't need to sign up for Packback until our course is officially open on Canvas.

  6. Tableau Public: Your major assignments this semester will involve completing five data visualization projects using Tableau. Each project has a written component that summarizes your work and a peer grading component related to your data visualization. Tableau access will be outlined in Canvas when the course opens, but this software is provided at no additional cost to you. Be sure your computer meets the technical specifications for Tableau Public.

  7. Saving on Books & Course Material:  I recommend buying physical copies of American Prison and Narconomics since they are each less than $15. Anytime you're searching for books for your courses, you can often find them online at significantly lower prices than the campus bookstore. For most classes, you can find used copies or older editions that work just as well. Be sure to check with your other instructors to see! Amazon offers discounts, especially with an Amazon Student account. You can even have packages shipped to your dorm.

  8. Improve Your Writing: Given the amount of writing involved with this course, you may be interested in improving your writing skills. Previous students have benefited from using Deirdre McCloskey's book, Economical Writing. The book is short and an excellent resource for thinking about how to better present your ideas in a business setting.

  9. Canvas as Hub: We'll use several different platforms this term, but you should consider Canvas as the central platform for all course-related information. Configure your Canvas preferences for daily digests, and consider setting up email forwarding for your VT email address if you want to use something else. When you set up your online accounts (Tableau/iClicker/Packback), you need to use your VT email address to ensure your grades are synced with Canvas.

  10. Technological Concerns: The semester is long and there is a chance you'll run into technical issues during the semester that prevent you from completing an assignment. Given the structure (and size) of the course, there will not be any opportunities to make up assignments you miss. Almost all of our assignments are completed online, so you can always take advantage of a public computer or rent a laptop from the library.

I'm very passionate about economics and education. I will share that excitement with you every class, and I hope you bring similar energy to class when it comes to learning and wanting to be successful. I occasionally post class-related stuff you may find interesting on LinkedInX/Twitter, and Instagram and I write a weekly newsletter that looks at how basic economic concepts can explain current events. Please do not feel obligated to follow any of these accounts, but you're welcome to interact with me as much or as little as you're comfortable. 

I am looking forward to the upcoming semester and I hope you enjoy your next few months with m

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