Professor Noor was so despicably not understanding during a global pandemic. He really acted like no one was going through a hard time and needed adjustments. You must attend live. Exams must be live. He spends way too long going off on tangents and reviewing information that you never get deep enough into the subject matter to actually understand it. The psets are hell and the exams are unfair. He says exams should be "like life... fair and long." Well, they certainly were long, but not fair at all. Out of 3 questions on the midterm, 2 were related to each other, so if you didn't know how to do the question, you couldn't really move on to the second one, which sucked for time management. We have to do these group presentations that take up 15 minutes of class time every day but don't worry... Professor Noor makes up for that by going 15 minutes over every class. Maybe this class would be okay in normal times where you attended live, but his lack of consideration and general empathy was appalling to me this year. Every single other one of my professors tried to do what they could to alleviate stress, but not him.
I think while Professor Noor had good intentions and was a nice guy in general, his class was pretty dry and uninteresting for the most part. Nonetheless, he taught the necessary materials, and for a non-econ major I thought he did an adequate job at introducing the discipline. Weekly required recitation, but you could choose the section that best fits your schedule. My one gripe with Professor Noor is how he handled the transition from in-person to online in the Spring 2020 semester. He made it even harder to pass the class after we were sent home, saying that we had to get above a 60% in both the micro and macro parts of the course. First, people who had maybe failed micro before we were sent home but were really hoping to redeem themselves in the second half were just screwed. Secondly, those who had extremely rough transitions couldn't rely on their hard work in the first half of the class to pull them through. Implementing a harsher requirement, while I understand the logic behind it, seemed extremely counterintuitive and simply kind of cold-hearted during that time. Lastly, we had to print out the 36 (!!!) pages for both the midterm and final, and then scan them in one by one to gradescope... which was just... not it. If you're taking Noor during an in-person semester, go for it! But if you're considering online, just make sure you're prepared for a class that is very poorly suited for the online format.
I personally did not enjoy his class, yes he may be a nice person, however, he is not the best professor. What I did to prepare for the exams, is solely by reading the textbook (which in my opinion is highly overpriced at $200+), and attending weekly mandatory recitations. His lectures are literally him going on tangents and wasting time answering questions which I feel like should be left for recitations. He always says "I'm not gonna go over what was already covered in your textbook". His midterm exam was also unreasonably long, literally like 20 pages(only 5 multiple-choice problems and the rest were word problems/short answer), and he expected us to finish it in a class period. For the midterm, by the time class ended, 90% of the class were still in their seats because no one was able to finish the exam. So many people told him that the time given was not adequate for completing the exam, and he said he would make sure to make improvements for the final, but still made the final like 30 pages long. I'm someone who always is the first to finish exams for all of my classes here at Columbia, but his exams by the time I finish it, I do not have any time to double-check anything. Also, I don't like how he collects our emails and still sends us emails from his mailing list despite some of us already left his class more than a year ago.
Honestly one of the worst classes I've taken, which is unfortunate because Waseem Noor is extremely approachable and genuinely cares about the class. The problem sets were ridiculously hard and when I went to different TA's, each of them had different answers for the same problem. The textbook was really the only saving grace. The midterm was literally the day after spring break w/ no review session & extremely long. The final was ridiculously long as well. I would literally start a problem set the day it was assigned and spend about six hours a day for the entire week and a half we had to do it working on the problems, and sometimes get through half of one question. Again, Prof Noor is extremely sweet & smart but I don't recommend this class at all, ESPECIALLY if this is the first econ class you have taken.
Choose a different professor. Seriously. His classes are ok, but they're not engaging at all and it's super hard to pay attention because he can go off on tangents that you couldn't care less about. Problem sets are on the less manageable side– you should start at the very least a week in advance. Prof. Noor makes recitations "mandatory" – they took attendance before we went remote, not really sure how they did it after (you still technically had to watch the recordings if you couldn't attend live). Especially after we went remote, he spent WAY TOO MUCH TIME answering questions at the beginning of lectures that could easily be asked and SHOULD BE ASKED in office hours. Obviously it's great that he wanted to take time to answer people's questions especially during this questionable economic climate, but the amount of time he spent instead of actually teaching us the material we were going to be tested on was ridiculous and annoying. And the exams. Our exam was meant to be the Tuesday before spring break, but due to COVID stuff it ended up being moved to the very first day of classes after spring break. It was INSANELY LONG and so unnecessarily difficult, especially considering that our review sessions didn't really happen (it was our first Zoom session ever and half of it was spent talking about COVID) and it was our first day of working from home. When asked about the exam and telling us about the results, he said that it was exactly what he wanted the test to be like– long and on the more difficult side. The final was exactly the same, except even longer and even more unnecessarily difficult. Manz also told us the final would be available in the "Files" section at the start time, but lo and behold it was in the assignments tab instead and cost many students precious testing time. ALSO, he was my only professor this semester who made us take a timed final in a specified window- all my other profs let us take it in a window of our choice and trusted us to spend only the allotted amount of time. Finally, not eco-friendly at all. For both the midterm and the final, he had us print a redacted version of the exam beforehand, write out our answers on the redacted version while looking at the unredacted version once it was released on Courseworks, and then scan and submit each and every page we had printed. Completely unnecessary, a waste of time and paper. Why not just do it online??? I don't understand. In short, take someone else's class. I honestly think I might've taken Gulati 840 instead.
Professor Noor is an excellent professor who will make sure you actually get something from his class, with a few small downsides that I wouldn’t let stop you from taking this course. He is a very open, friendly, and approachable person and professor. Even though this class had several hundred people in it, he made a genuine effort to learn people’s names and get to know them. He encouraged students to speak up in class, but, unfortunately, he did sometimes call on random people when no one was raising their hand, which was a little nerve-wracking. He also hosted at least a dozen lunches for students where he, a TA, and several students would have a meal and chat for a few hours. I really enjoyed the one I went to, and he remembered my name and what I talked about from then on. His classes were well-structured and easy to follow, and his teaching method was very engaging. Everything was done on the chalkboard. He wrote most important points down, but some of the most important points were the things he said out loud but didn’t write down. I would recommend listening for these points because they often helped make the big picture clearer. He began each class by reviewing what we learned in the last class, which was also very helpful in constructing a big picture of all the concepts we were learning. Most of what he taught could be found in the textbook, but he sometimes included extra concepts or left certain concepts out, so I found it was very advantageous to go to class. He had a rule against laptops and phones in class, but tablets were fine. (If he sees you on your phone or laptop, he will call you out!) He emphasized the intuition behind every topic he covered, which gave me a very concrete understanding of economic concepts. He tried his absolute hardest to make lectures interesting and interactive, and it was clear that he was passionate about what he was doing. His TAs were excellent and held about 10 hours of office hours every week, but office hours and recitation times got changed a lot at the last minute, which made it hard to plan ahead. He was also very open to constructive criticism. After the first midterm, we spent a huge portion of the next class period discussing what we liked and disliked about the class so far. Someone said that the problem sets were too long; someone else said it would be helpful if the corresponding chapters in the textbook were announced before each lecture; and someone else said that they would prefer if the the weekend readings were due at 2:00am rather than midnight. All three of these issues, among several others that were brought up, were quickly addressed by the professor and his TAs, and the next problem set was shorter (but still challenging), a list of every chapter in the textbook we would cover in the course was posted online, and the due date for the weekend readings was pushed back. I was amazed and touched by how receptive he was to our feedback. The workload was fair. His problem sets were long and challenging, but they were doable if you went to class and read the textbook. He strongly encouraged working in groups, and I would encourage that too because some of the problems were very, very difficult to do without help. I would also suggest going to office hours to get extra help on the problem sets. One small note -- in the first two problem sets, there were many errors in the questions. They were corrected once students pointed them out on Piazza, but it was frustrating to work with. I expect that, after his first semester teaching, he and his TAs will be better about this. He also assigned short responses to 2-3 articles/podcasts over any weekend where there wasn’t already a problem set assigned. These readings were always short and fairly recently published. They served as introductions to the topics that would be covered in the next class. I enjoyed them a lot because they gave me an idea of how the concepts we were learning could be applied to the world outside class. He also posted four self-monitored quizzes for practice. His exams were very similar to the quizzes and problem sets. The midterm was a little long but it was all familiar material. His final was very, very long, and I heard many people didn’t finish. However, it was similar to the midterm in that it didn’t throw anything new at us, and the problems were formatted very similarly to the quizzes and problem sets. Overall, I would highly, highly recommend this class. (Keep in mind that I got an A.) It was easily the best class I took this semester, and I think what I’ve learned will be valuable to me for the rest of my life.