Wednesday, 31 December 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - Happy Hogmanay

There is no point in being anything other than honest about this, Part B has been a real struggle.

I don't really think that the course modules have prepared us for the rigour of the questions in the TMA. I have spent a disproportionate amount if time on this part of the TMA and I am still unsure of having answered everything correctly, but I am drawing a line under this now and Part B is now complete......

So, a coupe of days to re-read up and around Part C and get it written, this should be more straight forward.

Anyway, time to put the books away and get ready to welcome in the New Year.

Happy Hogmanay and best wishes for 2015, 
hope it's a good year for everyone.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - Xmas Break Week 2

It's been a very enjoyable but very busy Xmas, and now the next challenge is to drive 6 hrs North, but with today's weather warnings goodness knows how long that will take.......

TMA2 is the longest running TMA I can ever remember, it seems to have been on the todo list for months. I haven't made any great strides in finishing it over the last week, Part A is finished, Part B is 50% there and Part C not really started. I can see this going right to the deadline.

The difficult part of Part B is how you handle the Log values when talking about the answers, but I have identified what I need to understand to answer this, I just need to read it and understand it. It would be temping just to quote huge chunks off of the online tutorial, but I should really write in my own words.

I doubt this TMA will hit the heights of the last one.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - Econometrics, maybe not the nightmare expected.

Spent part of today watching the football while also going through the Week 10 econometrics tutorial, and while I would not consider myself an expert by any matter of means, I can see some light at the end of the tunnel, at least for econometrics - the Arsenal defense is another matter entirely :-(

I think it is a matter of  repeating the tutorial and applying the same procedures to the TMA data at the same time, and we should pretty much be where we need to be. Arsenal need to stay alert, compete for the ball more, stay with their man and - for crying out loud - keep somebody on the front post.

So, need to set some time aside to crack this, and then I can start worrying about Part C.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - Xmas Break Week 1

Reading finally up to date, but that was a bit of a mammoth session and I'm through it, even if it didn't all sink in. 

I'm pretty sure I know the bits I'll need to re-read for the TMA. The online tutorials have still to be done, and I'll try them later, maybe the econometrics one at the same time as doing the econometrics part of the TMA.

At least tackling the TMA has been helped by the fact that we did game theory in DD209 and it hasn't been expanded on that much. A bit here and a bit there, but but all in all Part A of the TMA came together OK.

Part B is at present a complete mystery to me. I have found the information for Questions 1 and 2 by using the 'Find' function to get to the right instructions in the Help pdf, after that I am completely stuck - don't even know what the information I have found means. This is going to take a couple of days of real dedication to econometrics to get close to getting a grip on this. The only thing in my favour is I am reasonably comfortable with graphs and equations, so I am probably approaching this with more background knowledge than others. Without some previous maths experience this would be a pretty daunting section to get right. My tutor has made it pretty clear they are not contactable over the Xmas period, so I am pretty much going to have to sort this out for myself.

Part C I am fairly confident about. It is a matter of reading the material and matching it up against models and examples in the text book and drawing outcomes from that. It would also be useful to find other real world examples that are similar and chuck in some quotes from other books, my tutor seemed to like that in the last TMA. It is just about finding the time across a busy Xmas period when we are all up to our eyes looking after parents and children while being driver, cook, barman and cleaner.

But that is why the TMA should be finished by now....... Doh!!!
My excuse is have been somewhat distracted by having to travel for work purposes while also deciding, possibly for the first time, to apply for a job in a very different industry to what I am used to. So with no real interview experience (at least not as an applicant) in about 20 years I have also arranged interview training, which will be both novel and expensive, but I would probably regret it if I didn't do it.

So the time table is, sort this TMA out by the 6th Jan without having to take extra holiday from work to do it and without neglecting loved ones. Study for interview training for the 9th and then immerse myself in the goals, strategy and plans for my prospective new employer in order to dazzle them at the interview the next week. TMA 2 should hen be marked and I can start section 3 of the course my customary 2 weeks late on account of the TMA just being returned.

It's always good to have a plan.
So as our cousins from across the pond would say "Happy Holidays", and I may as well pass on an oft quoted piece of random advice "remember to defrost the bird and cook it until the juices run clear."

Friday, 19 December 2014

Has the world gone mad......

In the 10 days or so that I have been away I haven't written much as the Internet connection was so poor due to the 3rd World rural nature of where we were staying. You can therefore only imagine my frustration to arrive home to find the BT Hub's broadband light glowing Amber instead of the re-assuring Blue it normally is. My wife confirmed it had gone off the evening before and she was waiting till I got home to tell me. An hour and a half of my own, then Hub Managers, then the BT call centre's diagnostics has resolved nothing. I am therefore having to take at least half a day of for the 'Engineer' to come between 0800 and 1300 to resolve this. So I am currently hot-spotting my iPad off of my iPhone to get much the same connectivity I had in rural Africa - but it is good to be home.

So in the last 10 days Russia has hiked its interst rate to 17% which has failed to stop the plummeting Rouble. After what happened to investors chasing unusually high interest rates in Iceland, and to a lesser extent Cyprus, who would have any confidence in putting their money in a Russian bank, especially when most rich Russians are responsible for the Capital Flight that is happening. A explanation of negative interest rates is here

At the same time the Swiss bring in negative interest rates which is pretty unheard off and for very different reasons to the Swedish adopting a zero % interest rate. I think both are pretty much untested and un-modeled economic strategies, so interesting times ahead.

Cyprus is also heading for a show down and further problems with the EU bailout as report that "Well, the island nation may be in trouble again. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is refusing to give Cyprus an €86m tranche of rescue money after the Cypriot parliament voted to suspend an insolvency law - due to take effect at the end of the month - that would have made it easier for banks to start to collect on bad loans."

The Cypriots already feel very badly treated by the EU and their government and I suspect that more problems ahead will only strengthen the support for those who wish to leave the EU, and re-establish their own currency.

UK inflation is now at a 12 year low even with pre-Xmas spending the November inflation rate is 1%. Optimists may blame this on cheap fuel, but I would have thought that this would have meant more spent on the high street. Wait until we have seen the results of the Jan and Feb figures, deflation is looming and if you want see see how deflation effects investment just compare it to  buying fuel for your car now. Why fill the car at today's prices when it will be cheaper next week before your tank is empty.

It will be an interesting year ahead.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - Week 11

TMA 02

The assignment

Cut-off date: 6 January 2015

I am dreadfully behind, but at least I have until 6th Jan to catch up and write this TMA.

Work has gotten in the way a bit, but I can now tell you that despite what the video says below, there are no tigers in Kenya.

Also, the various Bands Aids have be wrong when the sing "there won't be snow in Africa this Xmas" as I am working in the shadow of Mount Kenya what has a permanent snow cap.

It is also very tiring working on the equator, and that could do with the increased rate of speed of rotation, at least that's my theory.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - Week 10

Week 10 – Bringing economic theory into data analysis: regression analysis and ordinary least squares

Still playing catch up....... So nowhere near doing this.

10.1 [Optional] Tutorial 13 DD202 CD-ROM tutorials (revision material)
10.2 Online tutorial – econometricsComplete online tutorials Econometrics II and Practice exercises II

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Keynesian economics to the rescue........

