Virtual Worlds' Background

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BBC Budget Coverage

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has provided the BBC with Budget advice and analysis for many years. In 1995, we transformed this service by writing the original versions of Be Your Own Chancellor and Ready Reckoner. We built Ready Reckoner specially for the BBC Budget Day programme and had it running by 6pm on the day. As enthusiasts for a new and exciting way to disseminate e-learning programs to users anywhere in the world, we were featured in the Financial Times, the Times, and many other papers. Read our Guardian article about the Web and e-learning or a write-up of Be Your Own Chancellor in the Computers in Higher Education Economics Review (CHEER).

In 1998, BBC News Online began funding us to implement the interactive Budget coverage on their own servers, something we continue to this day. Be Your Own Chancellor is usually released a few days before the Budget, while Ready Reckoner has to be running within half a hour after the Budget speech (we managed it within 5 minutes last time), and has at times been the single most popular item on BBC News Online. At its peak, it was being run several thousand times every second. You can still see some previous versions:

Simulating the UK and US Economies

As well as our work with BBC News Online, 1998 saw the birth of Virtual Economy. This pathbreaking system for teaching economics was developed from the original Be Your Own Chancellor under a Nuffield Foundation grant. Freely useable by everyone on the Web, it combines worksheets, glossaries and other educational materials with two powerful models of the UK economy: the Institute for Fiscal Studies Tax-Benefit model (Taxben) and the Treasury's macroeconomic model. The release of Virtual Economy gained us some very pleasing comments, amongst which were: