THE TEACHING ECONOMIST - William A. McEachern                 

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Issue 12, Fall 1996

William A. McEachern, Editor

Reality Bytes

The Internet is growing like crazy. About eighteen months ago, my Internet search using the Lycos engine reported going through about 9,000,000 unique addresses, or URLs. By September 1996, Lycos searched about 60,000,000 unique addresses, representing a growth rate of over 11 percent per month. There is also a growing gravitas to the list of organizations and institutions on the Internet, including government agencies here and abroad, central banks, corporations large and small, nonprofit organizations, labor unions, universities, research centers -- you name it.

Because the Internet offers an ever expanding window on the world economy, it holds much promise as a learning tool. Some professors are putting their courses on the web, where students with an Internet connection can access course materials and hook up with relevant web sites. Typically, a course web page includes a syllabus, assignments, exams, grades, web links to other materials, and often lecture notes. The World Lecture Hall provides links to more than two dozen economics courses on the web. For example, Dick Stratton at the University of Akron offers a home page for his macro principles course that includes a syllabus, performance contract, student feedback, lecture notes, homework assignments, guidelines for critical essays, sample tests, and test results, as well as links to data and news sources.

Linking students to real economic activity via the Internet, with real bytes of economic information, not only makes economics more relevant but can help develop critical thinking skills. For example, you could ask students to tour some of the world's central banks, where they might compare the kind of information reported and the monetary policy expounded. The U.S. Federal Reserve's Board of Governors home page is at Their so-called Beige Book can be found at The Beige Book for each of 12 Federal Reserve Districts can be found by appending the district number to bb in the above address (e.g., the First Federal Reserve district is found using "bb1" instead of "bb" in the above address). Minutes of the British Chancellor's monthly monetary meetings with the Governor of the Bank of England can be found at An English version of the Central Bank of Turkey's activities is at And the most recent monetary statement for the New Zealand Reserve Bank can be found at

Consider the web pages offered by the popular business press. Business Week's web page provides each issue's cover story and a brief summary of the rest, including a separate section for international topics. London's Financial Times presents an extensive web page, especially for news on the world economy. Users are asked to register and complete a brief questionnaire (which the Times promises not to divulge to third parties), but otherwise the service involves no charge. The Economist provides selected coverage from its weekly magazine, including the cover story. The Forbes site also posts its cover story along with selections from its other publications. Fortune posts extensive coverage of the current issue. The above media sites are free. The Wall Street Journal's Interactive Edition continually updates business news from around the world. That site was free but now costs $29 per year for newspaper subscribers and $49 for others.

The possibilities for student exploration on the Internet are boundless. To draw on this resource, the new edition of my principles book (Economics: A Contemporary Introduction, 4th ed., South-Western College Publishing) includes over 140 Internet problems and examples and over 200 Internet addresses. Students can key these addresses directly on the Internet or they can go to the book's home page, which provides point-and-click links to all the Internet sites provided in the text. The home page also offers other resources for students and instructors, including updates to text material, excerpts from the study guide, and monitored discussion lists for students and for instructors. I am not yet aware of any other principles book with such Internet ties, but others will surely be forthcoming.

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