Stanford’s Economics 1 Now Coming Online

I have been teaching economics at Stanford for many years. Economics 1 is one of my favorite courses, and it’s been one of the most popular courses at Stanford.  I usually teach it in a large lecture hall with hundreds of students and occasionally I have guest lecturers like the famous economist Milton Friedman when he was alive.  And sometimes I goof around, as when I brought my baby granddaughter to be the guest lecturer.  One year Tiger Woods took the course and he learned the famous concept of opportunity cost so well that he left Stanford and joined the pro-golf tour.

This summer starting on June 24 we are giving an open online version of that on-campus course. People can register here for the open course. We have packaged the course in a new, different, and I think effective way as follows:  Each day just after giving a 50-minute lecture to hundreds of students, I went to a recording studio in the David Packard Building on the Stanford campus and gave the same lecture but divided into smaller segments, designed for easier online viewing. We then mixed in graphs, photos, and other illustrations, just as they would appear in the large lecture. And we captioned and indexed each video so it could be easily searched. We then put these videos on a new Stanford online platform “” Then we added review and study material to the platform and set up discussion groups. We provided links to make a complete self-contained course.

The course covers all of economics at a basic level. It stresses the key idea that economics is about making purposeful choice with limited resources and about people interacting with other people as they make these choices. Most of those interactions occur in markets, and this course is mainly about markets, including the market for bikes on campus, or labor markets, or capital markets.  We will show why free competitive markets work well to improve people’s lives and how they have removed millions from people from poverty around the world, with many more, we hope, still to come.

People who participate in the open online course and take the short quizzes following each video will be awarded a Statement of Accomplishment. As with many open online courses, this one runs in parallel with a for-credit Stanford Economics 1 course that also includes a midterm test, a final exam, problem sets, and homework, which are all graded and count toward a final grade and credit for Stanford students. An unique feature of this for-credit course is that it is also offered online–using the same Stanford online platform–to Stanford students and incoming freshman who happen to be off campus this summer.


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