In this session of the Econ Lowdown webinar series, presenters from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis introduce users to the Econ Lowdown Teacher Portal (previously the "Instructor Management Panel"), highlight new features and enhancements, demonstrate how to set up a classroom, and then give an overview of modules and videos – both old and new. The webinar is intended for all levels of interest and experience.
Below is a full transcript of this webinar. It has not been edited or reviewed for accuracy or readability.
Denise Davis: Good afternoon and welcome to today's Econ Lowdown webinar. Our discussion for today focuses on new K through 12 online learning resources. I'm Denise Davis with the St. Louis Fed and I'll be your facilitator. We've got an outstanding lineup of presenters here today also from the St. Louis Fed. Allow me to introduce Scott Wolla and Barb Flowers.
Now please join me on slide two and I'll cover the call logistics. If you haven't already done so yet click on the webinar link you received after registering. This option offers a few benefits. You can watch the slides as they're advanced. You can type questions to us, download session materials, or even choose to listen to the audio through your PC speakers.
Please note that the webinar performance is dependent upon your connection so if at any time you're having problems just pick up the phone and dial the toll-free number. Keep your mouse handy because we will be asking a few polling questions throughout this session. And for you to ask questions you can submit them at any time by clicking on the ask-question button in the webinar tool.
One additional note: The views expressed in this presentation are those of the presenters and not the official opinions of nor binding on the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis or the Federal Reserve System.
Now then let me welcome our first presenter, Barb Flowers. Barb, take it away.
Barbara Flowers: Thank you very much, Denise, and thank you for participating in this webinar. This is our home page. Please bookmark the address to StLouisFed.org/education. I want to direct you to the left navigation and go through some of its features. The first two buttons take teachers and students to our online course portal. Scott will have much more to say about that later in the webinar so I'm going to skip right over those now and move on.
The events button provides information and registration to our events in St. Louis and at the branches in Little Rock, Memphis, and Louisville. It also informs you of upcoming webinars. The subscribe button allows you to receive our monthly newsletter, which focuses on new products and events, and our monthly publication Page One. Page One features an essay on an economic or personal finance topic that's in the news. Page One also includes Q&A for students and a list of related resources for you to use to reinforce the concept. So be sure to take a look at those. The Endorsements page is where we feature comments from teachers who brag on us a bit. If you want to see what teachers are saying about our programs please take a look. And if you ever have anything that you'd like to say about our webinars we would certainly entertain having you up here on our Endorsements page. The Partners page features school districts and other organizations who participate in St. Louis Fed's professional development programs. They also use our materials and link to us on their web pages. So since you're participating in this webinar you are a third of the way there. If you would like to be a St. Louis Fed partner please let us know. We would love to invite your school district to participate.
We would also love to hear from you so you can get to us through this contact button. That is the next button down the chain. Or we will give you contact information at the end of this presentation. And finally our glossary button will take you and your students or your students to hundreds of economics and personal finance terms that can easily be converted to flash cards. So your students, if they're studying for the Economics Challenge or Personal Finance Challenge, might find this very valuable.
Next slide, Denise. So what is Econ Lowdown? Econ Lowdown is the stop for hundreds, seriously hundreds, of lessons, podcasts, smartboard files, and the focus of this webinar, online courses and videos. We have resources for preschoolers through the early years of college.
And the next slide. So the subjects that we address: Economics and personal finance can bring additional insights to other subject areas. And other subject areas can bring economic understanding because they provide context for economic analysis. For example elementary students can learn about economics through the book How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World. This book takes elementary students on a journey around the world collecting the natural sources to make a pie. So this lesson in geography becomes a lesson in economics. The book Worth! is a story about two boys suffering the struggles of farm life in the 1870s. The family can't repay the loan on the farm and it is foreclosed. So in this lesson middle school students study the economics of lending in the context of the characters' experiences. In the high school lesson The Arsenal of Democracy students use economic data and war time propaganda to learn important lessons about resource scarcity on the World War II home front. And 75 Years of American finance from 1861 to 1935 is an 85-foot long detailed timeline—yes, that's really 85 feet—compiled in 1936. This is a rich treasury of economic occurrences over some turbulent times in U.S. history.
