Do Students Really Learn from Online Experiments? - Evidence from Introductory Microeconomics Class 1,2

By Kumarappan, S. | NACTA Journal, September 2016 | Go to article overview

Do Students Really Learn from Online Experiments? - Evidence from Introductory Microeconomics Class 1,2


Kumarappan, S., NACTA Journal


Introduction

Agribusiness classrooms have long employed modern technologies such as newer presentation software, audio-visual tracks, online assessments and online experiments that simulate market and business settings and changed how students participate, engage and learn (Alston et al., 2003; Litzenberg, 1995; Litzenberg, 1982). New pedagogical models such as the Technological, Pedagogical, and Content Knowledge (TPACK) suggest that technology has become an essential component of classroom pedagogy and an integral part of subject content (Koehler and Mishra, 2009). Particularly, in undergraduate economics classrooms, technological resources are becoming more common than ever (Kennelly and Duffy, 2007; O'Dea and Ring, 2008).

The basic economic concepts can be taught with or without the use of technology such as experiments (Becker and Watts, 1995; Carter and Emerson, 2012; Emerson, 2014; Joseph, 1970; Wells, 1991). Nguyen and Trimarchi (2010) reported student performance improved slightly but significantly, showing a marginal (two percentage point) increase in student grades with the use of homework software packages (such as Aplia or MyEconLab). The software packages help organize and provide easy access to course content; can it also help improve students' economic knowledge? The existing studies And mixed evidence with the use of technology in teaching economics through synchronous online experiments (O'Dea and Ring, 2008; Lee et al., 2010; Perez-Sebastian, 2010). Technology has the advantages of increasing enthusiastic participation of students and highlight the nuances of economic concepts through quick implementation of multiple rounds with slight variations and immediate summarization of results (Ball and Eckel, 2004; Janssen et al., 2014; Palan, 2014; Shor, 2003). But, the question of whether students become savvy in the economic content due to online experiments is yet to be investigated. This study tries to find evidence for any discernible improvements in student performance (grades) when technological tools (such as online experiments) are used to teach key introductory economic concepts.

The students in introductory microeconomics class need to know the impact of demand and supply forces and how they determine the outcome in these issues: (i) laissez faire market experiments show what the market equilibrium would look like (quantity and price) under free market conditions, (ii) government intervention measures that can have negatively implications such as surplus or shortage and deadweight loss, (iii) government intervention that is necessary to manage of common pool resources, (iv) how monopoly profits and deadweight loss can be controlled by the government and (v) how information asymmetry problems can be addressed with rules and requirements mandated by the government or markets. Each of these issues builds upon each other to provide a broader economic understanding for the students. These concepts can be taught with the use of online experiments, as explained below.

While using online experiments, the class is divided into two sections - buyers and sellers. The buyer group will be provided with a buyers' value signifying their willingness to pay; the seller group will be provided with sellers' costs signifying their willingness to accept. The buyers and sellers are given with decide how much to sell for or bid on the product. The technological component makes it convenient to implement various rounds with slight variations. One of the primary benefits of using online experiments is that it can provide students with additional time to think and reflect upon the economic concepts and understand the economic implications better. The online experiments used for this study comes from multiple sources such as Aplia, MobLab, MyEconLab, GameTheory.net and VEconLab.

This study hypothesizes that when online experiments are used, they can reinforce the economic concepts in students and help them score better in their assessments. …

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Do Students Really Learn from Online Experiments? - Evidence from Introductory Microeconomics Class 1,2
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