Seven years ago, I decided to create an on-line version of the on-campus Principles of Economics course—we call it Econ 1—that I had been giving for many years. I recall that we spent a lot of time and effort on this project back in 2013. Each day after giving a lecture to hundreds of students, I went to a recording studio and gave the same lecture, but divided it into shorter segments, designed for easier on-line viewing. We edited the videos, mixing in graphs, photos, quizzes and dynamic illustrations. We captioned and indexed the videos for easy searching. We put the videos on a fun and easy-to-use on-line platform. We added review and study material to the platform and set up small on-line discussion sections and chat rooms. We provided links to make a complete self-contained course.
I think it was an effective way to teach and learn, and it turned out to be at least as popular as my on-campus course as I explained in a 2014 Wall Street Journal article. With the help of terrific assistants, I have given that on-line course—we call it Econ 1v (the v is for virtual)—every year since then—seven times, usually in the summer quarter, both for Stanford credit and as free massive open on-line course (with fewer features). And I have also continued to give the on-campus course in non-summer quarters.
So, when the Coronavirus pandemic hit, and Stanford required that all its Spring quarter courses had to switch on-line, unlike most faculty, I was already completely ready—actually raring—to go with Econ 1v, and I offered to give the tried and true on-line course. Stanford added the course to its Spring course catalog along with other economics courses, and many students quickly started signing up.
It is good to be able contribute—along with many other people around the world—in these difficult times. True, it’s hard to be positive with the Coronavirus tragedy all around us. But I’m optimistic that the responses to this challenge will give an important nudge to make things better, and, in the educational area, to make for more effective virtual teaching and learning. The progress in ed-tech the past several years has been huge, and every day I now hear about new ways to improve on-line distance learning whether in college courses, seminars, graduate courses, or in the most important K-12 education. As I said to Peter Robinson in an Uncommon Knowledge interview a few days ago, “people are rising to this occasion, and they’re thinking of different ways to produce, different ways to transact, different ways to work. And it’s been there for a long time, but I think this may be an impetus…”