In the last week the government has pledged.....

£2.3bn on flood defences
£15bn on roads          
£2bn for the NHS      
..... and they are already committed to spending god knows what on HS2, guestimates are £50bn plus.

This looks an awful lot like Keynesian economics to me.

But where is the money coming from ? In a week where it is announced that a third care home for vulnerable/disabled adults is to close in Cornwall the week before Xmas, and that those currently housed in this supported living environment are to be made homeless with local social services both clueless and seemingly uninterested I find myself asking is this money being spent in the right places.

"We're all in it together" Mr Cameron says....... my arse!

With any luck by the time any social or economic benefits come from these plans the present shower of pointless politicos will have been voted out and there will be a mixed coalition based around social justice in power.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - TMA 1 Marked and Returned

If the TMA mark hadn't arrived by this evening there would have been an email to my tutor tomorrow asking where it was. There must be some sort of name for this, but not having my TMA marked quickly really adversely effects my ability to study.

The TMA mark was however really motivating, highest first TMA mark I've every had, and as it stands for 20% of the overall OCAS score a really positive start to trying to get over the illusive 85% OCAS needed for a distinction. Although I think getting 85% on the TMAs is one thing, matching that on the dissertation will be the really difficult challenge.

I'll start Part 2 tomorrow, two and a half weeks behind schedule, so thank goodness for the Xmas break.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Could cheap oil save us all.......

There has been an incredible fall in petrol prices over the last 2 to 3 months due in part they say to the OPEC nations continuing to produce while USA brings shale oil on line. 

This has created an oil surplus not helped by Eurozone countries cutting back on production ( Hooray for cheap oil ) while it has its own economic problems with inflation teetering on deflation ( Eutozone Inflation ).

If you saw the scenes on the Black Friday, the artificially created retail scrum, you'd be wondering what was going on. Either people have plenty of money in their pockets to be able to spend like that..... or they can't afford these items unless they are in such a sale, hence the scrum. Either way, most of these purchases will be on cheap credit and any economic good news in November and December needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, as the real picture of what is going on I doubt will become apparent until March 2015.

By March 2015, the good will and feel good factor generated by festive season will have worn off like an unwelcome hangover, and the bills will be stacking up on the door mat. The country will also be looking at a very unusual election, and possibly the end of 3 party politics, although to be fair the Lib Dems atrocious showing has probably ended three party politics anyway. So, I think 4 party politics is far nearer the mark with the big two scrabbling to build coalitions with whoever will be the King-maker.  

Let's see where we are with inflation then.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - Week 9

Week 9 – Market power and competition policy

9.1 Market power and competition policyRead DEPMP, Book 1, Part II: Chapter 7
9.2  Competition policy: an interview with Pierre RégibeauView some short video clips
9.3 Competition and collusion in an oligopolyComplete the online tutorial on game theory: Game theory V
9.4 [Optional] Tutorials 4 and 5DD202 CD-ROM tutorial (revision material)

Motivation to do any further study at all on this course has completely disappeared in the absence of the TMA result.

I hope it arrives this weekend, as otherwise that will be right up against the 2 week marking deadline which is a pain as this TMA was submitted early in anticipation of a quicker turn around..... oh well that didn't work.

Others have received their results and it seems a mixed bag of better and worse than expected results, but at least they have received their results back.

You'd think on the fifth course I would be used to this by now, but no, who knows maybe I'll get a prompt marker for my final course, which of course relies on my actually being able to start studying again.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - Week 8

Week 8 – Firms, contracts and strategic behaviour

8.1 Firms, contracts and strategic behaviourRead DEPMP, Book 1, Part II: Chapter 6
8.2 Online tutorials – game theoryComplete Game theory III and Game theory IV

It has not been a good week for studying, the usual post-TMA malaise, Scotland -England football, and deciding to apply for a new job has pretty mcuh taken up my free evenings.

It has however reminded me that it is far easier to review a CV every 3 or 4 months than drag and old and dusty one out and have to re-write it. This is another task I need to keep on top of.

Subsequently, I am now a week behind on the study planner, and looking ahead it is a good job we have the two festive weeks to write the TMA in as I feel this section is going to be a struggle.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Good news they say, inflation rises to 1.3%

UK inflation rate rises to 1.3% in October ( ) which appears to be heralded as some sort of proof that the economy is on track.

Two things about this.

Firstly, it makes last weeks announcement that wages rises are higher than inflation seem a bit hollow.

Secondly, there is an admission that the increased spending is probably down to pre-Christmas releases of new video games and game consoles - you must have seen the adverts. There is no mention of what the seasonally adjusted inflation rate will be - if indeed you do actually seasonally adjust for October.

On the other hand grocery sales have fallen for the first time in 20 years ( ). Are people buying less food and more video games ? What is the message here with these seemingly 'at odds' retail figures. Perhaps food banks are taking up the slack.

This is the week that Japan entered recession and the PM has warned of  further troubles ahead from the collapsing Eurozone.

The December and January figures will be very interesting.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - TMA01 submitted

It is not due in until the 18th November, but there is pretty much nothing more to be done to it of any consequence, it is as good as its going to get.

Any further editing is just engaging in the law of diminishing returns. Read it, add a comma, read it again, delete a comma - I'm not adding or editing anything of any substance.

So hopefully an early submission will result in an early return, although I am not holding my breath, I seem to get tutors that treat the two week marking deadline as a contractual obligation, while other students seem to have their TMAs marked and returned almost by return of email. As long as my tutor is thorough and fair that will be fine, although thorough and lenient would be even better.

This should have been a pretty straight forward TMA but I found I had to go back to the questions on Part A repeatedly to ensure I was just answered what was asked and not expanding too much as that just caused overlap with the next question and the work count just wouldn't allow for that.

Part B was also tricky in that my first attempt ended up comparing two models which was not what was asked, so a subtle re-write was required to concentrate on the question asked.

I am fairly hopeful of a good mark, and it would be nice to start the course on a high, time will tell.

No excuses now, on with Part Two, and getting ready to grapple with Gretl.

Students Ready!..... Gretl Ready!...... Lets get ready to ....... stumble about blindly with Gretl in in econometric treacle.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - Week 7

Week 7 – Firms in markets: technology, efficiency and productivity

7.1 Firms in markets: technology, efficiency and productivityRead DEPMP, Book 1, Part I: Chapter 5
7.2 Differences between neoclassical and evolutionary economicsView some short video clips
7.3 Online tutorials – isoquantsComplete Isoquants I – IV
7.4 [Optional] Tutorials 3 and 6DD202 CD-ROM tutorials (revision material)

Week 7 is going to have to wait for a bit as this weekend is all about the TMA. Very nearly there, just a bit of tidying up to do, a re-read and probably submit on Monday.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Economic Woes and Shameful Journalism

The headline says "

Pay growth beats inflation as jobless total falls, ONS says

Which is essentially factually correct, but is spinning an fairly economically pessimistic position into something that sounds positive and the BBC should be ashamed of this sort of reporting.
Lets look at Pay Growth.
It is true that is average earning have risen by 1.3% and inflation is 1.2% then pay growth is higher than inflation by 0.1%.

