Personally I enjoyed the blogging as assignments (I am usually enrolled in 1 online class per semester and there is usually a discussion board/ blogging portion so I am used to this) as I like to be able to do my schoolwork remotely and on my own time. The blogs and excels allowed for this which worked in my benefit because I like to go to the library as little as possible --> meaning I would rather go once a week for 10 hours vs 5 times a week for 2 hours. The way the assignments were structured in this course allowed for me to finish the work in this type of format. I definitely think you should keep in the comment on group member/ respond to your comments component as 1/3 of the blogs I did not even realize I was doing it completely wrong until I went back and looked at Prof. Arvan eviscerating my post. This was a good thing however as I felt once I noticed I completely biffed a post I would try and extrapolate and explain what I was trying to say better in my response comment and sometimes my response comments had more (relevent) information than the post itself. My process for blogging is that I would read the prompt and attempt to answer it as best as I could; an area where I believe I improved as the year went on. Also I typed all my blogs directly into the blogger website (I know you asked in one lecture if you type it into a word document first or not).
The excel homeworks were interesting as I have never seen an assignment that 1) was a dynamic excel file like we used and 2) where it was 100% or nothing to turn it in. Personally I liked that component because you had to solve everything correctly to get the credit. Some were generally pretty easy because the directions on which formulas to use were given but I felt like in a dew assignments I was completely lost for 2 hours on one question. Not that these homeworks were harder it just seemed sometimes that super clear directions on which formulas to use/ work with for some questions were not directly stated and I would spend so much time messing with the formulas to try and get a box correct. I will say you were very amazing in your responses and response time to questions about the excel homeworks and multiple times you helped me solve them through communication/ comments. I would keep the excel homework structure exactly how it is going forward.
The only thing I think that needs a bit of revising would be on how some of the due dates are structured. Personally (like I said earlier) I am a minimal library guy and usually reserve all my schoolwork for Sunday to do over the course of a few hours. I think a lot of other students operate in a very similar way and I think for blogging the best due dates you could have would be have all the blog posts due Sunday night at 11:59pm and the two response comments due right before class the following Tuesday. I think making the Sunday night and comments by class due dates at these times and give no leeway on late submissions would make it much easier for students. Having things due on Friday (in my opinion) is a bad day because students check out of school for the week until Sunday when they wake up Friday morning (I do not have class Friday so I ascribe to a similar mindset). Also I think having the excels due on Thursday nights instead of Wednesday could be better as students would have another class session to come and ask you in person for assistance if they need it. I do think that Wednesday is fine but Thursday could maybe work better.
Last thing I will say is that I hate group work and did not enjoy the experience of the group paper. Personally when I write a paper I would just rather do the whole thing myself and write it in my own voice and not have to rely on other people. If you want to do a group assignment I think making it a presentation (powerpoint in class) on something would be much easier for students to do rather than a paper. I did another econ 490 last semester (american economic history with Prof. Diianni) and it was one of my favorite courses ever. Instead of the group paper you could implement similar assignments that he did for the class where he would have us read a paper (like the one's you assigned) as we would answer the same 7 questions about them every time: what is the author describing, what is the 'commonly held' point of view, what is the authors point of view, evidence that strengthens/ weakens the arguments. These papers were usually about some commonly held myth in society and economists would essentially lay them to rest with data and statistics: showing that the myth is completely false. The papers were usually pretty interesting: an example was one talking about if the railroad was invented 25 years later St Louis would have grown into what Chicago is nowadays (because it is located on the Mississippi and the steam engine was the best mode of travel) and how other cities on rivers would have prospered more. Implementing some smaller scale, responses to papers like this I think could be a better assignment than the group paper.