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MobLab in Principles of Micro Courses

Doug Norton

Principles of Microeconomics is one of MobLab’s most popular courses. The combination of MobLab games and polling capabilities (as a replacement to Clicker, TopHat, Poll Everywhere etc.) are leading to new adoptions each day as we move closer to Fall 2017. Most instructors know how they want to use polling technology, but, there are questions surrounding the games. In this post we will address one of those questions:

Which games should I play?

With over 60+ games this question is understandable. The quick answer is, it depends on what learning objectives you are trying to highlight. MobLab economists have gone chapter-by-chapter through the most popular economics textbooks and made game recommendations. For each recommendation we list the learning objectives associated with that game. Many people find these are a good guide to help figure out what games to play.

You can find more textbooks here. Another way to figure out which games to play is, what is everyone else playing? Our three most played principles of microeconomics games are the double auction (competitive market), comparative advantage, and the commons. I describe each briefly below.

Double Auction – MobLab divides students into markets equally split between buyers and sellers. Buyers are given a value schedule for oranges that reflect diminishing marginal utility. Sellers are given a cost schedule for oranges that reflects increasing marginal cost. To learn more about the market rules see our video instructions. The value and cost schedules can be altered to test how curve shifts affect equilibrium price and quantity. Moreover, instructors can implement policies like price controls, taxes, and subsidies.

Comparative Advantage – Students are sorted into pairs. Each operates a food truck, dividing 30 minutes of preparation between burgers and fries. A student’s payoff depends on what she brings on the truck. She only sells combos, so her payoff is equals whichever quantity is smallest (i.e. payoff = min{burgers, fries}). Within each pair, one has an absolute advantage in both but players differ in opportunity costs.  You can toggle between no-trade and trade conditions to help students see specialization, comparative advantage, and gains from trade.

Commons: Fishery – The game starts with each group’s fish stock at the lake’s capacity.  Each round, students on that lake simultaneously choose how many fish to catch. At the end of each round, the fish double, up to a maximum of lake capacity. At the end of the game, the doubled fish stock is evenly divided amongst the group. As a result, the group catching half of the stock in every round maximizes total fish caught. You can alter group size, enable chat, and make the game indefinitely repeated to bring out different learning objectives.

There are still many more games we could talk about: Cournot, Market for Lemons, Public Goods, Prisoner’s Dilemma, and more. Please feel free to contact and set up a meeting with a MobLab team member. We love to help our instructors!