Example Course 6: Agent-Based Modelling

An introduction into the method of the research frontier, its underlying assumptions, techniques, and applications

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 5: Agent-Based Modelling

Course outline:

The course starts with an overview of the history and underlying assumptions of agent-based modelling (and a complexity approach to economics more generally). This will give students a general understanding of the method and how it relates to other methods and approaches.

On the basis of this historical and philosophical understanding of the method, the technical aspects are introduced. Students are taken through the process of agent-based modelling, including its mathematics and software. As much as possible students will be working with real issues and data in their weekly exercises, so that they gain experience with how the method works in practice.

The last weeks of the course focus on practically applying the learned techniques to policy questions. To learn more about how this works, students are assigned readings on the general matter and a few specific cases. Furthermore, an experienced policy maker will give a guest lecture on how agent-based modelling is beginning to influence policy. 

As their final project, the students are assigned a real world issue which they need to study using agent-based modelling. Based on their analysis, they need to write a short policy recommendation to policy makers and present this orally to an audience which is not familiar with agent-based modelling. To prepare for this presentation, students are given a workshop on how to communicate technical issues with non-experts by the same guest lecturer. 

Teaching Materials:

  • Complexity and the History of Economic Thought by David Colander
  • The Microeconomics of Complex Economies: Evolutionary, Institutional, Neoclassical and Complexity Perspectives (chapters 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 17 and 18)
  • Handbook of Computational Economics: Agent-Based Computational Economics
  • Handbook on Complexity and Public Policy (chapters 10, 13, and 14)
  • Complexity and the Art of Public Policy: Solving Society’s Problems from the Bottom Up by David Colander and Roland Kupers
  • Complexity Economics as Heterodoxy: Theory and Policy by Wolfram Elsner

Required background knowledge:

Strong basis in mathematical modelling and econometrics (Building Block 7: Research Methods and Philosophy of Science). Master course. 

Nominal workload:

10 ECTS (300 hrs)

This course uses the following building blocks:


  • Research Methods and Philosophy of Science (BB7)


  • History of Economic Thought (BB4)
  • Problems and Proposals (BB9)