Principles of Collective Learning (at SEAS)

How do teams, cities, and nation learn? How do they acquire the knowledge they need to improve their capacities, or enter new activities? This course will equip students with a basic understanding of both, the mechanisms that govern the creation, diffusion, and valuation of knowledge, and the tools needed to study these mechanisms. The course will be divided into three parts. The first part describes the mechanisms that contribute to the collective accumulation of knowledge (e.g. learning curves). The second part will focus on knowledge diffusion, and on the mechanisms governing it across geographies, social networks, and productive activities. The third part will focus on the consequences of knowledge accumulation, for the distribution of wealth and economic activity.  These three big lessons will be complemented with lectures and discussions on the policy implications of this knowledge-based view of economies and with mathematical models describing the accumulation and recombination of knowledge. The course’s learning goals will be supported with hands on data exercises in which students will use data on international trade, employment, and patents, to reproduce classical studies.



Students will be evaluated based on three problem sets and on class participation (class participation is mandatory).

Problem Set 1: 30%

Problem Set 2: 30%

Problem Set 4: 30%

Class Participation 10%


Learning outcomes: 

At the end of the course students will be able to conduct data driven analyses of the capabilities and diversification opportunities of regional and national economies. The students will also obtain a working understanding of modern theories in economic geography, innovation studies, and economic complexity, which will serve as a segue to academic work or consulting work on these topics.

Also offered as SEAS ENG-SCI 298BR

Open to Master of Design Engineering, Graduate School of Design, and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

See my.harvard, SEAS ENG-SCI 298BR, for location.