Lectures will be available via MP3 if students don’t have bandwidth to view videos posted to MRUniversity’s website. The professors also will host frequent virtual and live chats with students.
The online university even provides a detailed tutorial explaining how students can make videos that others can view and discuss on the site.
“Our goal is not merely a series of one-to-many lectures but also a many-to-many learning experience,” Cowen said.
Asked why there is a glut of people seeking economics education without working toward a certificate or degree, Cowen pointed to the success of his Marginal Revolution blog, which has drawn a consistent online audience for 10 years.
“We have a quarter million readers a day who don’t get any credit for reading what I’m writing, but they still do,” he said. “[MRUniversity] is fleshing out that space.”
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Online education advocates and economics educators alike were abuzz about MRUniversity’s launch. Bryan Caplan, another George Mason economics professor and blogger for EconBlog, wrote that his colleagues are going to tap into a worldwide demand for economics knowledge that, until recently, was available only to college students in a brick-and-mortar setting.
“A business idea doesn’t have to precipitate a revolution to add tremendous value. Even if online education tops out at 1 percent of the higher education market, and MRUniversity captures 1 percent of that 1 percent, they’ll be rich,” Caplan wrote. “And it wouldn’t surprise me if they can do better in less-developed countries, where conformity norms don’t work so heavily against them. Even if MRUniversity never makes a dime, moreover, it will supply the public good of economic education that the world so sorely needs.”
Caplan said MRUniversty’s business model isn’t strictly a money-making venture. Cowen confirmed this, saying he and Tabarrok haven’t profited from the launch of the MRUniversity website.
“It won’t be a strong substitute for brick-and-mortar education. It won’t directly make a lot of money,” he wrote. “But it will breathe new life into the timeless subject of economics.”