The Economics Network

Improving economics teaching and learning for over 20 years

Round 2: 2006-2008


Four small projects for Economics are being funded under the current round of JISC Distributed eLearning funding, scheduled to deliver their outputs in March 2008.

Mathematics for Economics and Business: Online Real-World Case Studies

Contact: Dr. Rebecca Taylor, Department of Economics, Nottingham Trent University,

Project Objectives:

  • 15 business-related case studies that incorporate mathematical concepts learned in level 1 mathematics for economics and/or business modules
  • 15 accompanying information sheets for students and lecturers that outline the mathematical concepts incorporated into each case study and explain how these are relevant to the business scenario presented in the case study
  • 15 accompanying guidance documents for lecturers to identify the aspects of a level 1 mathematics for economics and/or business module that would be enhanced by the use of each case study

The project will be led by Nottingham Trent University and the authorship of the case studies will be a collaborative exercise between a selection of UK companies and a Nottingham Trent project manager. The project manager will work with the collaborating business to develop a suitable idea and to present the case study in a manner that is conducive to inclusive and active student learning in level 1 mathematics for economics and business.

The project manager will then dissect each case study and identify all of the mathematical concepts used in the presentation and solution of each element. These concepts will be listed and discussed in a separate document for the use of both the lecturer and the students. Thus each of the 15 elements will include a real world business related case study, an information sheet that breaks down all of the mathematical concepts used in that case study, and a guidance page to identify the aspects of a level 1 mathematics for economics and/or business module that would be enhanced by the use of the case study.

We will create metadata for each item and use it to create a master-index of resources available to support mathematics for economics.

Output: case studies

Developing Metalearning Capacity in Economics

Contact: Prof. J. H. F. Meyer, Durham University,

The present proposal involves eLearning in a "learning", as well as a "learning to learn", sense and seeks to measure awareness of, and change, in students' understanding of their own learning, in an Economics context, using an online learning inventory and support materials.

Recent work on developing students' acquisition of threshold concepts has brought into focus the importance of transformative learning in particular critical content elements within a discipline, as opposed to learning in a disciplinary (or even more general) context. The theorisation of which "content elements" in Economics encapsulate threshold concepts (and therefore form a context for exploring metalearning) is crucial to the present proposal. A current FDTL 5 project on "Developing first year undergraduates' acquisition of threshold concepts in Economics"� is fortunately able to provide such theorisation.

Five UK universities will be approached to link their first-year economic students with an on-line learning portal implementing an Economics-specific version of the Reflections on Learning Inventory (RoLI). Students can log into, complete an Economics-specific version of the RoLI, and receive within seconds a "learning profile" that can be interpreted and reflected upon. Within each site, and tied to its designated content element(s), students will be invited to obtain, interpret and write a short reflective essay on their learning. The essays and quantitative learning profile data constitute a data output that can be analysed to yield evidence, or not, or developed metalearning capacity.

Output: Paper in IREE on Threshold concepts and metalearning capacity

Academic Performance Profiler for Economics

Contact: David Allen, University of the West of England, Bristol,

Over the last two years and with funding from the Economics Subject Centre I have been developing a level 1 APP in economics. The intention of this project is to consolidate these efforts and create a unified stand-alone software package that can be delivered and managed using a variety of web based systems (e.g. Blackboard, e-mail, or a shared drive). The project also aims to disseminate the results with other Universities and pilot the APP's use with at 5 other Universities.

In essence the APP is a tool that enables students to evaluate their academic progress in a given topic. The APP's objective is to help students become more effective and confident self-directed learners and encourage the student to articulate their personal goals and monitor their progress towards their achievement. Conceptually the APP is similar to a personal development planner (PDP) but the focus is squarely on evaluating academic progress in economics.

Currently the APP is written in Excel as this has proven to be extremely flexible and can accommodate the graphs and diagrams used in economics. Furthermore the Excel format has enabled me to create unique question templates, which would not be possible using a Word based format.

The APP is composed of numerous "units" which cover the main economic topics and concepts taught at level one (e.g. free markets and social efficiency). In each unit students are initially invited to evaluate their understanding in a set of learning objectives which relate to the topic. They rate their abilities using scores ranging from 1 to 5, where 1 = "fairly weak" and 5 = "good". They then go on to 'test' their understanding by answering a series on multiple choice and data response questions. The unique feature is that all questions are batched according to the learning objectives, the final scores (listed on a summary page) then give a better indication of where the student's strengths and weakness lie within the topic and in relation to their initial self-evaluation scores.

The Anorak Test: Simple eLearning Tips for Economics Lecturers

Contact: Dr. Martin Poulter, The Economics Network,

This project will create a series of short video tips, using screen-captures and/or filmed demonstrations as appropriate, to help with simple e-learning skills.

The Subject Centre's surveys of lecturer practice show that a limiting factor in the adoption of e-learning tools is a lack of relevant skills on the part of many of the teaching staff. Some of the best feedback we get is in response to quite simple technology tips.

Each video tip would relate to the specific resources that are provided for the Economics subject. Take PowerPoint as an example. The Subject Centre already hosts case studies of innovative uses of the software, specific economic models as PowerPoint Reusable Learning Objects and links to online sources of slide shows. A short Flash video could show each of these in action, provide active links to each, and thus show practitioners why they would benefit from adopting this particular practice.

Round 1: 2004-2006

DeL funding supported three Economics projects run by The Economics Network in the first round.

Assessment Question Bank

We had already developed a question bank and the funding allowed us to commission a great deal of original content, plus technical improvements which are ongoing. We formerly required that lecturers submit questions in order to join, but we have been able to lift that restriction.

ExcelAssess: Self-marking assessments in Excel

This is a Windows application and question library for rapidly creating and administering assessments.

Slides for Intermediate Core Macro and Micro

We are using the animation and graphical features of PowerPoint to create slide shows that illustrate models from core intermediate. The macro slides are online now.