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Research Articles

Following Along or Falling Behind? An Analysis of Internet Access During Lab-Based University Classes

Timothy Delbridge, and Xiaowei Cai

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Posted: September 24, 2020

Abstract: Most undergraduate programs in agribusiness and applied economics include courses on data analysis, spreadsheet modeling, and other topics that are inherently computer-based. It is typical in these courses for students to have access to computers either during lecture or in lab sessions. In fact, students in some agribusiness and applied economics programs may spend a majority of their total in-class time with access to their own laptop or a desktop computer in a university lab. In this context it becomes crucially important for educators to understand how students consume and interact with course materials, including spoken lectures, while they simultaneously engage with technology. Previous research on the use of computers in the classroom show that there exists the potential for technology access to help students follow along and strengthen their understanding of course concepts during a lecture, but also that there is a risk that students are distracted by the available technology and end up falling behind. This study analyzes the effect of restricted internet access during lab-based class meetings on student learning outcomes, and provides guidance on instructor policies around technology use in the classroom.

Keywords: Computer labs, distraction, undergraduate teaching

Teaching and Educational Methods

Developing R Shiny Web Applications for Extension Education

Matthew S. Elliott and Lisa M. Elliott

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Posted: September 24, 2020

Abstract: The agriculture sector has entered a new era wherein every stage of the supply chain involves gathering an increasing amount of data. Most of these data are generated in real-time and require rapid analysis that can support optimal decision making for agribusinesses to remain competitive. Consequently, extension audiences are demanding more sophisticated, rapid analysis to aid their decision making using the data they have at their disposal. This paper discusses using R Shiny web applications to meet the new demand.

Keywords: Agribusiness, data analytics, extension, R Shiny, R Markdown, web applications

Case Studies

A Fire Sale for an Incombustible Commodity: Entry and Exit in the Helium Market

Katherine Lacy, Elliott Parker, Olga Shapoval, and Todd Sørensen

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Posted: October 16, 2020
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Abstract: In this paper, we present a case study based on National Public Radio’s Planet Money episode 933, titled “Find the Helium” to illustrate to microeconomics students a firm’s cost structure in a competitive industry and unintended consequences of government intervention. Specifically, this case study examines the consequences of the Helium Privatization Act of 1996, which ordered the U.S. government to begin selling off its stocks of helium by 2005. As a result, the government flooded the market with cheap helium, disrupting the helium industry and causing private companies to exit the market. Throughout this case study, students are presented with details of these government acts, descriptions of how these acts and decisions impacted the helium market, as well as figures to display firm and industry effects. The last section contains questions that can be used during class discussions of this case study. Available upon request are detailed teaching notes (with student learning objectives) and a set of multiple-choice questions that can be used on exams, quizzes, and homework assignments, and answers and metadata for all case study questions.

Keywords: Entry, exit, firm supply, government intervention, helium, perfect competition

Capital Budgeting Analysis of a Vertically Integrated Egg Firm: Conventional and Cage-Free Egg Production

Carlos J.O. Trejo-Pech and Susan White

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Posted: October 23, 2020
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Abstract: This case features a financial analyst building a capital budgeting model of a stylized vertically integrated egg firm. The case describes the egg industry and the role played by large firms, and highlights the potential for continuing fast growth of cage-free eggs in the near future. Cage-free eggs may grow rapidly at the expense of conventional eggs because of (1) recent regulation requiring producers to switch from conventional to cage-free production, and (2) pledges by large egg buyers such as McDonalds, Starbucks, Walmart, and more than 200 restaurants and supermarkets, to buy cage-free only products by 2025. The case discusses how investment, production, and financial statement parameters are collected and assembled by the analyst to prepare a capital budgeting model, which might be used to evaluate the financial performance of an egg firm managing a portfolio of conventional and cage-free eggs. The reader is challenged to analyze how investment, leverage, and profitability may change under two hypothetical investment policies. A quick-investment policy would capture a scenario on which the cage-free market grows quickly in the following years and therefore the egg firm would invest aggressively in cage-free facilities, in sync with the market. A second investment policy captures a slower cage-free growth scenario.

