Fall 2011, I took econ 2101, the Global Economy, with Dr. Christine Ries. I signed up for this class on a whim becuase of the interesting intersection of computer science and economics (e-commerce, e-currency, bitcoin, etc.). Later I changed by mind, but by that time the other classes that I wanted to take were full at all of the decent times. While I have mixed feeling about dominant economic thought, I figured that the class would be interesting and was not eager to drop it for a morning class; however, if I knew the following things, I probably would have changed my mind…
IF YOU MISS MORE THAN 2 CLASSES YOU GET AN AUTOMATIC C! IF YOU MISS MORE THAN 4 CLASSES YOU GET AN AUTOMATIC F!
You are required to purchase two subscriptions for the course: a subscription to the Wall Street Journal and a subscription to Aplia, a website with homework assessments over material in the book.
[RANT: With the cost of tuition and required fees rising every semester, I hate it when we are required to purchase extra subscriptions for classes! Students can get by without buying a textbook if they need to, but it's different when it's a service that you have to use to turn in your assignments. Sites like Aplia benefit the teachers more than the students by reducing the time it takes to create and grade assignments, yet the students are the ones that have to pay. One guy in my class said that this was his fourth class this semester to require subscriptions, and there were no overlaps in products. We already pay a "technology fee" as one of the required fees, which covers sites like t-square, which we already use take online quizzes and turn in homework. I wish professors would recognize the already strained financial situation of students and try to utilize free tools.]
You have to write a report on a Wall Street Journal article every week, and you also have about two or three Aplia assessments to do each week. The WSJ reports are simple and quick, but the Aplia assignments take time.
All of these things seem absurd to me, but then again, I am used to computer science classes where they never take attendance, the required software is all free and open source, and there is never busy work. In other words, I’m used to classes where your grade reflects how much you have learned rather than how many hoops you can jump through. In my experience, social science classes at Georgia Tech tend to take the later approach, but Dr. Ries takes it to a whole new level.
Some more things that you should know…
Actual grades don’t matter. Top 25% of the class get A’s, next 50% of the class get B’s, remaining 25% get C’s and below. I’m not sure if this is determined before or after attendance policy is accounted for.
**Hint for next year’s students.** Technically, this means if the students in the class were to organize, they could collectively agree that no one would buy into the subscriptions and therefore it would not effect anyone’s grade! This would be marvelous.
Unfortunately, this grading structure gives little transparency in the way that final grades are assigned. The grades listed on t-square tell you nothing about your actual grade in the class because it is all relative to how everyone else is doing. In the middle of the semester, Dr. Ries tallied up our points that we got in the semester and told us the point ranges for each letter grade, so we could see how we were doing. I was expecting her to do the same thing for the end of the semester, but all I know is the letter grade that I was assigned. We were never informed of our total points in the class, or what letter grade was assigned to what point range. In fact, grades that account for 40% of our final grade were not even listed on t-square. In the middle of the semester I had an A, but my final grade report for this semester informed me that I made a B in the class. While this is not completely surprising, considering that I stopped keeping up with the Aplia and WSJ assignments, I thought that my high test grades, extra credit points, and presumably high project grade might make up for that. It is impossible to tell how close I came to an A or if any mistakes were made calculating the grade, but if I were more concerned with my grade in this class, I could e-mail Dr. Ries and ask about it.
Everything you write will have a strict word count limit, even essay and short answer test questions. You must write a word count beside each response and scratch out any words that go above the word count limit. The limit is usually something pretty small for all of the things you have to explain in the question, like between 20 and 80 words each. For short answers, think twitter post size. This means that when you write your responses you have to constantly go back and count the amount of words that you have written so far. It is sort of annoying, especially when you are running low on time.
It is important to note that Dr. Ries sits ideologically on the far right. I find that it is helpful to recognize potential biases of who you are trying to learn from or get a good grade from.
- FACT: During the semester Dr. Ries missed class to go on CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) Alaskan cruise and was a speaker along with Donal Rumsfeld.
- FACT: During the semester she was also interviewed in a film produced by Americans for Prosperity.
- WARNING: If you might get tired of reading articles that denigrate student movements and the occupy movement, don’t take this class! Here are some examples of articles that we had to read in this class.
- WARNING: If you are a person that may be uncomfortable writing about how income inequality is good on an essay exam question, don’t take this class!
- Exam 4 Essay Question (55/60 points, not bad. This sort of stuff tends to flow from me easily as a former Ayn Rand Objectivist type, but if I was not thinking about my grade, I would have written about how income inequality leads to social inequality.)
Still considering taking this class?
If none of the things I have mentioned so far are deal breakers for you, you should enjoy the class. Dr. Ries is genuinely enthusiastic about what she teaches and it shows.