Why This MIT Professor Wants to Help Everyone Learn Basic Economics

Simple line drawing of two neighboring houses, people out front of each house looking at the other one and saying "Wierd".

Image from a video in Introductory AP® Microeconomics, using the challenges negotiating with a noisy party next door to illustrate the concept of market failure.

Professor Jon Gruber’s 14.01SC Principles of Microeconomics is OCW’s most popular economics course, with legions of appreciative fans. 

Professor Gruber wants the world to understand that economics is not only useful, it’s also “beautiful and surprising and cool.” He’s invested in spreading the economics gospel to a wider audience, such as his 2011 graphic-novel treatment of health care reform [still a timely work, it seems!].

So we wanted to spread the word about Professor Gruber’s new online course with MITx on edX. Introductory AP® Microeconomics opens on August 15, 2017 for self-paced learning. Compared to his OCW course, this gentle introduction is for a more general audience, explaining key points with fun video animations rather than the beauty of calculus. Read on…

Why This MIT Professor Wants to Help Everyone Learn Basic Economics

Jonathan Gruber, Ford Professor of Economics, MIT

I’m excited to announce the launch of a new course on edX that covers Introductory AP Microeconomics. I’ve wanted to do a course like this for years. I have always found economics provides a terrific way to think about the world. Economics principles explain so much of what drives our everyday life: how people decide which goods to buy and how to spend their time; how firms set prices and hire workers, and whether the outcomes of markets are fair and efficient.

These economics principles were inspirational to me when I first learned them as an undergraduate. I have gone on to apply to them to a set of topics I am passionate about, both as a Professor at MIT and as a policy expert for both state and local governments. Whether in the classroom, in Washington D.C., or in state capitals, I have found that basic economic principles never lead me wrong in terms of explaining important aspects of the world.

Yet these basic economics principles are not understood by many. This isn’t surprising. Economics is kind of like a new language. Once you understand it, whole new experiences are open to you – but first you have to learn it, which can be hard.

But what is neat is that learning economics is it’s a whole lot easier than learning a new language. I have realized through years of teaching economics principles that with a relatively short set of lessons we can provide the tools for everyone to see the world the way economists do. And that’s what this course is about.

By combining short videos on economics principles with fun applications of those principles, the course provides both the level of economics knowledge that is sufficient to pass the Advanced Placement® exam and a means of understanding more broadly how economics works.  Now, more than ever, the lessons of the course and the questions that it asks are vital. Is going to college worth it? Why is Tesla building the world’s largest battery production plant? Is rising inequality something we should worry about, and what can we do about it?  These are hard questions – that become much easier once you understand the principles of economics.

Economics is a way of seeing the world that’s useful, but it’s also beautiful and surprising and cool. I truly believe our world would be better if everyone took this course. And I know that you’ll have a great time if you take it.

Disentangling Quantum Physics

Male professor gesturing in front of a chalkboard.

Professor Barton Zwiebach lecturing on linearity and nonlinearity.

By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

What drove Einstein crazy?

It’s a simple question.

The answer is also simple—sort of.

Here’s Professor Barton Zwiebach in his video lecture segment “Photons and the loss of determinism,” just published on OCW as part of 8.04 Quantum Physics I:

. . . and now you have found a situation in which an identical set of experiments with identically prepared objects sometimes gives you different results. It’s a debacle. It’s a total disaster. What seems to have happened here? You suddenly have identical photons, and sometimes they go through [a polarizing filter], and sometimes they don’t go through. And therefore, you’ve lost predictability. It’s so simple to show that, if photons exist, you lose predictability. And that’s what drove Einstein crazy.

Professor Zwiebach explains other mind-boggling mysteries of quantum phenomena in 115 short videos on the 8.04 course site. Superposition, entanglement, Schrödinger’s equation—he covers the full range of topics. The videos are supplemented with textbook-like lecture notes, along with problem sets and exams.

Once you’ve gone through Professor Zwiebach’s 8.04 site, you might travel along to his 8.05 Quantum Physics II, where OCW features a similarly robust set of resources, including video lectures and lecture notes.

That’s right. A full year of MIT quantum physics with the same distinguished instructor.

Einstein would be crazy about that too!

OCW’s latest peak: 2400 courses

Photo of rock cairn on a mountaintop.

Photo by Wolfgang Lutz on Unsplash, license CC 0 (public domain).

Over the past two months, OCW has published 16 more courses. Six of these are brand-new subjects, taking our total live collection above 2400 total courses for the first time. Another 10 recent publications are updates of prior versions, as we work to bring you the latest MIT teaching from subjects across the entire curriculum.

Here’s the latest 16: