Construction workers
Labor Economics
Penn State University

Welcome to the course!

The start of the semester is coming up soon, but I wanted to let you know a few things about the course before we officially begin. My hope is that you're aware of the course expectations before we begin and can switch classes if you don't think you're able to complete the requirements this semester. 

I've designed a syllabus module in Canvas for you to review on your own when the course is available. If you have questions about the syllabus material, please stop by office hours once the semester begins. I'll post an announcement in Canvas (which you should receive as an email) about a week before classes begin.

​Some important things to know before the semester:

  1. I will only spend about 10 minutes highlighting the syllabus on the first day of class. I'll spend the rest of the time going over the first lesson of the course. I post handouts for each lesson prior to the start of each lesson so that you can print them to take notes on. I will present at a pace that assumes you have printed these notes before class starts. I usually recommend purchasing some colored pens or markers (like these). Just reading the slides will not ensure you have all the material we cover inside and outside of class.

  2. I intend to teach our course this fall in a hybrid mode, which allows you the opportunity to attend either in person or through Zoom. If you do not feel comfortable attending in person, or if you don't want to fully follow Penn State's Covid-related policies, you should attend the course through the Zoom option. A portion of your grade in the course is based on attending class during the scheduled time, however, you can earn that credit through either modality. Office hours will be held only through Zoom. If we're unable to hold class in person during the semester, it will be moved to Zoom.

  3. I have very high expectations for my students, which is good to know before we begin the semester. This course (and my teaching style) is VERY different from other electives offered in the Economics Department at Penn State. The most notable difference is that this course has a heavier reading/writing/discussion component than the others courses. The university's expectation for the amount of time you spend on this course is around 7-9 hours of work outside of class each week. If you don’t think you can commit to that for the upcoming semester, please consider taking this course another semester or taking a different section.

  4. The weighting of this course is different from other courses. Instead of placing a large weight on exams, the majority of your grade in the course comes from weekly assignments. One of those weekly assignments is a discussion board platform known as Packback. I recommend purchasing your subscription directly from our Canvas course because it will be cheaper than other access codes you may find. If you're using Packback in other courses (or you did in previous classes), they'll give you a discount on our class. You don't need to sign up for Packback until our course is officially open on Canvas.

  5. The other major portion of your grade comes from the completion of 5 data visualization projects during the semester using Tableau. Each project has a written component and requires peer grading as well. 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. If you would like to improve your writing skills, you may benefit from Deirdre McCloskey's book, Economical Writing.  At 112 pages, most of you should be able to read it fairly quickly. While geared toward writing in economics, some of the lessons can be applied to writing in other business-centric fields (like Labor Relations). This book is not required, but previous students have told me they found it helpful. If you're new to data visualizations and using graphs to represent data, I have put together a coursepack at the bookstore that you may find helpful. It provides summaries of a variety of different visualization techniques, which you may find helpful for your projects.

  6. ​Your textbook for the course is actually a common reader called New Geography of Jobs. You can use the topics in this book to help you with Packback discussions and questions may appear during in-class polling and weekly quizzes. We will read this book together over the course of the semester in addition to other chapters/articles that I will provide you in Canvas. There are copies of the book available on reserve at the Paterno Library and you can find copies on Amazon for around $10. If your family does not have Amazon Prime, you can sign up for an Amazon Student account and get prime benefits for free for 6 months. This way you'll save on books AND on shipping costs. If you're living on campus, you can even have packages shipped to your dorm.

  7. We will use a number of platforms during the course, but you should consider our Canvas course as the "hub" for everything related to the course. This website is just to give you an early look at the semester ahead. Each week I will post an announcement in Canvas to highlight important information for that week ahead. I may also email you directly about various topics as the semester progresses. If you don’t want to use your PSU email address, you can set up email forwarding so that you get all emails and announcements from me in your preferred inbox. I recommend updating your Canvas preferences before the term starts so that you receive daily digests from your courses rather than individual emails each time something changes in your courses. 

  8. Taking a course with a heavy emphasis on technology (Canvas, Zoom, Tableau, Packback) increases the possibility that you may experience some technical difficulties over the course of an entire semester. The way to minimize the impact of those disruptions is to ensure that you are working ahead of deadlines when possible and completing all of your assignments so that you can drop assignments that aren't completed because of a technical malfunction. The Zoom option of the class should not be used as a replacement for physical class attendance. If the materials in the classroom aren't functioning that day, you are still responsible for the material covered that day. Given the structure of the course, there are no extensions or makeup assignments this semester. Because there are so many regular assignments throughout the semester, I recommend getting into the habit of using a planner

  9. One of the best ways to stay engaged in learning is to sign up for some regular news digest. Given the number of current events that link back to our content, we may cover many of these in class. Two of the favorites that I recommend are the Morning Brew and The Flip Side. If we talk about these topics in class, you may find them included as questions on exams or TopHat quizzes. These also tend to be great topics for discussion board posts. 

  10. I occasionally tweet economics stuff that you may find interesting, but don't feel obligated to follow me. I have created a Facebook group for our class so that you can more easily meet and connect with other students in the course before we begin. In the past, this has also been a great place to share resources and ask questions during the semester. 

I am really looking forward to this Fall and seeing many of you back on campus.