The Economics of Organizations was a class very different from every other class I have taken. It was multi-faceted; split between in-class discussions, excel assignments, blog posts and comments, a group essay, and several online videos and readings. This dynamic approach allowed for ample learning, but it also had some drawbacks. In this post I will discuss some lessons I learned, personal views on the course, how I approached the course material, and ways I think the course could be improved.
Coming in to the class, I felt that I already had some good background knowledge on the topic of Organizations and how they are run. On top of several courses in basic Economic theory, I have taken courses on Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Theories in Leadership, and Business as a Force in American Society. I chose to take Economics of Organizations because organizations and they way they are run interest me very much. At the beginning of the semester, I felt like I already knew about the topics we discussed such as gift exchange. This quickly changed as we moved on to more advanced and complex topics. Even learning about gift exchange was valuable for me because (though I had heard about the topic before) it helped me solidify the idea in Economic terms. A few topics that stood out to me and that I learned the most from were the Triangular-Principal-Agent model and the idea of shirking. Through the Triangular-Principal-Agent model, I was able to see more clearly about how tasks look different to different members of the organization and how this may affect outcomes and motivation. Learning about shirking was surprising for me, because I never realized that this type of thing is accounted for. Being someone who tends to follow the rules and worry about what might happen if things aren’t done correctly, it wasn’t completely clear to me that shirking was something so concrete which could, in some ways, be measured and accounted for. I did not think it was much of a problem, and if it was, then I didn’t think it could be measured. I see now, however, that attempting to measure and account for shirking is important and can increase the productivity of an organization.
I learned a lot about the topics we discussed in class, but I think that the pedagogic approach could have been better. I would have rather heard more about the professor’s views and theories rather than those of my classmates. In most cases, I felt that my classmates and I knew much less about the topics and the Economics behind them than our professor did. Even so, I think we all learned a lot from the way the questions in class were structured. Asking questions to help point our thinking in certain directions allowed us to use our own thought processes to come up with the conclusions we were supposed to. Though this may not have happened perfectly, it was a valuable learning experience.
My process for blogging and doing the excel homework was relatively consistent throughout the semester. I read the blog prompt and thought about how it related to the things we were doing in class. I tended to wait at least a few hours (sometimes up to a day or two) before writing my post. This allowed the prompt to “sink in” and helped me think of connections and roughly organize what I wanted to write. Then I typed out my blog post in Google docs first before posting it on my blog. As for the excel homework, I usually tried to start it as soon as it was released. Often, the mathematical/economic principles were hard for me to grasp and I took a long time completing the homework. I would post a question on the discussion board if I was still confused or ask my fellow group members for help.
I have only a few suggestions for ways the course might be improved. At times, I felt that there was a lot going on in the course at once; with the blog posts, excel homework, discussion-style lectures, textbook readings, and updates to the course website, I found it hard to gauge which information was most important and which was supplementary. I felt like there was a lot of information being thrown at us at once, which made the class feel overwhelming and sometimes confusing. Even so, I think that this method forces us to think about what all the different connections might be and come up with our own conclusions about the course. This, I think, is a very valuable way to learn because it requires deep thinking and an ability to integrate many topics and methods of thinking. The only suggestion I have for improving this would be to potentially hand out a course outline that is visually easy to understand. What I mean by this is maybe some sort of info-graphic with the main course topics and large, bold print, connected to other course details and topics in a smaller font. It would look sort of like a mind map.
Another suggestion I would give is to restructure the blogging aspect of the course. I felt that the comments could have been more like a discussion in themselves, but I tended to not read my partners’ responses to my own posts until much later, and when we commented on each others’ posts, no one responded to the comments.
Overall, I learned a lot from the course Economics of Organizations, and I thought it was very dynamic and structured differently than other classes I have taken. I enjoyed reading my partners’ blog posts and reading comments that others wrote on my own blogs. I learned about organizational efficiency in terms more concrete and Economics-based than I ever did before.