Econ 104 Syllabus

Prof. Alex Tabarrok


Office: Carow Hall


TA: Stuart Paul: Email


This is entirely an online course taught by Tyler Cowen (and Alex Tabarrok) based on their book Modern Principles of Economics: Macroeconomics. We think this is the best online course in principles of economics ever offered. The course is video based. Every video is followed by questions. Every week there is homework and a test. Lecture time is less and active learning time is more. Active learning requires more from the student so be prepared—the class will move quickly. There will also be opportunities to ask questions of the instructors and TAs.

Needed: This course is NOT ON BLACKBOARD. In order to take this course you must purchase access to the Sapling Plus homework system which gives access to the e-book, practice questions, homework and tests. You can get access for 6 months for $97.99. The Sapling Plus system has access to the e-book but we recommend that you purchase a package of Sapling Plus and 4 month rental of the textbook, Modern Principles: Macroeconomics (Cowen/Tabarrok) paperback.  

The easiest way to get access to Sapling is here.


Look under the Rent tab for the package and click the title to open it. The package is $117.99, only slightly more expensive than the Sapling Plus system alone and we think that it is worthwhile to have a paperback copy of the textbook that you can easily read. Of course, you can also buy the textbook at Amazon or the GMU bookstore. We are using the 4th edition but the 3rd will also cover most of the same material.


Sign up with Sapling with the same name as at GMU. If you drop, don’t forget to drop at GMU.

Technical Support

If you have trouble accessing the Sapling Plus system try the usual procedures of using a different browser, updating your browser, clearing the cache, different computer etc. If that doesn’t work, contact Sapling Support.


My experience is that support is very good. Note that I can’t help you with technical support! I’d like to but I don’t control the Sapling system. If support needs to contact me they will.


Economics Support


The economics department offers regular economics tutoring. I will email you the hours. In addition, there is a TA for the course, Stuart Paul, who is available to answer questions.


You can also email me with questions as well as arrange to come to my office in real life!



Every GMU student in this class should monitor their GMU email for periodic announcements.




                At the end of each Video there are homework questions. On these questions you get unlimited attempts but you lose 5% for each incorrect attempt. For each chapter there is also a Learning Curve. You can answer as many Learning Curve questions as you want to get up to a set number of points. Each section also has an assessment section that is a combination of Ask Fred, Work It Out and News Analysis questions (not every chapter has all categories). You also get multiple attempts at these questions with a 5% penalty for each incorrect attempt. Each chapter concludes with a chapter Test. Finally, there is a Midterm and a Final. Grades will be calculated as follows:



Percentage of Grade

Video Homework


Learning Curve


Ask Fred/Work It Out/News Analysis


Chapter Tests







Your numerical grade will be a good guide to your final letter grade but I reserve the right to adjust (bell) the final grade.



Class Structure and Due Dates

It is very important that you submit your homework and tests BEFORE the due date. All times are EST! If your computer breaks down or if you lose internet access and cannot submit your work you get ZERO—there is no appeal.


You will have plenty of opportunity to get your work done on time. It is your responsibility not to forget! We will work according to the schedule below and you will be able to work one week ahead if you choose. Thus, you have flexibility to get things done.


One point to watch out for is that the front page will show you the items that are due but it will only show the first 10 items or so. If the list looks long, you need to check Activities and Due Dates to make sure you are covering everything.


Use the Sapling Plus homework system to check for due dates. Approximates dates are as follows.


Week of

Last day to complete


Jan. 19

Jan. 26 (preferable) but up to Jan. 30

Chapter 6: GDP

Jan. 27

Feb. 2

Chapter 7: The Wealth of Nations

Feb. 3

Feb. 9

Chapter 8: Growth, Capital Accumulation, and the Economics of Ideas

Feb. 10

Feb. 16

Chapter 9: Saving, Investment, and the Financial System

Feb. 17

Feb. 23

Chapter 10: Stock Markets and Personal Finance

Feb. 24

Mar. 1

Chapter 11: Unemployment and Labor Force Participation

Mar. 2

Mar. 8

Chapter 12: Inflation and the Quantity Theory of Money

Mar. 6

Mar. 8

Midterm—must be completed by Mar. 8

Mar. 16

Mar. 22 (extra due to March break)

Chapter 13: Business Fluctuations: Aggregate Demand and Supply

Mar. 23

Mar. 29

Chapter 14: Transmission and Amplification Mechanisms

Mar. 30

April 5

Chapter 15: The Federal Reserve System and Open Market Operations

April 6

April 12

Chapter 16: Monetary Policy

April 13

April 19

Chapter 17: The Federal Budget: Taxes and Spending

April 20

April 26

Chapter 18: Fiscal Policy

April 27

May. 3

Chapter 21: Political Economy and Public Choice

May. 8

May. 10

Final Exam—must be completed by May. 10



Honor Code Statement

Disability Statement

If you are a student with a disability and you need academic accommodations, please see me and contact the Office of Disability Resources at 703.993.2474. All academic accommodations must be arranged through that office.

Enrollment Statement

Students are responsible for verifying their enrollment in this class.
Schedule adjustments should be made by the deadlines published in the Schedule of Classes. (Deadlines each semester are published in the Schedule of Classes available from the Registrar's Website