Pay/inflation graphic

But this is hardly the economic good news story that the headline might suggest. These pay deals will have been agreed some time ago when inflation was expected to be much higher - probably 1.5%. 
And I wonder what the Average Earnings increase will be if only the first 90 percentiles (i.e. not the richest 10%) were considered.
The big and obvious problem with the graphic above is that there area between the lines is the reduction of wages below inflation and this is why people are not feeling this much heralded recovery - if it exists it simply isn't trickling down.
Mark Carney has accepted that inflation will get to 1% or below ( ) , although he does not seem to be putting this down to a slowing economy but to cheaper food and fuel. They also say that "the Bank said it expected average salaries to be growing by 2% by the end of 2015." but against a backdrop of 1% inflation and dropping, higher wages goes against most economic theory - who exactly will be paying this above inflation wages - the government ?
Anyway, even with these rose tinted glasses there appears to be no explanation of how base rates can rise without them actually retarding economic growth. The Council of Mortgage Lenders have themselves said that low interest rates are the reason that there have not been more Mortgage defaults and repossessions - so look out the low paid home owners you will be feeling the brunt of the economic recovery with a form of  'Austerity Plus' courtesy of the Tory government.

Looking at the Jobless Total
"The number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance was 931,700 in October, 20,400 down on September, and the 24th consecutive monthly cut."
Maybe these figures should not be permitted to be trotted out without also showing the figures for people claiming income support, and also the number of people on zero hours contracts.
Having 2 people both doing 20 hours a week minimum wage on a zero hours contract make take them off of the jobless total, but they are still unable to support themselves, and the Tax Payer is therefore subsidising the staff business costs of these employers.

Allowing employers to abuse zero hours contracts is costing us, the Tax Payer, money and allowing the government to be less than honest about the employment figures and quality of the employment created.

I am disappointed that the BBC appears to have taken this information from a press statement and have challenged none of the figures or ideas presented. It can be no coincidence that this story does not allow you to 'Have Your Say', although the BBC have thoughtfully allowed us to comment on the Comet Lander and Ed Miliband's suitability as a Prime Minister.

So lets come back to this in a year.
If Mark Carney is correct, wage increases will be running at 3%, inflation be be rising towards its target of 2%, interest rates will be on the bring of rising, the economy will be expanding and all will be well in the UK.
Alternatively, well lets just say it would be better to prepare for a pessimistic outcome and enjoy anything better than a worse case scenario, but we appear to be careering blindly towards another economic bump in the road.
I don't suppose such a problem will unduly trouble Carney, Cameron, Clegg or Miliband, they will still enjoy the trappings of their wealth well cushioned from any economic hardship the country may be plunged into.
Maybe poor, or at least poorer, people who stand to lose substantially and personally if the economy goes belly up should be running the government and these institutions and not the traditional political elite. 

Saturday, 8 November 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - Week 6

TMA 01

The assignment

Cut-off date: 18 November 2014

The last week has reminded me that I work best working to an imminent deadline, so the past seven days has not been as productive as it would normally be.

Part A is pretty much done, just needs a bit of a tidy up and check that everything has been covered.

Part B, I'm about 750 words in. Introduction and definitions covered eleaves about 1000words for the body of the argument and the conclusion. I know what I am going to write, I just need to sit down and get stuck in. Today is out of the question with family commitments and tomorrow we're off to see the Dallas Cowboys at Wembly, so that's this weekend written off study-wise. Just as well we still have another week to go.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - Week 5

Review week

I am not sure what review week is for, but it gives everyone an extra week for the TMA so better use it wisely.

Finished Chapter 4, it was interesting but I didn't see an obvious essay answer poking out. I'll have to go over it again but with the essay question in mind.

The econometrics tutorials have been hard going. GRTL doesn't seem that intuitive and usually I love stats and graphs, so struggling with this is a disappointment. I think I will need to plough through these in case we need something from it for the TMA answer.

I have bought the textbook "Economics" by Begg et al. It is not cheap, but it has already explained a couple of things that were not answered fully at the tutorial. I think I'll be dipping in to this book a lot.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

..... And they said it couldn't be done.

Sweden have cut interest rates to zero percent.

Is this brave or reckless.

The decision is apparently a reaction to falling prices and lower than target inflation, but this strategy is completely untested. So step forward Sweden, you are now an economic case study and we will watch this experiment with interest (although punily a much higher level of interest than you have).

The problem now is Sweden has rolled the dice, if this doesn't work they have pretty much painted themselves into a corner and getting away from zero percent interest in the future if the economy doesn't take off will adversely effect the problematic inflation rate.


Roll up, roll up, it's the great Krona conundrum, Free Money, get your super cheap Swedish credit here, we're gonna spend our way out of this crisis, after all what harm has cheap credit ever done......

Sunday, 26 October 2014

In the Economic News this weekend

The Bank of England taking the pressure of immediate interest rates has in effect done very little to help the economy in the short term.

Economic growth has now slowed to 0.7% which is hardly evidence of the growing economy trumpeted by the Conservatives, another reduction in economic growth of 0.8% and we are looking down the barrel of another recession.

Unemployment may be the lowest rate for years, but the quality of jobs for the newly employed is extremely poor. We now have the highest rate of low paid workers which means people are struggling and unable to spend.

Added to this the UK business now has the highest rate of profit warnings since 2008 showing that business has overestimated its ability to perform in the present environment, and this will hit future predictions and GDP.

More misery for European banks with 24 banks failing the EBA stress test. This will be more misery for places like Cyprus which is being hit with a large bill from the EU at the same time that it is massively in debt following the bail out and now has three other banks on the brink. The Cypriot economy is really struggling, the tourist season is finished now until effectively April, so it is difficult to see where the light at the end of this tunnel will come from.

We appear to be sleep walking towards further economic problems. There is maybe little the government can do because this is a global crisis and our economy it entwined with the rest of the world, and especially Europe, however a bit of realism and honestly from the politicians may prepare people for what is to come. 

IMHO the government should use the £1.7B that the EU wants to give government workers earning under £20k (for example) an above inflation pay rise, an if there is any money left over give a bit more to those earning up to £25k, and so on. Unless they have a better idea to bring about some economic boost....

Saturday, 25 October 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - Week 4

Week 4 – Well-being, power and inequality within households

4.1 Well-being, power and inequality within householdsRead DEPMP, Book 1, Part I: Chapter 4
4.2 Amartya Sen on gender and inequality in economics View some short video clips
4.3 Online tutorial – econometricsComplete Econometrics I and Practice exercises I

Its been an incredibly busy week both at work and at home. If I wasn't actually actively involved in doing something - be that work or home chores such as cooking, cleaning or emergency DIY (don't ask, I'm not a plumber to trade, I may well be qualified and experienced now ......), I was just too tired to read and concentrate on what was on the page.

Consequently, I have not made great headway into what appears to be a very interesting Chapter 4, so the week ahead of schedule that I'd banked has now evaporated...... What I have read is the theory of why we should be happier together as couples fron an economics point of view. The book makes much of the graphical model and how both the man and woman (obviously a very traditional idea of a couple and I'm sure nothing is inferred by this) can be happier being together. The book hasn't yet looked at the part of the model that shows both could be far more miserable, but perhaps economists are hopelessly optimistic romantics, I know I am 😊

On the up-side, I am fairly relaxed about Part 1 of the TMA, and as soon as I read Chapter 4 I'll know how I feel about Part 2. It does seem a lot of words to write on a very small question but this could be a very big subject.

