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 ! ! !

Thursday, 5 June 2014

DD209 Running The Economy : Exam Completed, mission accomplished.

Well that was an emotional and long day........

Third OU exam, third venue, found it easily enough, but the lunch time traffic was a bit of a nightmare and when I got there I didn't recognise anyone so I wondered if I was in the right place, but luckily my name was on the board, so all good so far, I'd found the venue.

The exam was in three sections, first part was 4 short questions from 10 - seemed to be 2 from each part of the course. I had pretty much decided on going for questions from Parts 2, 3 & 5 and in being pretty wed to this strategy I may have passed up some easier questions from Part 1.

Anyway, 3 of the 4 questions were pretty much bang on what I had expected, but the Apples and Hats comparative advantage question may have gone a bit astray. Apples were in tons total output, Hats were per person per year, so an anomolly here..... However in getting to the absolute advantage calculation I was dividing (if I remember this correctly) 200 by 30,000 to get a very odd 2/3 divided by 100 - a mixture of fractions and decimals that ended up as 0.0067 ? This does not seem difficult now but in the high stress environment of the exam I nearly asked the chap on the next row who looked equally perplexed with his maths exam paper if I could borrow his calculator. But no, I continued to carry out arithmetic functions on a mixture of very large and very small numbers, some decimal, some a variety of fractions ( I think there was a vulgar fraction employed at one point), in the hope it would all come good - it didn't.

At this point you start to doubt your ability to count, to apply reason, to understand the question, but for some inexplicable reason I blundered on. They only wanted to know who had absolute and comparative advantage on two products, so only 4 answers required which were either A or B. so I may have none, some or all right, but whoever marks it is going to wonder how on earth I came the conclusions I did without the aid of a mystic, some chicken bones and a prayer mat.

The next part was the bigger essays with 1 to be chosen from 4 questions on Book 1 macro. Two of the questions were on the inflation targeting model, so pretty much what I wanted. I can't remember what the other questions were.

The last part, 1 question from 4 on Book 2 micro. The questions were not as expected. I should have stuck to revising Part 4, one question was fairly simple on price ceiling, and I should have done that, the other was  pretty much a carbon copy of a question in the example exam.... doh! it could all have been so much simpler.

The two from Part 5 were oddly worded and it's such a big subject I'm not actually sure if I answered the question. I obviously thought I did at the time, however with hindsight...... Oh well it is done now.

And that wasn't the end of today's trial, rush hour traffic on way home, took sodding hours, not sure why this exam centre was so far away from home, but I guess they only have so many places and you get what they can give you.

So, all-in-all I'm pretty confident of a pass, but I'm not too sure I'll get the high 70s I hoped for in an attempt and forlorn hope to be sucked up by the variable band boundaries to get a distinction, which is a shame as there was no lack of effort on my behalf to study for this and it may simply end up being about poor question choice - gutting!

Right, books away and life can get back to (ab)normal again, now where did I put that wife of mine, sure she's around here somewhere :-)

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

DD209 Running The Economy : Exam - 1

Less than 24 hours to go ! It feels a bit serious now.

I am now going boss eyed, I think it is now a case of consolidating what I know and hoping my questions come up, I have covered enough, the problem my be choosing between them and ensuring I do the right ones.

So, I'll rest the brain tonight and some gentle revision tomorrow morning.

Good Luck All

Monday, 2 June 2014

DD209 Running The Economy : Exam - 2

Just time to cook the tea, wash up and then start on the last revision push which is helped by being off work tomorrow.

Tonight - Tutorials and iCMA for Section 2 and 3.

Tomorrow morning the same for Section 5.

Tomorrow afternoon, look at the example exam paper answers and make sure I know what they are looking for in terms of word count.

Tomorrow night, flash cards and drawing graphs and tables.

Wednesday morning, hopefully a slow and confident start to the day, but in all likelihood more flash cards, graphs and tables.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

DD209 Running The Economy : Exam - 3

Just three evenings to go..... and this one is nearly gone.

The books have been read, and I will not be returning to them unless I come across something that needs further explanation that I haven't discovered yet.

So it is now me, a massive pile of flash cards, TMAs 2,3,5 and the OU Online stuff.

The online stuff will the up most of my time - go back over tutorials, iCMAs and specimin exam answers.

My guess is that is it doesn't appear in the tutorials, iCMA or specimen exam paper, it is unlikely to be in the exam - that seems fair...... doesn't it.

Luckily, I have Tuesday and Wednesday morning off, so it will be a mammoth cramming session from tomorrow night until the exam starts.