Friday, November 9, 2012

Grades Posted in Moodle

The Midterm 1 grades, Bonus, Blog Posts 1 grades, and comments are now uploaded into Moodle. (It's a day later than I promised.  Sorry about that. )

Let me make some observations about the blog posts, from the perspective of moral hazard, our next topic of study.  One type of moral hazard emerges by considering the difference between renters and owners, particularly in regard to the maintenance and depreciation of a capital asset.  Owners use of the asset is mindful of the impact use has on depreciation, so owners are typically gentle users of the asset. Renters, in contrast, are typically rough users since they have no concern for how the asset depreciates.  Similarly, owners perform all necessary maintenance and sometimes go well beyond that (tender loving care) while renters typically avoid the maintenance costs and pass those onto the absent owners.

These notions of ownership and renting transfer to individual behavior in organizations, where there is no tangible capital asset, only the value of organization membership, a non-tangible asset.  Sometimes we say a person "must take ownership" or "have skin in the game," which amounts to the same thing and means the behavior is driven by a strong sense of responsibility to the organization.  In contrast, a person who "dials it in" shows little apparent effort and in that sense is behaving like a renter.

How does ownership in the organization arise and what does it mean in practice to display ownership?  The latter has a particularly clear answer for group work that produces a document.  Each member plays a dual role, contributor of his or her section, and editor of the entire document.  It is via the editing function that ownership is displayed.  Note that editing is itself a negotiation between editor and author.  Friendly negotiation of this sort typically is in the form of the editor making comments and posing questions.  The author has ultimate say but  must address the questions and comments in a serious manner, in a way that is overt to the editor.

Because the topic was group work in one or two of the posts, the question arises whether students in our class have a sense of skin in the game in this context.  My take is that most do not.  The common practice is for a first draft to be produced quite near to when the final version is due.  Consequently, the editing function gets short shrift.

What about how this issue pertains to our class?  I am giving comments/questions to your posts like an editor would.  A few students have responded to these.  Most students have not.  In practice, having skin in the game is encouraged in a very soft way, making the organization feel like a community.  It is not typically incentivized by an explicit reward for the behavior.  The class is not yet a community.  Beyond the lack of response to my comments, student are not commenting on the posts by their classmates.

A more general observation about the posts is that most students are pretty good in relating what happened but are less good at explaining why it happened.  Each of you would benefit from giving more attention to the why questions in your posts.  You would get deeper into your topic that way.


  1. Is the "Bonus" points that were added to the midterm grade?

  2. Yes. The raw score is reported separately.