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Learn Principles of Economics Online

July 23, 2010

Tags EducationFree MarketsGlobal EconomyMedia and Culture

"Murphy's prose has relentless fire without needless fireworks."– Jeffrey Tucker

I am pleased to announce that I will be teaching a Mises Academy online class on the Principles of Economics. In addition to the business-cycle class that I recently finished, I expect to teach Principles of Economics once a year in the Mises Academy. Enrollment is currently open (for yourself and/or your child) for the Principles session starting in early September.

The Scope of the Course

This inaugural session of the Principles course runs for ten weeks, from September 7 through November 19. When choosing the material we would cover, I was guided by the idea that this might be the only economics class some students would take in their entire lives. My goal is that everyone who graduates from this course will leave with a basic understanding of how the economy really works. The students will learn the importance of private property as an institution, where money came from and what purpose it serves, and how profits and losses guide entrepreneurs when they run their businesses.

After explaining the workings of a free-market economy, we will then cover popular forms of government intervention. Students will learn how price controls distort the market and end up hurting the very people they supposedly help. We will cover the harmful effects of tariffs and other trade barriers, and students will learn the nature of inflation and understand why government is ultimately responsible for rising prices. Click on the long image on the right to see a screenshot of the full syllabus for registered students.

Unveiling a New Textbook

For this inaugural Principles class, we will be using my forthcoming introductory text, Lessons for the Young Economist. The book is still being formatted for printing, but Jeff Tucker has reviewed the manuscript here. The new book will be ready in August, in time for the opening of the class.

When writing Lessons for the Young Economist, I had a target age range of 7th through 10th grades. In fact, I sent drafts of the manuscript to one of my friends who teaches history to junior high students. We worked together at every stage to ensure that the book's vocabulary, style, and chapter length were ideal for teaching economic principles to younger readers.

Although the online class and accompanying textbook are offered through the Mises Institute, strictly speaking this isn't a course in Austrian economics. Instead, the material will be more foundational. The book explains what the stock market is, and uses numerical examples to show how a household can expand its future income by saving more in the present. The idea is that newcomers to economics — whether young people or even adults who have never read deeply in the Austrian tradition — should read this book first and then move on to the works of Hazlitt and Rothbard.

Structure of the Course

In a typical week of the course, I will give a live video broadcast on Wednesday from 7:30–9:00pm EDT. I will spend the first hour lecturing on that week's material, and then I will field questions from students for the remaining half hour. In addition, on Saturday I will have "office hours" from 11am–2pm EDT, meaning that I will be available on a live video broadcast to answer questions from any students who tune in.

Note that the Saturday sessions are purely for the students' convenience, and are not mandatory. Also, all broadcasts will be recorded and available to enrolled students, so that people who have a scheduling conflict can still take the class if they wish.

Each week I will also participate in the discussion forums to make sure students are understanding the material. Depending on the number of enrollees, we will divide the class up into a number of smaller groups who will then have the option of discussing the material for a given week in the Mises Academy forum.

If a student wishes, he or she can simply "audit" the class. This was a popular option for many adults who took my business-cycle class, because they had a busy work schedule and watched my lectures but couldn't keep up with the reading.

However, students may also take the class for a grade. These students will take a multiple-choice quiz each week, in addition to a midterm and final exam. Although the Mises Institute is not yet accredited, we will present certificates of completion and a formal grade at the end of the class to those students who desire it. Homeschooling parents in particular may decide that their child will receive excellent instruction in economic principles through this class.

The Future of the Mises Academy

Whether it is in one of my classes or those offered by other instructors, I strongly encourage you to participate in the Mises Academy if you haven't already done so. Because of the economies of scale, we are able to provide top-flight instruction at a fraction of the cost of a typical online university class. (For example, the price of my ten-week Principles course is only $250.) As the awareness and popularity of the Mises Academy grows, we can offer an expanding list of courses from an expanding stable of superb instructors.

For those who are interested in the idea of taking online classes but worry about the actual implementation, check out the screen shot at the bottom of this article. Also, here are some comments from my students in the online business-cycle class:

Murphy was fantastic in both lectures and Q&A…. Dr. Murphy's clarity, candor, and focus were really showcased in the extended Q&A sessions after lectures and during the office hours. He is very precise in his use of language, thinks quickly, and gives complete and patient answers.

I loved the lectures and how open professor Murphy was with answering questions. He was able to switch from addressing introductory-level questions to much more in-depth questions without talking down to anyone or talking too much over anybody's head.

I love Dr. Murphy's practical approach to teaching, the selection of reading, podcast, and PowerPoint materials were outstanding, the lectures were well-organized and conversational in tone, and the course itself was seamlessly integrated into a coherent whole. The online venue is also well-organized and easy to navigate.… [N]ot one of the classes I have taken in [a university online] program even remotely compares in quality to this class on the business cycle…. From literally every standpoint — quality of materials, teacher involvement and interaction with students, discussion forums, and use of multi-media, Mises wins hands down, and at a small fraction of the cost. I couldn't be more satisfied. Thank you for a wonderful learning experience — seriously.

 Robert Murphy teaches Principles of Economics


Whether for yourself or a young person, the Mises Academy's upcoming Principles course will provide a solid economic understanding of how the world works.

Although the Academy infrastructure can handle a large load, there is a technical upper limit to the class size.

If you know you want to participate in this inaugural Principles class, I encourage you to enroll quickly to reserve your spot.

I hope to see you in September!

 session screenshotLive sessions include a video broadcast of the professor, a public chat for questions and discussion, lecture slides, and a "professor's whiteboard."

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