Example Course 1: The Challenges of Our Time

Delving into the real-world knowledge, theoretical ideas, empirical studies, and normative visions surrounding today’s main challenges

Example Courses

In this chapter, we demonstrate how to create actual courses using the Economy Studies design toolkit, showing various example courses. Each of these courses flows from our central philosophy: teach students how to study the economy, rather than teaching them one form of economic thinking in the abstract. In terms of our principles, they vary: some of these example courses focus more on pluralism, others on real-world economics, others yet on thinking about values. As for the building blocks, each of the example courses uses at least one of the ten building blocks, while most use more than one.

These courses are described rather briefly in this chapter, as full syllabi, slides or exam questions would take up too much space in a physical book. More extensive course descriptions, syllabi and teaching material can be found in the online database of our partner organisation Exploring Economics.

The courses shown here are highly diverse, and mainly intended to inspire and to show the range of possibilities. Depending on the knowledge available within a department, the courses designed there could be vastly different from the examples shown here.

Example Courses:

  1. The Challenges of Our Time (Main BB1, Additional BB2, BB3, BB8, BB9, BB10)
  2. Argentina and the IMF (Main BB9, Additional BB2, BB3, BB6, BB8, BB10)
  3. The Economics of Oil (Main BB8, Additional BB3, BB6)
  4. A Historical Perspective on Economic Success (Main BB4, Additional BB1, BB6)
  5. The Digital Economy of South Korea (Main BB2, Additional BB3, BB5, BB6)
  6. Agent-Based Modelling (Main BB7, Additional BB4, BB9)
  7. The World of Production (Main BB8, Additional BB2, BB3, BB4, BB5)
  8. The Political-Economic System of India (Main BB6, Additional BB2, BB3, BB10)
  9. Economics for a Better World (Main BB10, Additional BB1, BB2)
  10. Coordination and Allocation Mechanisms in Norwegian Agriculture (Main BB5, Additional BB2, BB3)
  11. The Economics of Financial Crises (Main BB8, Additional BB3, BB4, BB6)

Example Course 1: The Challenges of Our Time

Course outline:

The course starts out with a sweeping overview of the key human challenges throughout history, such as poverty, hunger, war and violence. The focus here is mainly on a factual overview and getting an understanding of how today’s world relates to earlier periods. Then the focus shifts to current challenges. Before delving into the specifics about the various challenges, we discuss which issues dominate the political agenda, contrasted with the public opinion on what the main issues are as these two often differ.

After this broad introduction into previous and today’s challenges, each week is devoted to one specific challenge. Every week consists of three sessions: a guest lecture by an expert on the issue to ensure a good basic understanding of the matter; a normal lecture on the economics and policy debates concerning the issue; and finally an interactive seminar in which students debate with each other over how they understand the issue, its causes and potential solutions. The first week is devoted to climate change, with a climate scientist giving the guest lecture. The second week is about financial instability, with a banker as guest lecturer. The third week focuses on pandemics with a medical specialist. The fourth week on digitisation with a software engineer. And the fifth and last challenge is inequality with a guest lecture by a sociologist.

For the final assignment students choose one of these five challenges and work in groups to write a short policy report on the issue. In this report, they need to discuss recent developments, analyse the problem making use of available theoretical and empirical literature, and propose and argue for solutions that would tackle the issue.

Required background knowledge:

None, this is an introductory course.

Nominal workload:

7,5 ECTS (225 hrs)

This course uses the following building blocks:


  • Introducing the Economy (BB1)


  • Know Your Own Economy (BB2)
  • History of the Economy (BB3)
  • Economic Theories (BB8)
  • Problems & Proposals (BB9)
  • Economics for a Better World (BB10)