New MRU Course: Understanding Data

by on October 25, 2017 at 8:34 am in Economics, Education | Permalink

Tyler and I are thrilled to announce the next great course at MRUniversity, Understanding Data. Understanding Data is taught by our well-known and accomplished colleague Thomas Stratmann and is our most ambitious course to date.

In addition to lectures, Understanding Data features a fantastic interactive data tool, a built-in version of DataSplash, which was designed by Thomas Stratmann and Lorens Helmchen specifically to run small regressions and to teach econometrics. Students can pause the video, run regressions, make predictions, compute correlations look at summary statistics and more–all on the same page! Furthermore, as the video progresses students are asked to answer questions and they receive immediate feedback on their answers.

A lot of work went into producing this course. Not only from Thomas and Lorens but also from our superb team at MRU led by Roman Hardgrave. This is a quantum leap for MRU and what you are seeing is version 1. If you notice some bugs or things that can be improved do email Thanks.

The first lecture featuring the interactive data tool is Interpreting the Regression Line.

1 Per Kurowski October 25, 2017 at 9:47 am

Will that course help you to understand how bank regulators could have interpreted data on bank crises in such a way so as to come up with risk weights of 20% for the so dangerous rated AAA, and of 150% for the so innocuous below BB- rated?


2 Ray Lopez October 25, 2017 at 10:35 am

What do you think of John Perkins? Have you ever met or corresponded with him? Seems you’re a kindred spirit.

As to your Off Topic, I think your own blog answers your question: ” Confusion about relevant risks: … That is why for instance in Basel II of 2004 they assigned a risk weight of 150 percent to clients rated below BB-, those clients that banks would never ever build up dangerous exposures to, and of only a 20 percent to those rated AAA to AA. In essence like a nanny telling kids to stay away from the ugly and foul smelling, and embrace more those nice looking gentlemen who offer them candy.”

So, statistically, if a nice looking gentleman offers your kids candy, is that more dangerous than an ugly and foul smelling person? I say LESS dangerous. For every one random perverted gentleman that everybody has in mind, statistically there are probably plenty of nice gentleman who make it a habit to give kids candy that’s safe. Think of an executive director of the World Bank (or maybe not?!), a nice relative of the child, a reputable religious leader or teacher and the like. By contrast, the ugly and foul smelling person statistically probably has some issues, to the extent they are not just medical issues.


3 Dick the Butcher October 25, 2017 at 10:40 am

Did you review the recent, draft proposals for Basel III risk-weights for mortgages? The proposed risk-weights ranged from 50% to 200% (for subprime, etc.) I know how regulators kept all mortgages risk-weights at 50%. Political coercion.

FYI: Most (Federal and state) bank regulatory regulations prohibit bank’s purchasing BB- (sub-investment quality) or worse debt securities. Some bank assets’ agency ratings decline to BB- or lower. Then, not only does the capital charge increase, but the asset’s BV would be adversely classified Substandard, and any market depreciation would (depending in whether or not the bond is defaulted) be Doubtful or Loss, and the market depreciation may be charged against earnings.


4 Ray Lopez October 25, 2017 at 10:48 am

@Dick the Butcher – OT- what do you think of Trump who six months ago suspended the Dodd-Frank “Orderly Liquidation Fund”? If I understood correctly, that part of D-F was popular with the big banks.


5 Dick the Butcher October 25, 2017 at 12:03 pm

I like it. But, my work did not include that. I was very fortunate in not having to do much with D-F. There must be something in bankruptcy law or the Federal Reserve Act that benefited bank holding companies or brokerages/investment banks.

I followed the FDI Insurance fund. I’m not knowledgeable about this fund. Most importantly, Title II added bank holding companies to the FDIC statutory receivership powers. The Corporation already, since 1933, by law FDIC had receivership power over failed, FDIC-insured banks. The provisions for creditors being paid first seemed redundant (except is limited cases) and it was law/UCC in the US.

I didn’t see much in D-F that corrected the wrongs which fostered the crisis.