Keywords: Agribusiness finance, cage-free eggs, capital budgeting, corporate finance, strategic management

Teaching and Education Commentaries

Curating Campus Support Resources to Provide Easy Access for All Students

Kristin Kiesel, Bwalya Lungu, and Mark Wilson

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Posted: September 28, 2020

Abstract: Anxiety and stress levels experienced by students on college campuses have increased over the last decade. The current COVID-19 pandemic and increased racial tensions have likely exacerbated these feelings further. In an effort to improve student well-being and learning outcomes across a large and diverse student body, we created a repository of information on support services offered to students at the University of California, Davis. Starting with a list of questions we encountered in faculty and staff interactions with students in the Managerial Economics major, we developed a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page that provides brief answers and links to important resources. This resource page can be integrated into online course sites or linked in syllabi; serves as a reference for instructors; and gives all students access to crucial information when navigating life on campus. We describe the initial design, discuss the feedback received after piloting it with students, and explain resulting revisions. The presented usage data indicate that students, faculty, and staff are actively engaging with this resource. Our shared experiences offer important insights for faculty and staff at other universities committed to addressing the achievement gap in economics and higher education in general.

Keywords: Achievement gap, anxiety, learning outcomes student resources, support services, stress

A Commentary on Extension Education Programming:
An Overview of the CattleTrace Extension Program and Graduate Extension Education

Hannah E. Shear

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Posted: October 2, 2020

Abstract: This commentary reviews the development of an extension education program within the context of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association’s Extension Competition. The competition gives graduate students the opportunity to develop extension education skills through the development of an extension education program that focuses on CattleTrace, one of the largest beef-cattle disease tracing programs in the United States. The extension program’s main objective is to identify industry participants and provide them with economic analysis and potential policy impacts relating to CattleTrace. The main outputs of the program include in-person workshops and conferences, informational factsheets, and economic decision tools.

Keywords: Beef cattle, extension, program evaluation, traceability

Special Issue on Online Learning and Teaching

No Honor Among Cheaters: A “Prisoner’s Dilemma” Approach to Reduce Cheating in Online Classes

Jeffrey S. Young

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Posted online: July 6, 2020

Abstract: Online higher education is growing at a rapid pace. Although beneficial in many regards, many studies find greater opportunity for student dishonesty. Unethical practices facilitated by e-learning include copying answers, trading solutions, or students taking turns as first mover on assignments to obtain and distribute question details or even solutions to their peers. However, if an incentive structure existed in which a student could be enticed to anonymously betray his or her peers and collaborate with the instructor, it seems reasonable that cheating could be reduced substantially. This framework resembles Prisoner’s Dilemma. The objective of this study is to stylize the Prisoner’s Dilemma game in the digital classroom context and propose instructor applications to set up an effective incentive structure. It is shown that a generous grade lift is a theoretically sufficient incentive to tip students toward defecting from collusion with their peers.

Keywords: Cheating, incentive structure, online higher education, Prisoner’s Dilemma

Insights from Asynchronous Lecture Viewing Behavior

Michael Black

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Posted: October 2, 2020

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic forced many applied economics courses to switch from synchronous, face-to-face instruction to an online format. A strategy for some instructors is to pre-record lectures for asynchronous viewing by students. I provide commentary on observed viewing behavior of pre-recorded lectures in an applied economics course and suggest ways to improve construction of asynchronous material. I observe students delaying viewing until assignments are due, skipping over lecture material and scrubbing to the “hands-on” portions of the videos, losing attention after approximately 20 minutes, and watching primarily on larger screens. Instructors may wish to consider posting lecture notes separately, with shorter videos covering only hands-on activities to improve student engagement.

Keywords: Asynchronous lectures, educations, learning experience

Adapting to the Nontraditional Classroom: Lessons Learned from Agribusiness and Applied Economics Classes

Erik Hanson and Cheryl Wachenheim

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Posted: October 23, 2020

Abstract: COVID-19 altered instruction in spring 2020 and continues to affect teaching during the 2020–2021 academic year. This commentary reflects the experiences of two instructors of agribusiness and applied economics classes during the recent period of distance education. Strategies and considerations for future instruction are discussed.

Keywords: Classroom, distance learning, hybrid-flexible, teaching