Hopefully, life is about to return to normal and study will recommence shortly.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - Week 3

Week 3 – Saving and working: decisions over time

3.1 Saving and working: decisions over timeRead DEPMP, Book 1, Part I: Chapter 3
3.2 Saving behaviour and savings policyView some short video clips
3.3 Online tutorials – indifference curvesComplete Indifference curves V and VI
3.4 Econometrics – getting startedGetting started with gretl and revision with the DD202 tutorials
3.5 Online tutorial – econometricsStart Econometrics I and Practice exercises I

Week 3's reading has been very interesting, but the model appears to rely on some huge simplifications and assumptions regarding relative opportunity costs and how things work in the real world, which you need to accept or ignore in order to move forward with the points they are trying to make.

Once you can do this, it is relatively straight forward and exactly what you need for TMA Part 1.

I have had a look forward to TMA1 - Part A, and it is pretty much covered by the Indifference Curve Online Tutorials, especially tutorials 5 & 6, so I guess if every point they make in the tutorial is reflected in the TMA answer you will pretty much be there or thereabouts.

First of three face to face tutorials, about a third of the tutor group attended which considering how far some came to be there was a pretty good attendance. As usual they were a nice bunch of people from very diverse backgrounds and ages, and I probably got more out of meting them at the tutorial than actually learning anything particularly new.

Deflation Update
Bank of England announced in the last couple of days that interest rates will remain low until next autumn which should help inflationary pressures in the short term, but Europe's problems are, I think, still the biggest threat to the UK recovery.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Inflationary Update

Inflation is now at 1.2%  ( )

Civil servants and Nurses have been striking due to below inflation pay rises, well that is hardly likely to stimulate spending on the high street.

Can anybody explain why deflation should not be a worry........ especially with interest rate rises on the horizon.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - Week 2

Week 2 – Consumption

2.1 ConsumptionRead DEPMP, Book 1, Part I: Chapter 2
2.2 Consumption in a recessionView a short film
2.3 Online tutorials – indifference curves Complete Indifference curves I–IV

I am enjoying this course so far. Indifference curves make sense, well pretty much most of the time. The explanation seems logical and reasonable....... and I like it.

I have a feeling however that a shock must be just around the corner.

Now on to Week 3 in an effort to keep slightly ahead.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - Week 1

Week 1 – Industrial capitalism, markets and economics

1.1 Explore the DD309 study materialsRead online welcome letter
1.2 Using forums in DD309Read forum information
1.3 Industrial capitalism, markets and economicsRead DEPMP, Book 1, Part I, Chapter 1
1.4 Rethinking market economicsView a short film
1.5 Online tutorials: Game theoryComplete Game theory I and Game theory II
1.6 [Optional] Tutorial 3: Modelling demandDD202 CD-ROM tutorial (revision material)

Even before you get to 1.3 and opened the book for the first time (were you to do everything in the order suggested)  there was quite a bit of reading in 1.1 and 1.2. The main message I took from these sections was that Level 3 courses will be a bit of a step up from Level 2, a far bigger step than that from Level 1 to Level 2

The TMAs on their own are around 50% bigger in terms of word count and require a far better standard of answer than I have been used to for the last three years.( Writing at Level 3 )

From the DD309 Course Webpage the TMAs are made up of the following sections.

TMA/EMACut-off dateWord limitWeighting
0118 Nov. 2014Part A: 800 Part B: 180020% (substitutable)
026 Jan. 2015Part A: 700 Part B: 700 Part C: 140020% (substitutable)
03 10 Feb. 2015     Part A: 800 Part B: 150020% (substitutable)
0410 Mar 2015Part A: 800 Part B: 150015% (substitutable)
0521 April 2015Part A: 1200 Part B: 80015% (substitutable)
0612 May 2015120010% (non-substitutable)
EMA5 June 20155000

So, if nothing else this demonstrates the need to keep up to schedule, I'm not going to be able to wing a 2600 TMA in a day or so........

At least Chapter 1 was fairly straight forward and I still remember and understand the game theory sections from DD209, so not too much of a study shock from Week 1.

GRETL and the accompanying data sets for Part 1 are downloaded and installed, but as yet I've not attempted to do anything with them.

Mid-week last week the tutorial dates came through, and then went away again.....and then came back.

Initially I was very disappointed at there only being three face to face tutorials and the rest, five I think, are online. I like the chance to meet other students face to face and this has been severely reduced now. The DD309 that is running now had tutorials in London and they seemed to meet up before/after for drinks/discussions which seems a good idea, but now I will be driving that is less likely especially if there is only three tutorials as it doesn't really afford the opportunity to develop relationips.

On the plus side it will cut down on traveling and getting up really early, and as long as the 'technicals' are up to speed, it may be a fairly efficient way to do tutorials...... we will see.

It would appear that the tutorials are a real lottery. Those in London, Tonbridge and Cardiff have 6 face to face tutorials, while those in Ireland have only two face to face tutorials, so there doesn't seem to be any set standards for the learning experience.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - Future Learn Research Projects, tips so far.

So, week three with Future Learn an it has been a pretty worth while 3 hrs so far, I would encourage anybody new to research projects to  look at joining the course - if its not too late.

The best bits so far are.

i. A useful model to narrowing down a research questions.

ii. Introduction to 'Evernote' application which could prove useful. Its free.

iii. Good guide to internet resources.

iv I had no idea this site even existed.

v. Literature Searching Basics its not exactly earth shatteringly new, but a good starting point.

Two I have found via the link above

 Critical Appraisal

 Literature Review

vi. Directory of open access journals

vii. , the paperboy , newslookup , huffingtonpostWorld News Network

vii. Data sets available from Office For National Statistics

All seems good stuff so far.

Friday, 26 September 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - 1 Week to Go, but too busy worryng about deflation.

One week to go and after a fairly positive start pre-reading the text book in advance of the course starting, I then got too involved with the Future Learn course on Research Projects (which I hope will be worth doing) and haven't done a great deal more since. I intend to make up for this and have a good go at WEEK 1 this week and try and keep ahead.


However another thing that has got me wondering is that everyone seems to be very relaxed about the inflation rate dropping to 1.5% ( in August which means either everyone knows something I don't, or I have misunderstood all the inflation modelling stuff in DD209.

If the Bank of England has targeted inflation at 2%, then why, if the government is in control of the economy, is inflation still sliding further below target. The so-called recovery from recession appeared to be built largely on the back of cheap credit and the mini-housing boom caused by 'Help to Buy'. But 'Help to Buy' has come to an end as it was causing house prices to increase ridiculously and we have been told repeatedly by Mark Carney, of the BoE, that cheap credit is also ending soon.(

So if my rudimentary understanding of inflation is correct, inflation is falling because the economy is, we were taught, not at equilibrium and demand is not sufficient to close the output gap. This is hardly surprising due to most people having less money to spend or not wishing to spend due to,
  i. Austerity cuts. So less public spending.
 ii. Benefit cuts - bedroom tax, reduced benefits etc.
iii. Low quality of employment - zero hours contracts, part time work and reduced hours.
 iv. Wages having lagged inflation for some years.
  v. Tax cuts for the super rich, and their windfall unlikely to be spent on the high street.

