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Online Principles of Economics

Virginia Tech

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 so that you're more comfortable when classes start.


Our Canvas course will include an orientation module that provides more specific details about assignment grading and course policies. If you ever have questions about course material, please stop by during office hours once the semester begins. I'll unlock our Canvas course and post an announcement when everything is ready.

Econ 2005
Course Site

10 things you should know before the semester begins:

  1. This version of the course is hosted completely online but will use a variety of resources beyond Canvas. The course is set up such that each week contains a list of required readings and activities that you complete on your own each week. While you are free to work at your own pace during the week, there are 4 exams in the course that will be held at the same time for all students enrolled in the course. This course does not meet regularly during the week so it's imperative that you are self-motivated and highly organized in order to do well. There will be multiple assignments due each week of the semester. I recommend getting into the habit of using a planner instead of relying on the Canvas to-do list.

  2. This course is VERY different from other courses at Virginia Tech, including other sections of Econ 2005. Because this course is completely asynchronous, we won't have scheduled meeting times to go over the course material together. I will hold office hours each week (both in person and on Zoom) that resemble a class time, and you're welcome to log in and ask questions you have about course material. All sections of Econ 2005 cover the same material, but we go about it in different ways, in different orders, and with different assignments. At the end of the semester, our grades are normalized to a department-mandated range.

  3. One of the most common misperceptions about online (or asynchronous courses) is that you only need to allocate 3 hours of time for a 3-credit course. The university expects students to spend 2 hours outside of class for every 1 hour in class. Since this is an online class, you don't have the traditional "in-class" component, which means that the university expects you to allocate 9 hours each week to this course. This time would include completing course readings, working on practice problems and homework, engaging in course discussion, and attending office hours.

  4. Assignment weighting in this course may be different from a lot of your other classes. Instead of placing a large weight on exams, I set aside a very large portion of your grade to be based on weekly small-stakes 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 used it in previous classes), Packback will 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. Your textbook, homework assignments, and exams will be completed on the MyEconLab platform. The total cost of the service is around $105 (plus tax). The bookstore may offer an access code, but you can get it cheaper directly from the publisher. Your online access includes a digital copy of the textbook, but you may want a physical copy too. You can rent a physical copy from the publisher, but it's very expensive. If you want a physical copy in addition to the digital copy, I recommend purchasing an older edition on AmazonYou don't need to register for MyEconLab until our course is officially open on Canvas, but you should purchase a physical copy of the book before classes start if you want a physical copy.

  6. There is one smaller book that we will read together for this course: Think Like a Freak. This book will introduce ways that economics can be applied to a wide variety of areas and will introduce the concept of "thinking like an economist." You can use the topics in this book to help you with Packback discussions and questions that may appear on exams and small quizzes. Used copies of this book are available on Amazon for less than $10. You should purchase this book before classes start.

  7. I cannot stress enough how often you can find books online for significantly cheaper than at 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! Even if you need to purchase a new copy of something, Amazon is almost always a better deal. 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. You can even have packages shipped to your dorm

  8. We will use a number of platforms during the course, but you should consider our Canvas course as the "hub" for all of the other sites. This website is meant to give you an early look at the semester ahead. Each week I will post an announcement in Canvas highlighting 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 VT email address, you can set up email forwarding so that you get all emails and announcements from me in your preferred inbox. When you set up your online accounts (MyEconLab/Packback), you should still enter your VT email address. 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. 

  9. Taking a course with a heavy emphasis on technology (Canvas, MyEconLab, Packback) increases the possibility that you may experience some technical difficulties over the course of an entire semester. If the websites are down or your personal equipment isn't functioning when you decide to work on the course, you are still responsible for all of the material and assignments that are due that week. Given the structure of the course, there are no extensions or makeup assignments this semester.

  10. Lastly, I'm very passionate about economics education. I occasionally tweet economics stuff that you may find interesting or post interesting class-related things on Instagram. I've recently written a book on learning economics from Parks and Recreation and I write a weekly newsletter on economics in current events. You're not 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 really looking forward to this semester and I hope you enjoy your next few months with me.

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