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Volume 2, Issue 5, December 2020

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Special Issue on Online and Remote Learning and Teaching
(During the COVID-19 Pandemic)

Teaching and Educational Methods

So You Want to Run a Classroom Experiment Online? The Good, the Bad, and the Different

Stephen N. Morgan, Misti D. Sharp, and Kelly A. Grogan

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Posted online: December 18, 2020
Supplementary Materials
doi: 10.22004/ag.econ.308055

Abstract: Agricultural economics has a rich history of using experiments in the classroom to teach applied topics and illustrate how economic theory translates into real-world phenomena. Despite the widespread attention classroom experiments in economics have received, relatively little attention has been devoted to whether and how instructors may use experiments as a teaching tool in the online classroom. We review the essential elements of three popular classroom experiments (public goods, prisoners dilemma, and pit market) and discuss how these experiments may be adapted or used in both the synchronous and asynchronous online classroom. Additionally, we discuss several online platforms and tools to make experimental games accessible with distance learning.

Keywords: Active learning, economic experiments, online teaching, pit market, prisoner’s dilemma, public goods

Teaching and Education Commentaries

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
doi: 10.22004/ag.econ.308056

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
doi: 10.22004/ag.econ.308057 

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
doi: 10.22004/ag.econ.308058

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

Reflections in Adjusting to a Global Pandemic from a Regional Agribusiness Program

J. Ross Pruitt, Rachna Tewari, and Joseph E. Mehlhorn

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Posted online: December 10, 2020
doi: 10.22004/ag.econ.308059

Abstract: Being able to draw upon a long history of distance-enabled education aided the University of Tennessee at Martin’s agribusiness program in adapting to a fully online teaching environment during a pandemic. Experiences of agribusiness programs in adjusting to unforeseen challenges are included in the discussion as potential solutions. Feedback was sought from students primarily taking on-campus courses regarding the difficulties experienced and the adjustments made when the campus suspended its normal operations to ensure the health and safety of the university community. Specifically, the feedback focused on adjustment factors for online transition, technological issues and familiarity with the online learning platform, quality of instruction, and students’ perceptions of the university’s overall response to the pandemic. It was noted that student success in courses during the transition was impacted by their time management skills and efficiency, which are traits desired by employers. While significant differences will continue to exist between on-campus and online teaching, student learning could be improved via innovative strategies to enhance teaching effectiveness in online courses. This commentary shares both student and faculty perspectives during the transition to online and also provides suggestions on ways to adapt to an increased need for distance-enabled learning. 

Keywords: Agribusiness, COVID-19, online teaching, pandemic

Considerations for Economic Instruction in the Era of COVID-19

Thomas P. Zacharias and Keith J. Collins

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Posted online: December 10, 2020
doi: 10.22004/ag.econ.308060

Abstract: Educational concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic center on how to effectively assemble, communicate, and assess material to be taught and learned. We believe that in advancing “the how” of remote, online, and related learning, we do not overlook “the what” that is to be learned, as well as other concerns. U.S. performance in combating the pandemic provides an exceptional opportunity to teach students data presentation, interpretation, and basic economic principles to better understand individual behavior, hopefully to improve future societal responses to pandemics. We believe an important factor in the persistence and rebound of the virus as it spreads from urban to rural areas is the presence of negative externalities associated with the failure to wear masks and socially distance. Additionally, the public good nature of virus-free air and public health may not be well understood. U.S. performance has been affected by a complex interaction of economic, social, and political behavior. Dissecting these influences would challenge students at all levels to learn about and discuss the economic considerations surrounding the pandemic.

Keywords: COVID-19, externality, free rider, information, market failure, public good