Maybe today you should go visit MRUniversity.com

by on October 1, 2012 at 12:48 am in Economics, Education, Uncategorized | Permalink

The link is here, and we thank you for your interest.  Read Alex’s opening statement for more information:

Welcome to MRU! At right you will find our first course, Development Economics. Click the + to see the videos in each section. New sections will be released at the beginning of every week and there will be bonus sections released during the middle of some weeks. Practice questions for each video provide some simple feedback.

Anyone can watch videos and take the practice questions but to truly participate by asking and answering questions, posting material, partcipating in chats and so forth you will need to register. Please do register as this will also help us to plan for future courses. There is no charge for registering.

In order to make our material as widely available as possible the videos default to low resolution, 380p, but if you have good bandwidth we recommend bumping them up to 480p which will increase video and audio resolution. You can do this on many platforms (not all) by clicking near the bottom right of the video and then clicking the settings button.

The course is designed for videos but every lecture also includes a downloadable MP3 in the section Related Materials.

The “How to Use” section (link in bar at top), includes ideas such as flipping the classroom and some basic directions for making your own videos.

In coming weeks, we will be releasing new features and announcing virtual and live chats!

Jim October 1, 2012 at 1:17 am

In previous posts by Tyler about on-line education we have seen suggestions that it would help middle class Americans and/or people living in developing countries (which seems a reasonable claim). So it is quite surprising to see that his (and Alex’s) first on-line course is Development Economics. Seems of very little practical benefit to those not already in academia or government.

prior_approval October 1, 2012 at 5:38 am

Well, you may have noticed that this blog has a recent spike of interest in both reporting about GMOs and Walmart. Wonder what country, representing a solid 20% or so of all people, remains opposed to both?

And I do wonder if MRU will take a brief detour into the patenting of basmati rice, and what strong IP laws mean in terms of developing economies, since it was such a fascinating lesson for Indians in how America is such a hotbed of innovation.

‘In September 1997 Texas, USA company RiceTec was granted U.S. Patent No. 5,663,484 on “basmati rice lines and grains.” The patent secures lines of basmati and basmati-like rice and ways of analyzing that rice. RiceTec, owned by Prince Hans-Adam of Liechtenstein, faced international outrage over allegations of biopiracy. It had also caused a brief diplomatic crisis between India and United States with India threatening to take the matter to WTO as a violation of TRIPS which could have resulted in a major embarrassment for the United States.[9] Both voluntarily and due to review decisions by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, RiceTec lost or withdrew most of the claims of the patent, including, most importantly, the right to call their rice lines “basmati.”[10] A more limited varietal patent was granted to RiceTec in 2001 on claims dealing with three strains of the rice developed by the company.’

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basmati#Patent_battle

That’s right – an American company was granted ownership rights to basmati by an American government agency using American law. Talk about a less on in developmental economics.

Turing Test October 1, 2012 at 1:19 am

Cui bono?– who benefits from another online “university”? what’s the point?

Brandon October 1, 2012 at 10:02 am

Trolls!

Turing Test October 1, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Think again, Brandon (and other online sheep). If “MRU” is not just there to join a stupid bandwagon, that if, Tyler and Alex were really serious about all this, wouldn’t they offer “Economics 101″ for credit to compete with real university classes (including Econ 101 at GMU) instead of some esoteric and unfalsifiable lectures on “Development Economics” (please!!!).

Brandon October 1, 2012 at 5:50 pm

Read that sentence again! “If Tyler weren’t just jumping on a bandwagon, he would offer classes that everyone else offers!”

Test again October 1, 2012 at 1:40 am

Tyler,

Do you narrate at all? I miss hearing your calming voice!

Michael October 1, 2012 at 1:42 am

Will the videos be available for download? I ask because I prefer to watch instructional videos at increased speed (~2x). It helps me learn the material better because I have to pay more attention, and eliminates any risk of feeling sleepy during lecture.

NeedleFactory October 1, 2012 at 3:01 am

Yes, Michael. I was browsing the site just now and saw some “download video” links.

Ricardo2x October 1, 2012 at 7:12 am

No need to download, you can do that with youtube videos, just switch from Flash to HTML5 at http://www.youtube.com/html5.
Then click on the same “settings” button you click to choose video resolution, and you’ll see a choice a speed.

MRUniversity should let students know this, it’s incredibly useful.

Brad Hutchings October 1, 2012 at 1:59 am

I’m surprised that literacy isn’t even a subtopic of education, let alone its own major topic.

Martin October 1, 2012 at 2:40 am

OMG, I feel like in a lecture hall. And I have the same concentration problems – instead of carefully listening all kinds of silly questions cross my mind: Where did you get those huge bar stools from? Where did you find that hilarious picture of a cow sort of smiling at the cam?

prior_approval October 1, 2012 at 5:22 am

I just love this, from the terms of use –

‘You must be over 18 years of age or possess parental or guardian consent to use MRU. For reasons of law, children under 13 are not allowed at all.’

