Voting Theory & My First Coursera Experience

While studying mathematics as an undergraduate in college, I became aware of the subject of voting theory through a colloquium discussing Arrow’s famous impossibility theorem. Later I learned of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) like edX and Coursera, which since around 2012 have started offering (sometimes) free online courses on a variety of subjects.  Compared to traditional classrooms MOOCs have many desirable qualities to recommend themselves, including lower costs and more flexible schedules.  Some of these courses have actually been recommended for accreditation by the American Council on Education, but the universities that organizations such as Coursera partner with typically do not offer college credit for these classes unless you are taking them in conjunction with being enrolled as a student there. Undoubtedly the motivation for this is the financial incentive to artificially limit competition with existing university models (this is my stark opinion anyway; for a more “balanced” discussion on the topic see this article). Undeterred however, perhaps anticipating eventual policy changes on the behalf of universities/employers, I took it upon myself to enroll in one of the Signature Track (i.e. paid) courses offered by Coursera this fall, Making Better Group Decisions: Voting, Judgement Aggregation and Fair Division taught by University of Maryland Dept. of Philosophy professor Eric Pacuit, which just so happened to revolve around this subject of voting theory that I was already somewhat familiar with by the time. The recommended audience for the course includes economists, political scientists, & computer scientists.

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