These reasons and more means that the obvious end effect is a slow down in the economy, an economy which is already struggling with exports due to one of our main markets, Europe, also being crippled by their own recession and austerity measures.

So, my question is.....

Surely increasing interest rates will result in inflation being driven even lower and worryingly close to deflation. Further to that, does the frequent reference to future interest rate rises not simply increase people's worry about their future mortgage payments and therefore encourage them start saving for a rainy day (or the impending storm) and hence exacerbate things further through the 'Pardox of Thrift'.

We were told that an important task of government is to control inflation. However if an independent BoE won't/can't reduce interest rates to raise inflation, and in fact intends to increase interest rates surely this is not good news for inflation ( ). With this scenario heading our way I can see two possible ways out, but both will be expensive, and will require government policy U-turns.

The government can either embrace a form of Keynesian economics and embark on a program of public spending to boost the economy and raise inflation. Alternatively the government could agree to above inflation wage increases to Civil Servants, Nurses, Police, British Forces etc. and hope that the commercial sector follows suit and there then follows a carnival of unrestrained spending on the high street. Either way, baring divine intervention (and we all learned in A222 that this extremely unlikely, or to be more accurate, impossible) they will need a significant cash injection into the economy, and where is that coming from.

So can somebody who understands these things far better than me please tell me what I have got wrong, and why everything is going to be OK and that we shouldn't fear the fact that deflation may be just round the corner.


Oh, and the StudentHome webpage still hasn't published the tutorial dates. I find this perplexing, and I wonder what effect this will have on the attendance at the first tutorial due to the extremely late notice being given.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - I have the date of the first tutorial, but shhhhhh don't tell anyone.

You hear about secret organisations splitting themselves into cells to ensure that no one person has access to all the information that the organisation has access to. Therefore should the organisation be infiltrated it makes it very difficult for the covert operative to gather all the information necessary to conduct a successful espionage plot.

This all makes perfect sense if you are that secret organisation, but surprisingly this also appears to be the strategy that the Open University has adopted in order to drip feed us the information we require to plan our study/lives.....

The story so far.....

Yesterday the StudentHome page had no information on my tutor or my tutorial dates.

The Student Support Team were also still unaware of this information

I then received an email from the OU saying who my tutor was, but still no news on the StudentHome page regarding the tutorial dates.

I contacted my new tutor to introduce myself, which was a surprise to them because although they knew they had been allocated a DD309 tutor group, they still didn't know the names of the students in their own group. 

Having convinced them that was I indeed studying DD309 and was in their group, and was not trying to infiltrate their group from another course, I then asked them about the tutorial dates which they had, and had for some time.

So I now know my tutor, the first tutorial date and who I am - which is the first time this year that any one person has had access to these three key pieces of information, and I'm not talking about Mrs Peacock, in the Study, with the Candlestick.

I feel the infiltration mission has been a success and I am now half way through my application to MI6.

.... and of course I am not yet sure if I can make the tutorial as I now need to wait for a colleague to confirm if they can/or are willing to swap a shift with me. If only this had happened last week.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - 2 Weeks to Go

I don't like moaning, no really I don't, but I am going to.

I think it is ridiculous and inexcusable that with two week to go until the course starts and by past experience 3 or 4, maybe 5 weeks until the first tutorial that the dates of the tutorials are still not available.

I have contacted the 'Student Support Team' who sent me a very pleasantly worded but completely unhelpful email saying the information would be available shortly, and no - they don't know when that will be, but to look out for messages on the course forum from my tutor. And no - they don't know who my tutor is yet, and are unable to tell me when I will find out, but perhaps look out for updates on the course website for information on the tutorial dates and that will tell me who my tutor is. I'm now getting dizzy from going round in circles, while getting nowhere.

The reason I am so exercised about this is that having put off planning my work and family life for as long as possible, which has inconvenienced my colleagues and family who have been as understanding and flexible as possible, yesterday I had to commit to certain dates and so flights have now been booked, meetings have been arranged and reservations have been made. 

I have made a guess at when the tutorials may be, I have assumed a weekend, and kept two weekends clear out for the next six weekends. I am now committed. Three of them are effectively set in stone, one I may be able to change with some disruption to others. 

I signed up for this course in May. I cannot understand why at this late stage the OU are unable to tell me when the first tutorial will be, and when they eventually do I may already be unable to attend. It is extremely unsatisfactory.

This does however go some way to explain why past attendance at tutorials has been so poor, I can not be the only person who has to plan ahead. 

Rant Over.

The online Future Learn course on tackling Research Projects has been quite interesting so far. It talked a bit about transferable skills, and I had no idea I had so many, so I must update my CV while this is still fresh in my mind. They also took you through a fairly simple but very useful tool to help you focus on your choice of a Research Question. This seemed very useful and is one of the things most worrying me about this years EMA. If you don't start off with a good question and/or idea of what you are investigating you will never really get the project off the ground.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - 3 Weeks to Go

Three weeks to go and I am still afloat on the inland waterways of Great Britain, so little access to fast internet and no further reading done.

I have managed to have a squint at the course website though, and I think I have spotted the jump to level 3 courses, the first two TMAs look like a considerable body of work, so this course is going to be a new level of difficult I feel.

The study planner does look really comprehensive and well thought out, so hopefully that will keep us on track and on schedule. It also looks sensible that there is a review week before the TMA week, so a good chance to catch up.

I can't wait to get home and explore this site properly.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - The Course Website Opens

The course website is open and looks a pretty familiar setup which is good. As this is a fairly mature course there will hopefully not be some of the problems we came across in DD209's first year.

No news yet on my tutor or tutorial dates, but hopefully that will come soon.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - 4 Weeks to Go

It has been a very leisurely week. A wedding in Cornwall followed by a trip out on Britain's canal network. 

 Near Yelvertoft

Welford Arm

 Foxton Bottom Lock pound

So all in all not a huge amount of reading completed on Chapter 2 last week, and not a lot more expected this week either.

The reading that has been done has been interesting and not too difficult to understand, although remembering it may be a different matter as there are an awful lot of terms to get to grips with.

The book doesn't help in this respect and does it's best to confuse the reader (or at least me) by using the variables F & G to represent chocolate and crisps on page 55, and then on page 67 it changes and drink is represented by F and food by G. Why couldn't food have been represented by F, and drink by D? Surely that could only aid the reader fathom out what is going on, rather than have to keep flicking back to previous pages to remember what axis has been assigned what good. Its as though the OU is having a little joke at our expense.

This is the part of economics that should be the most interesting, determining what decisions consumers make and why so I am looking forward to getting further into the book. Also looking  forward to the website opening this week and finding out who my tutor is - it's a bit like waiting for Christmas.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - 5 Weeks to Go

The Bank Holiday weekend, followed by making up at work for the work not done on the Bank Holiday Monday, then trying to get ahead of work as I took a short week to go on vacation on Friday, meant that fitting a five day week into the three days available had a predicable effect on the amount of time I had available to read Chapter 2.

Chapter 2 remains unread, or to be more accurate not even started.