The culture that is MRU.

It is interesting to note that GMU has enrolled students younger than 18 – and they are explicitly forbidden from accessing this site.

Truly a beacon in the new age of online education.

Yogesh October 1, 2012 at 6:12 am

Udacity and Coursera have similar clauses in their Terms of Service.

prior_approval October 1, 2012 at 9:41 am

Well, Coursera is venture capital financed, and describes themselves thus -

‘We are a social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. We envision a future where the top universities are educating not only thousands of students, but millions. Our technology enables the best professors to teach tens or hundreds of thousands of students.

Through this, we hope to give everyone access to the world-class education that has so far been available only to a select few. We want to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in. ‘

‘social entrepreneurship company’ sounds plausibly deniable in terms of what the capital expects in return without actually denying that a company is providing the platform with an expected return on its investment, and as for the ‘partnering?’ OCW has been available for more than a decade, in multiple languages, and is free.

But then, why would anyone care about course material from MIT which anyone can use and share? After all, such users must surely be part of the ‘select few,’ in Coursera’s terms.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenCourseWare

Go Kings, Go! October 1, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Perhaps MRU ripped off the TOS from those services? There is a field in macadamia* and in litigation whose review texts to determine which preceded and which plagiarized.

*my spell check fix for Acadamia, which I selected for its charm.

Rahul October 1, 2012 at 6:33 am

What’s the big deal? How many <18 folks are dying to study Dev. Econ. from MRU?

And the ones that really do; are they going to be deterred much by some toothless online Term of Use clause?

Stuart October 1, 2012 at 7:40 am

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act essentially gives them no option.

BC October 1, 2012 at 8:13 am

Yeah, not so much the culture that is MRU as much as the culture that is the modern regulatory state.

prior_approval October 1, 2012 at 9:30 am

What is most intriguing about disallowing 13 year olds is that websites that don’t collect personal information are free to everyone. For example, Project Gutenberg has no reason to ban children, as Project Gutenberg is simply providing public domain books, without collecting any personal data.

The reason why MRU has such a restriction is fairly succintly summed up here –

‘The act, effective April 21, 2000, applies to the online collection of personal information by persons or entities under U.S. jurisdiction from children under 13 years of age. It details what a website operator must include in a privacy policy, when and how to seek verifiable consent from a parent or guardian, and what responsibilities an operator has to protect children’s privacy and safety online including restrictions on the marketing to those under 13. While children under 13 can legally give out personal information with their parents’ permission, many websites altogether disallow underage children from using their services due to the amount of paperwork involved.’

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Children's_Online_Privacy_Protection_Act

It would be entirely possible to run MRU in a way that is fully COPPA compliant, by not collecting any personal data at all, but that may possibly remove one of the reasons for its existence as a free site.

I find the entire subject fascinating, since a real university has no problem at all offering online courses to the world, at least according to its terms, titled ‘Privacy and Terms of Use’ -

‘MIT OpenCourseWare respects your privacy. We do not collect personally identifiable information about you unless you voluntarily provide it, such as when you provide email contact information to subscribe to the OCW newsletter, send feedback to OCW, or respond to a survey. If you voluntarily provide your email address or other contact information, we might also use it to inform you of changes to OCW, to survey you about your use or opinion of OCW, or to ask for your support. At your request, we will remove your contact information from our files.’

http://ocw.mit.edu/terms/

Thus, the Creative Commons licensed online courses from MIT are available for anyone, anywhere to view and share (and remix, for that matter), without any concern due to COPPA violations.

However, MIT is still one of those old fashioned institutions which apparently believes that knowledge is public property, to be shared without any need to collect information about those using it.

Of course, considering just how intricately MIT is interwoven into the fabric of the free Internet, one would expect no less of such a world class institution, and it is revealing that privacy was the highest concern of the people creating the OpenCourseWare terms of use.

But new days are dawning, and why should anyone simply provide educational resources without a server log quantifiable ROI?

(A bit of background –

‘OpenCourseWare, or OCW, is a term applied to course materials created by universities and shared freely with the world via the Internet.

The movement started in 1999 when the University of Tübingen in Germany published videos of lectures online in the context of its timms initiative.[1] The OCW movement only took off, however, with the launch of MIT OpenCourseWare at MIT in October 2002. The movement has been reinforced by the launch of similar projects at Yale, the University of Michigan, and the University of California Berkeley. MIT’s reasoning behind OCW was to “enhance human learning worldwide by the availability of a web of knowledge.”[2] MIT also believes that it would allow students to become better prepared for classes so that they may be more engaged during a class.’

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenCourseWare

MRU is most emphatically not part of this movement, even though the MRU domain was first registered in 2001.)

