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Peer Review

Supply and Demand (Economics)

by Sam Baker


Overall Numeric Rating:

4.33 stars
Content Quality: 4 stars
Effectiveness: 3 stars
Ease of Use: 5 stars
Reviewed: Jun 01, 2001 by Business Editorial Board
Overview: The material provides students with an opportunity to test their understanding of the supply and demand model. Students may answer a series of questions dealing with the supply and demand of ?urgent? health care. The website provides the student with reasons why a given response is right or wrong. The website also provides automated graphs that activate after certain questions have been answered correctly.

As part of a more extensive series of ?lecture? websites in economic principles, this site would be very useful. As a stand-alone, it should make more apparent the pre-requisite knowledge that is required to be successful using the supply and demand model, in this reviewer?s opinion. Overall, it is a nice straightforward and easy to use site.
Type of Material: This material is an application of a fundamental model in economics.
Technical Requirements: This material requires a java-enabled browser. It should be able to run on any computer with an Internet connection and a relatively current browser like Internet Explorer or Netscape. (The instructions imply compatibility with Netscape Version 3.)
Identify Major Learning Goals: The goal is to test the student?s understanding of the supply and demand model. Contrary to it?s title, it is not a lecture since the goal is not to teach the students how to use the supply and demand model. Familiarity with the concepts is implied at several times.
Target Student Population: The target student population is economic principles students (typically freshmen or sophomores) taking an introductory course who have been exposed to the concepts of supply and demand and would like to test their understanding.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: The students should have been instructed on the workings of the supply and demand model prior to attempting this website. There is not enough instruction in key concepts, terms, and especially in the use of the graphs for this website to be the first exposure to the concepts for the students. The focused example also does not permit sufficient generality to explore the richness of the supply and demand model.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: The website provides students with an interactive opportunity to apply their understanding of supply and demand to various situations in the health care market. I was particularly impressed with the Java applets that were used to illustrate the answers to the questions
Concerns: The website assumes that students have been taught the basic concepts of supply and demand elsewhere. There is no attempt to describe the basic principles (law of demand & supply, shift factors), this is instead an opportunity to apply the concepts that have presumably been taught elsewhere. This means some of the terminology may be unfamiliar to students who have not had the material. [ASIDE: Even among Ph.D. holding business faculty there was some confusion over basic supply and demand concepts, as I recall.] There are a few minor inconsistencies, for example after explaining that the market of interest is ?urgent? health care and what that means, some of the questions at the bottom of the website do not seem apply to this particular market (prenatal care, vaccines, etc.). The author does not support some claims well, for example the bold assertion that the Canadian health system is more efficient than the U.S. managed care system is not an opinion that is held by most economists. (Typically, queuing is considered a less efficient allocation mechanism. And this does not explain why individuals from other countries frequently prefer to pay for U.S. medical services rather than eventually receive free treatment in their own countries.)

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 3 stars
Strengths: This website allows students to test their understanding of the supply and demand model, one of the most widely taught and highly useful models in an economic principles course. As an opportunity for students to test their understanding of the basic principles, this site is highly useful. It does a good job of describing supply and demand using a non-technical vocabulary.
Concerns: Explicit learning objectives are not stated. There is little to indicate what you are supposed to know already to be successful, and what you are trying to achieve, other than to guess the correct answers. The website professes to be a ?lecture? on supply and demand, but actually it contains a set of application problems to which the principles of supply and demand can be applied. It contains minimal information on the supply and demand graphical model, much less than typically appears in a supply and demand lecture in an economic principle?s course or textbook. Some terms are not properly defined. For example, equilibrium is that point for which there is no tendency for change in either price or quantity. The site also neglects any mention of common areas of student misunderstanding and difficulty, for example the distinction between quantity demanded and demand. This distinction is key to understanding the partial equilibrium nature of the supply and demand model.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: Simplicity in use is the essence of this website. Indeed, this is probably the site?s strongest feature. The instructions are very straightforward and easy to understand. The website reacts automatically and instantly indicates whether the students responses are correct and why or why not. It also allows students to change their answer and view the other rationale.
Concerns: However, the diagrams are not interactive, but programmed to operate independent of the user. Therefore student?s options are limited to selecting radio buttons. The overall design appears a little dated by current website design standards. The diagram applet that was supposedly activated when two questions were answered correctly never did function for this reviewer.