6 Gareth Roberts October 25, 2017 at 10:34 am

Thanks Alex this is incredibly useful – I’ll forward it on to all my students and find ways to incorporate it in my undergraduate Econometrics course. Thank you to the team and you.


7 Dale October 25, 2017 at 10:36 am

Maybe it’s just me (it usually is), but the video really bothers me. Don’t get me wrong – it is a nice step by step instructional video. But it strikes me as overly condescending and focused on mechanics over substance – the way that most “introductory” materials do. So, what bothers me? 1. The overemphasis on basic mathematics – finding the intercept and slope with a small data set and only two variables. I’d rather see an initial emphasis on multivariate thinking and the dangers of bivariate analysis. 2. Finally, the correlation does not mean causation comes in after the first 4 minutes. Why not right at the start? 3. The only caveat that is mentioned is that it could be dress that affects both professor evaluations and beauty scores. Isn’t it at all possible that students can really judge quality and that they are more likely to rate beauty higher in a professor they find to be excellent?

I’ve been teaching long enough to be skeptical of what students really appreciate. But I don’t appreciate the need to pigeon hole students as superficial and ignorant. It is just possible that they really can judge a professor’s ability. While the caveat about causation and correlation is totally appropriate, the bias in the example given disturbs me. The examples we use convey meaning and I don’t like the example chosen in this lecture nor do I like the example given for the caveat that correlation does not mean causation.

As I said, it may just be (and usually is) me.


8 Alex Tabarrok October 25, 2017 at 11:25 am

Dale, this is the second video in the section on linear regression. The first video does exactly what you suggest.


9 Bryce October 25, 2017 at 2:48 pm

Dale… it’s just you. Relax.

You say it overemphasizes finding the intercept and slope, but those are not even brought up until the 3rd video (if you follow the natural sequence of the videos). The two introduction videos are mostly substance and very little mechanics, just as you suggest.

However, your suggestion of an initial emphasis on multivariate thinking just doesn’t make any sense. You have to assume the students watching the videos are starting with zero knowledge in Economics, and you must first explain regressions in a very simple manner if you want them to have any actual mathematical comprehension of them later on.

Lastly, your dislike of the example is just dumb. No horrible conclusions were made, so quit being a baby. It’s a very interesting question, one that hooks people with the initial positive correlation, and then the great twist is thrown in later showing the correlation may have nothing to do with the original appearance. It’s good storytelling, plain and simple. Nobody would spend their free-time watching videos about Econometrics without a good story.


10 Bryce October 25, 2017 at 2:49 pm

Aaaand I put that reply in the wrong spot… my bad.


11 dearieme October 25, 2017 at 2:57 pm

It’s my suspicion that male and female students would tend to agree on the beauty of a female lecturer but show far less agreement on the beauty of a male lecturer. Suppose I’m right: what are the lessons for the simple-minded drawing of straight lines?


12 Bill October 25, 2017 at 4:44 pm

What distinguishes this from other course offerings on the internet offered through Coursera or Edx, etc.?


13 Paul October 25, 2017 at 6:40 pm

That’s a great question.
I’d say because MRU videos (the new ones) are higher quality. Let me explain. They are targeted at undergraduates at the place real undergraduates are at. The right level of sophistication. Amazing animation that’s humorous and original – even little Monty Pythonesque touches. Entertaining. Most of all, relentless emphasis on building tuition through visual analogies and animation.
Also each one is a bite sized topic.
And they are easy to use – no signup, nothing, can be embedded into Blackboard. You can select from a menu.
I’ve tried using videos from those other sources and they are either too dry, too long, require watching a sequence of them to get anywhere, or just low production values period.


14 Paul October 25, 2017 at 6:42 pm

Building intuition i mean. But I guess they help bring in the tuition…


15 AnotherOne October 25, 2017 at 9:38 pm

Thank you very much to everyone at MRU for this. I frequently use your videos to supplement my teaching. I will likely use this series next semester. Hopefully that fullscreen button is working by then. 🙂


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