I’ve been dutifully working my way through the first videos in the Marginal Revolution University course on development economics, and so far I’m rather pleased. The videos are quick, low-budget, and so far fairly skimpy on details, but they work fairly well nonetheless. Here’s a sample:

YouTube video

As a free, quick-and-dirty introduction, it’s about as good as I could realistically imagine. The one issue I’ve noticed so far is that the practice questions at the end of every course section are thus far absurdly easy. They’re simple, often fill-in-the-blank style, which can be easily answered correctly just by pattern matching without understanding.

However, the courses haven’t progressed very far past the overview stage, so perhaps they will become a little more extensive as things progress. In my experience learning difficult, technical questions requires grappling with lots of challenging questions, and furthermore the fear of failure and social stigma is a big part of keeping my hind end in the study chair. I’m curious to see if I can maintain the commitment if things get tricky. Another thing that has yet to really bloom is the social aspect of the project—so far I haven’t seen any videos made by others. But, like any good forum or social network, these things take time to build.

Overall, I remain optimistic about the project. I’ve so far learned a lot, even if I haven’t done many calculus problems.

(On a side note, those looking to have some kind of ideological impact on society should take a look at MRUniversity. On first blush it seems like a promising method, especially if done honestly and openly. You might not agree with Cowen and Tabarrok on everything—I certainly don’t—but they’re not hacks, and that makes their project far more effective, appealing, and useful. Just imagine Daily Caller University.)


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Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanlcooper. Ryan Cooper is a national correspondent at The Week. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New Republic, and The Nation.