There is a company called The Great Courses that has intrigued me for the last several months. I’ve been to their site a few times, browsed through all their courses, and finally chose one to listen to today. The course I chose is called Thinking like an Economist: A Guide to Rational Decision Making, and is led by Professor Randall Bartlett.
The version I have is an audio-only course. They also sell the video for this course, but I don’t know if the video experience is any better than the audio. (Ironically, this is covered in the course in Chapter 2, when we learn about marginal benefit.) There were times when we were asked to “watch closely” at a demonstration. Well, all I could do is listen closely in those situations. Luckily, I don’t feel like I lost anything by not being able to directly watch.
The audio quality is excellent. Listening to this course is similar to listening to a book or a podcast, and I can work or travel while the course content is delivered into my ears. The professor has a strong clear voice, and delivers his material directly.
This course is a mix between economics and psychology. The course subtitle is “a guide to rational decision making”, and it directly invokes the Dan Ariely course “A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior“. I wonder if this is intentional. In any event, the topics ARE similar, as Professor Bartlett talks about how we make decisions.
The course is more like a lecture than a course. It’s 6 hours in length, in the audio format. There are no assignments. It’s hard to compare this to any of the Coursera or other courses, but it certainly delivers quality educational content over those few short hours.
In the end, this was an interesting listen, and feel it’s helped my understanding of rational, individual choices. The course defines classical economic terms like efficiency, marginal benefit and marginal cost, incentives, optimization, the tragedy of the commons and the prisoners’ dilemma. More formal than Ariely’s course, but the lack of assignments and tests means it’s hard to reinforce the learning.
I must say, this course contains some of the clearest explanations of economic topics that I’ve ever heard from an Economics course. The explanation of why the 2008 financial crisis happened was so clear and well expressed.