Thursday, December 4, 2014

Review and Critique of the Course

Coming into this course with some experience working in a small business, I found much of the material easy to relate to and apply to my own experience. However, I wouldn't say I knew a great deal of the material beforehand or looked at aspects of organizations from my experience in the way this course taught me to. I enjoyed looking at my family's small businesses from the lens of Katzenbach and Smith's distinguishing characteristics of teams, thinking about my own investment in my education from a risk management standpoint, and learning and understanding the Principal-Agent, Gift Exchange, and Shapiro and Stiglitz Models and how they apply to organizations and the economy as a whole.

In the first week or so of the semester, we were asked to describe the "best" class we had ever taken in our academic careers. I recall talking about an Econ class I took before transferring to Illinois, boasting that it's small class size and free-flowing lectures allowed me to maintain interest and feel like the professor was really helping us understand the material, and feel that if I didn't understand something, I could easily bring it up in class without the class falling behind. I felt very similarly about this course. There was a clear topic or list of topics to go over each class meeting, but a loose template otherwise allowed for more "jiving" in class, with which we could pick each other's brain and better wrap our own heads around the material, which I would take over reading an overhead projector any day of the week.

As far as the blog posts and homework go, I enjoyed them for the most part too. The blog posts certainly take a lot out of you. I found myself pacing around my room for quite some time each week trying to decide what to write about and once I decided that, what points to cover in my writing. When we discuss blogs in class and I realize all the points I missed in my post, I was often a bit disappointed, but then I realized that this helped me look at the situation form another perspective, which I believe helped my later posts. So the goal of the blog portion of the class (that they would further critical thinking skills throughout the semester) was fulfilled. Homework was another aspect that was both helpful and frustrating at times. For one, I was very impressed with the work put into developing excel spreadsheets with such detail and so many moving parts. And while I found some of the material difficult to comprehend, the explanations and graphs, along with assurance of correct answers (eventually), helped assure that I ended up figuring things out, most of the time anyway.

I guess one critique I would have for the course, which actually seemed to alleviate itself throughout the semester, was the disconnect between the three elements of the course, lecture, blog posts and excel homework. Early on, I found it odd that much of what was gone into in depth in the homework was not covered as heavily in class or if it was, wasn't covered in a mathematical sense, as the homework required. It seemed that the lectures were much more theoretical and abstract, whereas the homework was concrete and formulaic. Similarly, I found that some of the blog posts required in-depth reading of the course texts which was not always required for class or the homework. However, as I mentioned, this problem didn't last throughout the course. Over the last several sessions, we have delved deeper into the graphical and algebraic aspects of the materials which has made the homework easier to comprehend and relate back to the class.

Overall, I very much enjoyed the content and compilation of the course and would be willing to seek out more like it in the future. You can only handle so many powerpoints and non-discussion lectures before they really start to lose your interest.


  1. As to pacing while writing or in preparation thereof, I do it too from time to time, though some of that is to let the dog out of the house. It is interesting how walking can sometimes aid thinking. One thing it clearly does allow is to not have the pressure to compose sentences before you are ready to do so. I believe that early in the semester I talked some about pre-writing. It seems you took that to hear, which is good.

    I'm not big on having everything tied together with a bow at the outset. I'd rather have separate parallel strands each of which is its own thing. That is much more how complex things appear. Complexity and how to deal with it are key issues that underlie our course.

    I'm glad that it came together for you near the end of the course and that you enjoyed the approach.

  2. It really does help oddly enough. I seem to have found that sometimes you have to take your eyes off the screen or page and let your head settle on a thought before transitioning to writing, especially when dealing with complex ideas or relating ideas to real life situations.

    I think having a loose structure has so many advantages in a small class. The teacher can be sure every student is with them each step of the way without getting too behind schedule, both because the schedule is less strict and because it shouldn't take long to get everyone up to speed when there's only a handful of students.