Rahul October 1, 2012 at 9:59 am

If you are so paranoid about privacy why don’t you register as “Mickey Mouse” or some such? All the MRU Registration page asked was for a name and email id. Can’t see anything ulterior about that.

I don’t know why that gets you so worked up!

maguro October 1, 2012 at 3:04 pm

He knows that the Koch brothers are out to get him.

Paul October 1, 2012 at 9:02 am

Does Wordpress have an “ignore” feature that hides comments from specific users?

prior_approval October 1, 2012 at 9:31 am

You just learn how to skip – it helps that the name is in bold text, before the comment even starts.

For example, skipping ‘Sailer’ is easy.

Brandon October 1, 2012 at 10:05 am

I noticed the same thing. Complete bullshit. And while we’re at it–Tyler, I see you’ve decided to narrate part of this yourself. Did you make that decision? Are there no unemployed voice-over artists in the DC area?

I’m sure it’s nothing, but I couldn’t help but notice which political party has come out against voice-over unions recently, and that this party also underwrites MRU and maybe bought you a car. MRU culture–figures.

Careless October 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Hahahahahaha

Yes, PA, you’re coming off as this deranged.

molecule61 October 2, 2012 at 1:26 am

“It is interesting to note that GMU has enrolled students younger than 18″

Been there! I was taking classes at GMU at age 15. (…many decades ago, when it was still pretty much a commuter school.)

Jason (the commenter) October 1, 2012 at 5:30 am

It would be helpful if there were someway to set up a password on the accounts, as a password is required to log in!

Tyler Cowen October 1, 2012 at 8:03 am

You can view all the videos without a password. You need a password to add content, you can register for that, there is a slight queue, our apologies for that.

Neal October 1, 2012 at 8:08 am

In my head, “MRUniversity” is pronounced “Mister University.”

Nikki October 1, 2012 at 10:28 am

It’s “asking Tyler and me / for Alex and me,” not “asking Tyler and I / for Alex and I,” dear professors.

molecule61 October 2, 2012 at 1:27 am

Thank you. I wasn’t sure if it was in good taste to call them out on that. It’s a distressingly common mistake nowadays.

Corey October 1, 2012 at 11:08 am

I would love to take this course. However, I am deaf. A quick look at a couple of the videos shows no captioning or subtitles. All I see are slides. Perhaps I missed the option to turn these on?

One advantage of a brick-and-mortar university (which admittedly is part of why they’re expensive) is that they’re obligated to make the courses accessible to me.

Food for thought.

Tyler Cowen October 1, 2012 at 11:13 am

The subtitles are coming, along with high-quality subtitles software from Amara, and we will let you know, they also will be in languages other than English. Apologies for the delay on this, but it is easier to put up the site “in parts.”

Corey October 1, 2012 at 11:20 am

Thank you for your response. I look forward to seeing these videos when they’re captioned.

Sergey Kurdakov October 1, 2012 at 11:16 am

The institutions video is not really good.

first south korea and north korea were on par till 70s, so the difference occurred in less time than 50 years.

Now why? North Korea has grown military spendings from just percents of gdp to 30% and more of gdp in late 60s because neither USSR or China did guarantee, like USA for South Korea, their sovereignty

so spending almost half of gdp is definitely proven to be a bad thing.

but the claims Alex announces in video are not such strong as he seems to think.

I think that ‘education’ is not about presenting oversimplified and generally wrong ideas. While institutions do matter, unfortunately – which institutions is another big question,
and the video proves this point more than anything else as a security problem and differences in military spending are not even mentioned.

But you might be sure, in case South spent the same amount of gdp on defense, then even more – chose to be ‘closed’ capitalist state, the difference would be much much less. and property rights would not help.
what ever one would like to think about them.

dirk October 1, 2012 at 11:17 am

In the first Growth and Development video, Alex explains the advantages to using a logarithmic graph when showing growth, but then suddenly you’re comparing the growth of various countries on an arithmetic scale. Not good.

dirk October 1, 2012 at 11:24 am

The Gapminder video is really cool, though.

Arthur October 1, 2012 at 9:38 pm

How come there are no links to your university in your blog?

shrikanthk October 2, 2012 at 12:48 am

Very nice presentation. Especially the NK vs SK satellite picture slide and the Life expectancy evolution slide.
Agree with other readers that a lot of stuff in Development economics are not verifiable theories. But it’s stuff that people ought to know.

shrikanthk October 2, 2012 at 12:50 am

Also that bit on Mercator projection, African coastline and Adam Smith’s “way ahead of his time” insights made my day!

I never knew Greenland is barely a tenth of Africa! Have always been led to believe it’s much bigger than that fooled by the projection.

Sean October 2, 2012 at 12:44 pm

The site is great, but you guys should add an option to watch the videos at a higher speed (maybe 1.6x or 2x).

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