Introducing MOOCs: MRU

20 Apr

Don’t they have a great logo?

MRU (short for Marginal Revolution University) is a relatively new site created by the two economists who run the most popular economics blog on the webTyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok. MRU has a focus on economics, which I think is great: economics is a valuable tool for understanding the world. However, it is still a young project in the early stages of development. The first course, Development Economics, started in December 2012. As of this writing (April 2013) there are five courses available: The Eurozone CrisisEconomics of the MediaMexico’s Economy, and The American Housing Finance System.

The classes are composed of short YouTube videos, each on a different topics, but clearly related and within the scope of each class. These topics together form a class. The videos are basically just power point presentations that get straight to the point, and from taking their development economics course I can safely say that I am pleased with the quality. In that sense it is a bit similar to Khan Academy. Although MRU has quizzes and exams, I think that these are learning tools, not a serious test to prove your knowledge and to get a certificate (although they have certificates, too). For example, the final exam for the Development Economics class:
“The exam is 20 questions made up of multiple choice and true or false. To pass and receive a certification awarded on your profile, you must earn an 80% or higher on the exam.  The exam is open note, untimed, and can be retaken as many times as needed.”
If you are allowed to retake it an infinite number of times, then I am dubious as to whether it can fulfill the traditional function of a final exam: to separate those who know and understand the material from those who don’t. However, that does not mean that it is useless. It can be very effective as a learning tool.
All in all, I love MRU, and I love that there is a MOOC (or at least a MOOC-like thing) that has a focus on a specific field. You may not be able to boast to a future employer about all the skills you’ve gain from MRU, but you will certainly gain greater understanding of the world around you. (If you want to boast for skills, try Udacity) I’ve seen too many Intro to X courses offered, but MRU promises to give much more than simple intro courses. If you are curious, jump right into the Development Economics class. There is no set schedule, so you can watch the videos at whatever pace you want. If you study development or you are curious about development but you lack a strong foundation in economics, this course is perfect for you.
Has anyone else taken a course from MRU? Which one did you take and what did you think about it?

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