Though with 5 weeks to go, it feels good to get at least one chapter read. The website opens in about two weeks and it will all begin to feel very real then, especially when the tutorial dates and tutor are revealed. Fingers crossed for a good tutor and tutorials that are not a million miles away.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

New Open University Blogs

I  don't often trawl the internet looking for other OU student blogs because life is too busy and you can lose hours and hours looking for, and then reading through, these things when there are arguably more pressing tasks on the horizon.

However, having said that, I noticed from the visitor stats that a blog I hadn't seen before was pushing some traffic in this direction. Well, you've got to have a look haven't you....

OU Student Life will travel with its author on his journey towards a degree in Psychology. I thought the look of the blog was good and looked clean and uncluttered, and the posts were well written and potentially very useful to others following on. I think this will certainly be one I'll dip into now and again.

Surviving The OU came to me via twitter. This appears very much in its embryonic stage of development, as the website structure is there but as yet no content - so one to check back on.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - 6 Weeks to Go

Look at what worrying about the end of year project has prompted me to do.......

I've signed up for a Future Learn Course, only 1 hour a week they say, for 8 weeks, on ....

                    Developing Your Research Project

I have no idea of this is going to be of use or not, but as its free and potentially won't take up too much time I thought I may as well give it a go.

FutureLearn - Developing Your Research Project link

I think I am developing a serious paranoia about this end of course assessment

As to the text book, The rest of chapter 1 of Book 1, got a lot more in-depth and I had to re-read and then read very slowly some bits to make sure I did actually understand what they were talking about.

Neoclassical versus Austrian/Evolutionary/Behavioral Economics and then Game Theory which still causes nightmares since the exam. I am sort of getting the pros and cons and why one may be better than the others in certain circumstances, but remembering it all is a challenge.... by brain may have taken a holiday without me.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - 7 Weeks to Go

I have made a start on Book 1 Chapter 1.

My first impression of the physical nature of the book is that is quite a heavy book and it is not at all easy to find a comfortable position in which to read it, except for having it flat on a table which is not that convenient. So I will have to man-up, get the the gym and bulk up a bit in order to better support this tome.

My first impression of the contents is that it is going to be an interesting read. I am half way through Chapter 1 and so far nothing too mind boggling but enough of interest to keep my attention. I think the last couple of section in this chapter get a bit more involved, so I'll try and wade through that before next weekend.

It feels a bit like being in limbo, having the books but no tutor, website or study planner - maybe I should enjoy this while I have the chance, reading without any TMA pressure at all :-)

Friday, 8 August 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - Course Materials Have Arrived

Arrived back from the badlands yesterday and there was a Yodel delivered package waiting for me. I don't remember ever getting course materials quite this early, hopefully I'll find the motivation to start reading.

The package contained three books,

The FT shown in the picture on the front covers is from December 2004, the mobile phone appears considerably older. The DD209 Economics course was pretty up to date, I wonder how relevant this one will be ?


A DVD for the course DD202 - which was the precursor to the Level 2 course DD209 - not sure what in the level 2 course will be of use in the level three. It may just be some bits of the DVD that we need rather than all of it, but how much effort would it have taken to re-burn the necessary bits onto a DVD and print an appropriate label? Feels like we're receiving hand-me-down course materials.

There was also a TMA form and a list of contents that listed the books in the order Book2 - Part 1, Book 2 - Part 2, then Book 1, this wasn't even the numerical order of the ISBN numbers, so why wasn't Book 1 listed first which would make the most logical sense. It seems to be little things that bother me.

A quick flick through the chapter titles throws up some potentially very interesting areas of study, but there is no information on the end of course project which is my biggest worry about this course.

So with any luck I can make a bit of a start on the reading and try and get a head start on the course which would be nice.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

DD309 : Doing economics: people, markets and policy - Yodel delivery imminent.....

.......... well maybe not.

I unexpectedly received an email from Yodel saying that they will be delivering a package in the next 24 hrs from the OU that requires a signature. Hopefully this is course work for DD309 and I can get a head start on the Level 3 course. This is very good news.

What is not so good news is that I am currently three and a half thousand miles from home and unlikely to be able to provide a signature. I guess this will test Yodel's delivery procedures, as long as it isn't thrown over the garden fence or 'hidden' behind the bin I may get the package when I get home shortly.

So DD309, we may be about to cross swords earlier than expected.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Are the Open University degrees as good as traditional university degrees.

The start of July brought the exam results, and September brings the opening of the next course website, so with no Open University tasks time-tabled in July and August, I thought it would be a good time to tackle a question I have seen in many online forums which asks, "Are the Open University courses academically rigorous enough.", and the obvious connected question, "What is the value of an Open University degree compared with those gained from traditional brick universities".

As a bit of background to this, I started my first degree as a teenager quarter of a century ago. It was an 'ordinary' engineering degree, a 4 year sandwich course which mean I was working in industry for the three summer breaks, the long university breaks which other students usually spend inter-railing round Europe - although I may be showing my age saying this. With classes, assignments and lab work this was a 9-5 Mon to Fri with extra study required in the evening and it was a real struggle, both to keep up with the work and to pass the exams.

Much later in my career I was lucky enough to be sponsored for an industry part-time MBA. This took four years of pretty constant work in the evenings, similar to that required for the OU, but also one weekend a month in class and a residential course/project one week a year. Again, it was a struggle to keep up with work and pass the exams.

In comparison to these previous courses, the OU PPE courses so far have been less work and easier assignments. Although this judgement may be tempered by the fact that I am doing the course for fun - really as a hobby - not to start or advance my career. Therefore the pressures are different, as is my knowledge and world experience, so if I went back to do my previous degrees again I may find them easier - who knows.

The conclusion that I am left with, considering these facts in isolation, is that this OU PPE degree can not possibly be equivalent, in course content or academic rigour, to that of my past courses or to degrees taken at a traditional university.

 I know a lot of people will disagree with me on this subject, but I can't help feeling that the Open University would increase the rigour of the course assessments and the quality of learning experience for their students (or client-learners as we are now) if they only revealed the TMA questions at the start of the scheduled 'TMA week'.

I say this because there are two methods of approaching the learning and study for each section of course material,

    Method 1. - To learn and gain as much knowledge as possible,
     Method 2. - To do the minimum required to pass the TMA.

In these times when everyone has got so much going on, especially those who juggle family, work (full, part-time or voluntary) and also study, it can be sometimes be necessary due to constraints of time and choices regarding quality of life, to study purely to pass the TMA.

It was certainly possible on A222 Philosophy to write all TMAs having only read only a quarter of the course material, and I think this was pretty much the same on DD203 Politics - however, you obviously had to read further for the exams on both courses.

If the TMA questions were only revealed at the start of the TMA week it would certainly motivate me to put the work in to cover all of the required reading before the TMA week started, and this would surely be a better learning experience and increase the perceived rigour of the course.

I would also suggest that because there seems to be such a variation of tutor interest and help across the courses, that as soon the TMA questions are revealed tutors should not be helping students any further, and that TMA extensions should not exceed two weeks, effectively all TMAs shoud be submitted before the original deadline for TMAs to be returned is breached.

Which leads to then other bug-bear I have that of TMAs coming back from different tutors at different times. They should all be returned on the 14th day, except those who have the two week extension.

