Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Goodbye to ECON100, hello to ECONS101

It's the time of year to be a little nostalgic, and that feeling was further promoted this week by the conclusion of the final semester of our ECON100 paper at Waikato. So it seemed fitting that I was the tutor for the final tutorial for ECON100 a couple of weeks ago, given that I was also the tutor for the very first ECON100 tutorial, way back in the second week of A Semester 2003.

We introduced ECON100 in 2003 as part of a revamped Bachelor of Management Studies, and at that time the paper was two-thirds microeconomics, and one-third macroeconomics. The first iteration was taught by Steven Lim and Dimitri Margaritis. Many others have contributed as lecturers over the years including Bridget Daldy, Dan Marsh, Mark Holmes, Pam Kaval, Steven Tucker, Susan Olivia, Matthew Roskruge and myself (plus some guest lecturers and visiting lecturers, and of course there have been many, many tutors).

I remember Steven and Bridget as being the real drivers of the development (or re-development) of the paper in the beginning (Steven especially), and ECON100 has had an identity as an introductory paper in business economics that has made it unique within New Zealand. While other universities have continued to teach principles of economics in first year (of various flavours), ECON100 has always had a much greater focus on business applications like game theory, strategy, and pricing.

I first lectured ECON100 in A Semester of 2005, teaching the macroeconomics section (yes, that is surprising given that I exclusively teach microeconomics now). After that, I taught it in the Summer School period in 2006 and 2007, then in A Semester from 2008 to 2017, as well as B Semester in 2011 and 2016-17. The paper format changed in 2008 to be all microeconomics (no macroeconomics) - a change that I agitated strongly for, in order to balance the way that ECON200 was taught (as all macroeconomics). This allowed us to introduce a wider range of interesting business content, and especially to extend our coverage of market failures.

Steven was kind enough (or tolerant enough) to allow me space to innovate in the paper (and everyone else just went along with my suggestions). We began using the Aplia online testing platform in 2009 (after a successful trial run by Dan Marsh that year in summer school), and have used it every semester for the last nine years. We ran quite a successful group video project assessment from 2011 to 2015 (although we eventually dropped it when students stopped putting sufficient effort into the videos and the quality dropped significantly). In 2016, we introduced extra credit marks that could only be earned by completing spot quizzes in lectures, which has substantially improved lecture attendance, particularly late in the semester (this follows my standard practice in ECON110 for many years to offer extra credit marks in lectures). These innovative assessments have drawn attention across the university and internationally, and as I have mentioned before our assessment and grading practices compare well with others.

So, what comes next? It might be the end of ECON100, but it is just the beginning for our new ECONS101 paper, which will be introduced from A Semester next year. The ECONS101 paper will look totally different, but at the same time it will retain some of the key features that make it distinct from offerings at other universities. The biggest change will be the adoption of the CORE curriculum, which has just received further support from the Royal Economic Society:
CORE, which stands for Curriculum Open-access Resources in Economics (, is an international collaboration of researchers that has created an online, free, introductory economics ebook called The Economy. It is already the basis of the first year of economics degrees offered by more than a dozen universities in the UK, including University College London, King’s College London, and The University of Bristol.
CORE is probably the most exciting new development in economics teaching in recent years, and we are excited to be offering it. And as you can see from the list above, we're going to be following some high quality international university programmes in doing so. However, ECONS101 will retain a focus on business economics as well, and so future students can expect to have to deal with applications of pricing strategy alongside their learning from the CORE textbook (which I will write more about later this week).

The new ECONS101 paper will return to the two-thirds microeconomics, one-third macroeconomics format that the original ECON100 paper had. I'm thrilled to have Les Oxley to share the paper with in both semesters next year, and we hope that the next generation of Waikato management students will get at least as good an experience with ECONS101 as past students have had with ECON100.

I'm looking forward to it. I can't wait!


In case you're wondering, ECON110 will have a new life too, although only the paper code is changing (to ECONS102) and most of the content will remain similar to previous years (although, that paper is a bit of a chameleon as it has undergone constant redevelopment over the 13 years I've taught it).


  1. When I lectured at Temple University Japan in 1997, noticed that if you prescribed a book, your lectures, quizzes, test Banks were supplied as an incentive. these were written by community college professors, not the main authors of the textbook so they were good at explaining economics.

    1. I've been one of those underpaid developers of the supplementary materials. It was a lot of effort and paid peanuts, and I didn't even get an acknowledgement in the text!