The three exams I have sat so far seemed on the surface to be sufficiently taxing, but there does seem to be a real element of chance involved with 'spotting' possible questions, especially in the Philosophy course where the books are so compartmentalised.  While in the recent economics exam the fact that some questions were, to all intents and purposes, identical to example exam questions in the only example exam paper the OU had produced for that course, surely casts major doubt on the veracity, fairness and outcomes from that exam.

Having said all this, the OU does a very necessary job of opening up degree study opportunities for those who through choice, life chance or circumstance were not able to go to university straight from school. Effectively the OU is democratising further education. It is not necessarily the brightest in society that go to university straight from school, it is usually those with better financial resources and life chances who get this opportunity, and therefore those who seek education through the OU as 'mature students' should be recognised for the sacrifices (financial costs, family time, etc.), drive and commitment required to pursue a degree as a more mature student while juggling family, career and whatever else life throws at them.

So, while the OU's courses may not be as academically rigourous as traditional universities on a absolute scale, I think there is a very credible argument that for many there is an 'equivalent' level of rigour, given the many student's past opportunities and learning experiences. You'd expect somebody from a wealthy background, who had been educated at a private school, to get into a top university and attain a good degree - after all it is what their parents have been paying for. So for those without these life advantages to self fund and commit to studying for a degree is certainly a statement to this person's character and ambition.   

For these reasons, and indeed others, should I finally be awarded an Open University degree in two years time I will be very proud to have it on my C.V., and if anybody asks if an Open University degree as good as traditional university degree I will have to ask them to clarify what parameters they are using to measure this value against, because in some ways, possibly in more important ways, the Open University degree carries more value.

Monday, 14 July 2014

On to the Level 3 Courses then.....

So, in terms of courses and time to complete the degree, I am now two thirds of the way through the course, 4 course completed, but with the two level three, and therefore hardest and most demanding, courses to coming up.

And it would appear from the degree classification calculator that I have my work cut out if I'm to get a First, the calculator recons that.....

For a First ,  I need a Distinction and Grade 2.

For a 2:1,     I need a Grade 2 and a Grade 4.

For a 2:2,     I need a Grade 3 and a Grade 4.

So, is is really all about getting a distinction somewhere.

The level three courses DD309, A333, DD313 and DD306 have no exam, instead  there is an end of course assessment in the form of a dissertation/project.

These projects are extremely important to the end module result, the downside is that  these sorts of things can be very unpredictable and depend a lot on the quality and level of interest of your tutor. On the up side it means that the vital part of the course assessment is not done over a couple of hours on one day with a Russian roulette set of questions, but is something that you can work on over a period of time and hopefully the result will reflect the effort expended.

I'm quite looking forward to the start of the next course...... but first the summer.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

DD209 Running The Economy : Course Result available earlier than expected.

It was a bit of a surprise to find that the course results are out today, and a lot earlier that expected.

I ended up with a not entirely unexpected Pass 2, the exam result was petty much as expected and not high enough to get me into the distinction grade boudary.

The exam had some surprises in regards the marking,

Q3 Multiplier Question -  75% to 100%, pretty much as expected.

Q4 Real Interest rate and IS Curve - 50% to 74%, this is a big band, but even so I thought I had aced the question and would have expected above 75% - oh well :-(

Q9 Apples and Hats - 50% to 74%, pretty much as expected.

Q10 Game Theory - 75% to 100%, pretty much as expected

Q14 Interest Rate Targeting Model, 85% to 100% - very pleased with this, as I thought I had done well.

Q17 Terms of Trade, 55% - 69%, I was not sure about this question and the mark is a big disappointment, but I don't know if it was because I missed what the question was getting at, or because I just got things wrong.

It is a shame they don't give you a better idea of what your actual mark was, but this is at least useful information.

They do however tell you that 318 people sat the exam and also the exam break down, which is not necessarily the same as the overall module result as the grade boundaries can be shifted and there are bound to be more distinctions than just 5%.

                             A       B        C        D        E       F       G     Total
No. of students     16     109      87      69       21     11      5     318
% of students         5%    34%     27%    22%       7%    3%    2%

Part 1
It also shows that of the many people who did Q9, 42% got an A, which really shows how badly I did this, I got a C.

Part 2 List A
Q14 was a reasonable choice with 17% getting an A, only Q11 was done better with 20% getting an A.

Part 2 List B
Q17 appears to have been one of the hardest to either answer or understand as only 6% got an A, compared with 33% getting an A for Q16, which was the question I should have done.

So some good, some bad, some disappointing and a feeling that if I had chosen a different question on List B things may have been a bit different.

I am, I suppose, content with a Pass 2, but I am disappointed that I didn't do better in the exam - I had hoped to have had a reasonable chance at a distinction after the excellent TMA and iCMA results.  The trick then is to turn this disappointment into 'study motivation' for next year and try for a Distinction then. Although there is no exam next year but some sort of project and I am a bit worried about that as these types of project can be difficult to control and it can be a situation where having a good and interested tutor makes a world of difference.

If anybody is to get a First Class honours degree you need at least one level 3 course result to be a distinction, so from the respect of the final degree classification this course result has not really made that much difference - so no real damage done.

So, two level 3 courses to go and the target is one Grade 1 and one Grade 2 - or better. Seems like a bit of a tall order..... we shall see.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

DD209 Running The Economy : Course Review

Time for the DD209 Running the Economy course review.

Firstly, I really enjoyed this course and I think I did learn a great deal about economics. Certainly, headlines about interest rate changes, the dangers of inflation and the problems of world trade and tariff all make a lot more sense now. I would recommend this course to anybody with an interest in economics and it will improve as they iron out the wrinkles.

As the first run of a new course there were always going to be good points and bad points.

The good thing was that the material is pretty topical and was written specifically to look at the 2008 recession, so interesting from that point of view, as the previous course was apparently still talking about the end of boom and bust.

The downside was there were many errors in the course books and the website, and the course team seemed slow or disinterested in fixing these or communicating them. It should have been absolutely instantaneous that when they found an error they fixed it on the website or issued errata information, but the first communication we got on errata on Book 1 was the day we started Book 2 (?) and there are still further errors discovered in the book that haven't been communicated. This should be better for future courses, but maybe not the next one :-(

However, having said that I thought the online tutorials were excellent, a really good additional teaching environment and experience and a real enhancement to just reading the book. In fact unlike A222 or DD203 if you miss out on the online tutorials you miss out on a great deal of the course.

The face to face tutorials were the same as ever, poorly attended and of questionable academic value, really more of a social event and a chance to ensure that your tutor actually exists and is human. The way the OU is moving virtual reality tutors can only be a couple of years away.

There were also some online tutorials and the web conference system they used with this course is so much better than the Eluminate nightmare used with A222.

There was a Tutor Group Online Forum which was pretty moribund, to be honest the Facebook group galvanised and organised by Sheona was a far better forum for support, help and advice and one of the few groups I have seen in which there was a real feeling of support and a complete lack of friction or one-upmanship.

If I take the course TMA by TMA, Part by Part.

Part 1 -TMA 1: The crisis of 2008
This was a fairly good start to the course, quickly into important terms like GDP, the crisis, circular flow diagrams, public sector deficits and loads of graphs and tables.

The TMA at the end was a fairly short one broken into separate questions worth only 7% of overall score. It was probably of more value to the tutor than to you, as it would have let the tutor see what sort of level you were coming in at in terms of understanding the calculations and maths.

Part 2 - TMA2, iCMA41: Keynes and unemployment
Spent a good part of the first week trying to work out the iCMA numbering system and failing - why is it iCMA41?

Proper economic theories by somebody you have head of, with loads of graphs, tables and formula. Consumption, propensity to spend, Aggregate Demand, IS curves, fiscal and monetary policy, a really meaty 4 chapters with good supportive online activities.

If you have not done much maths or are not confident with graphs and simple algebra, I would strongly suggest some pre-study. Nothing too onerous, the main problem formula is on this blog somewhere if you can do that you are laughing. And if you understand the differences between upward and downward sloping lines and the effect that has on altering the vertical value then again this will be easy.

The TMA is a big 15%, and 1600 word essay. The iCMA is a open book online test which you can do over the whole 4 weeks and should be 7% in the bag, but careless mistakes cost points.

Part 3 - TMA 3, iCMA42: When Inflation Matters
For me this was the most interesting part of the course, and I really enjoyed seeing how the previous MEC, AG and IS curves worked with the Phillips curve to model inflation and plan actions to combat inflation. There was also a week online describing economics data which was a bit neither here nor there. Of the 4 chapters, the first three were really full and new stuff and the 4th was a bit of a recap.

The TMA was worth 20% but only because there was a very odd requirement to interface with the course tutor forum which was worth 5%, so the essay was just worth the normal 15%. The interface with the forum, in my experience, was not entered into with any sot of enthusiasm by anybody and the bare minimum was done to achieve the requirements of the TMA.

Part 4 - TMA4, iCMA43: Regulating Markets, promoting growth
This section and section 5 were micro economic modules.

Again this was very interesting with the supply and demand curves, and the problems of price capping or minimum wages. It was however quite complicated with the long run cost curves, and although it all made sense at the time, I didn't feel this was worth taking into the exam - a mistake as it turned out.

There was again a 1600 word TMA worth 15%, and another iCMA worth 7%.

Part 5 - TMA5, iCMA44: Global inequity in human well-being
This part was very interesting, especially global trade, absolute and comparative advantage and game theory. There was quite a lot of text (2 chapters) given over to game theory which seemed too much to me. All in all this was a big section in which they seemed cram everything they couldn't get in anywhere else.

There the now standard 1600 word TMA worth 15%, and another iCMA worth 7%.

Amount of Time Required
This course did require quite a lot of study, especially during the TMA weeks, probably 7 - 10 hrs a week, so the Christmas, Easter breaks plus the odd study week was really useful.

Continuous Assessment
So as far as the assessments go,
4 x1600 word essays at 15% each = 60%
4 x iCMA online tests at 7% = 28%
1 x short TMA essay at 7 % = 7%
1 x online interactive forum thing at 5 % = 5%

So, the traditional and more academically rigorous essays were only worth 60% of the mark, the rest was pretty poor and everyone should be getting pretty close to 30 to 35% out of the possible 40%, which makes the 40% overall pass mark pretty redundant.

Final Exam
The final exam, was for me, just do-able in 3 hours. Ideally another 30 minutes would have helped enormously. The questions were exactly what was expected for Parts 1 and Part 2 List A, but not at all expected for Part 2 List B. I guess this is the same as for DD203 which my tutor for that course said they made a "real pig's ear" of the first exam in an effort to ensure it was difficult enough and went a bit overboard.

If this exam hasn't been set at the appropriate level the bell curve of results will show that and hopefully we can all be edged a bit higher in the results.

So that is that until the results come out, then DD309 in October.

Friday, 6 June 2014

DD209 Running The Economy : Exam Paper Available Online - the dust has settled.

The exam paper is now available on the website, so what can you do but look at it.

I think it was an odd exam in that some of the questions were similar or bang on the questions from the example exam ?

Part 1:

Q4 - IS Curve, not an identical question but the theory is all there in the example exam's explanation.

Q7 - Long Run cost curves - not an identical question but the theory is all there in the example exam's explanation.

Q9 - Absolute and Comparative Advantage - bar the numbers was pretty much identical.

Q10 - Game theory, bar the specifics of the game was pretty much identical.

Part 2 A:

Q11 Aggregate Demand and equilibrium - not an identical question but the theory is all there in the example exam's explanation to get some points.

Q14 Inflation Targeting Model - pretty similar.

Part 2 B:

Q16, Market supply and demand - pretty much the same theory and answer as the example.

I think anyone given a week or so to really study the example exam answers could have sat yesterday's exam and chosen Qs 4,7,9,10, 14 and 16 and come away with a pass.

I on the other hand.........

Q10. Apples and Hats. This was the first question I attempted, as I was most confident with this part of the course. I rushed to find the answers, struggled with the arithmetic, panicked, struggled again, became confused, found an answer and omitted to add much of what I knew about the answer as a written narrative which I should have done. I'm pretty sure I have the answers for comparative advantage the wrong way round, so this is pretty much a car crash for me and I am not expected any marks from this question.

Q9. Game Theory. This was a welcome relief, back on solid ground and I think I have pretty much nailed this question and given added information about how to overcome the prisoners dilemma, so hopeful of a good mark.

Q3. Multiplier. Knew the multiplier, knew the AD graph, explained the formula and operation of the multiplier along with its problems. I left space to go back at the end  derive multiplier the from the AD formula (the explanation full of errors from the text book - remember that), but I ran out of time :-(

Q4. Real Interest Rate and IS Curve. This was pretty straight forward, I mentioned the MEC curve and r = i - pi, lower real interest rates leads to increased output. I started to draw the three graphs that show how MEC, links to AD, links to IS, but it started to go astray and after the problems with Q10 I ditched this part as I thought I had enough anyway.

Q14 Interest Targeting Model. This seemed too good to pass up. Similar to the TMA and the recession explanation case study in Book 1.Knew about Lower zero bound and a bit, probably enough, about QE and its problems to answer this and I hope pretty well.

Part 2 B was a bit more of a problem, nothing I really wanted was there..... 2 question I had pretty much ignored through not revising Part 4 and Q18 I could not understanding what the question was looking for so with little choice, Q17 it was then.

Q17. Terms of Trade and benefits of international trade. This could have gone very wrong....... and I don't know if this is right, but in an act of unbelievable courage I stared with  two countries that made Cars and Bananas and had to work out production values that gave one absolute advantage over both goods, but each an advantage in one good.  This is not as simple as you first think, and I can assure you that the values chosen were far, far, far simpler than were 'used to confuse' in Q10. I could then show the benefits from trade, additional consumption, added the product frontier graph, talked about exchange rates and the Hechscher-Odlin model and how this produces inequalities in-between and within countries. Talked about dominant v subservient partners and inelastic and elastic goods...... I have no idea how relevant all this was, but I feeling better about today than I was after the exam.

It is very difficult to know how this has gone, but I have my fingers crossed for a solid Pass 2.

But if I can suggest 1 thing, just one thing to the OU regarding the exam. In order to simplify the instructions rather than have 4 question from part A, then a question from Part B list 1 and a question from part B list 2 - why not have three parts, 4 questions from part A, 1 from part B and 1 from Part C - simples ! ! !