And the next slide. We tie all of the resources that we create to standards so that you can easily justify using these materials to your administration or to your department chairs. All of our materials are linked to personal finance standards if they are personal finance materials. And those standards would be to Jump Start standards and the National Standards for Financial Literacy. For economics we use the National Content Standards in Economics. We have also aligned our resources to the Social Studies and ELA Common Core Standards. And if a lesson is heavy on history, math, or content in some other discipline we also include the standards of those other disciplines.
And now we move over to Scott.
Scott Wolla: All right. Thanks, Barb. I'm going to show you a little bit about the instructor management panel, which is the online portal that teachers use when they want to assign their students our online modules or videos. This is back on our page StLouisFed.org/education in that menu bar on the left hand side that Barb was going through earlier. Those top two buttons are your access to the portal. And you'll notice there are two buttons. The one with the green apple is for students; the red apple is for teachers. And so when you want to set up an account or when you want to access your account you'll click on that red apple and you'll see the next page.
And this page is where you enter your login and your password if you have an account. If you don't already have an account there is a register button there towards the bottom where you click that button and set up your account. Once you have your account set up and you log in you'll see the next screen.
A few notable features of this screen: The ribbon at the top has some of the main features that you'll be interested in such as My Classrooms, Courses, Video Q&A, and Professional Development. And then on the left hand side you see some just brief directions about what to do if you're a first-time user. So you see some buttons at the bottom: My Classrooms, View the Courses, Video Q&A, and Professional Development again. On the right hand side we have a scrolling feature which lets you know about things that we've recently updated or recently added. We're going to go through a few of those today so I'm going to show you about our clone, a classroom feature. I'm going to show you a little bit of the updated navigation features. We've added written assessments to the portal and also a test reset button.
If you were to click My Classrooms on this page you would see what's on the next slide. And on this slide in the red box you will see a checklist and this will kind of guide you as you set up your classroom. And below under Add a New Classroom this is where you add your classroom name. So this might be Personal Finance Period One. You enter a beginning and end date and then you click that create button and you have in fact created a classroom.
Another feature on this page is Clone a Classroom and this is one of our new features. Often times you might teach several sections of the same class. You might teach personal finance three or four times a day. Once you have set up your first classroom you clone the classroom and all of the modules and the videos that you've assigned your students transfer over to the new classroom and you just need to add the students.
If you were to click Clone a Classroom you would see what's on the next page. And you'll see that you get a popup box in the middle of the screen there and that popup box allows you to give this cloned classroom a unique name. And it also gives you some flexibility about whether you want to clone all of the items in that classroom or maybe just a few. Once you've entered the information when you push the green button and add clone the only thing you have left to do is to add the students, which is our next step.
This is the Add Students page. And you can see in our checklist at the top that this is a clone classroom. And so you see that the green check shows that we've added the classroom. The last or the bottom green check shows that we already have videos and courses in that classroom. Now we just need to add the students. There are three ways to add students. You can auto create and in this way the system actually generates. If you have 25 students the system will generate Student A, Student B, all the way up to 25 students. You can manually create so you can choose to type in student names. The system allows you to enter the first name of the student and the last initial. Or you can actually import an Excel CSV file that you might have downloaded from your other grading software that you use on a daily basis. This allows you to load in hundreds of names if you want without having to retype all that information.
So I've added one student on this page. You can see that my student is Econ Ed. And when I click Add a Student you'll see what happens on the next page. And on this page you see Econ Ed. And you'll see some features here as well. So if you kind of look to the right of Econ Ed's name you see some icons. The first icon is an envelope. This is the icon you use to e-mail a message to Econ Ed to make sure that Econ Ed knows his username and password. If you click the printer button you'll get that same information but it will download it to a Word document so you can print it out and hand Ed a hard copy of that information. There's a pen. This allows you to edit the information. And finally there's a small trash can there and if Econ Ed needs to be deleted from your class you can click that and do that. Also you can see Ed's student code and his password and the last time that Ed logged in. So the portal actually gives you a lot of flexibility and it also gives you a lot of information about your students.
Also on this page you'll notice the green buttons, the four green bars across the top. This allows you to do things for the entire classroom at once or instead of using those small icons next to each student. So for instance you can print the login information for all 50 of your students at the same time by clicking the green button. Or if you just want to print it for Ed you would just click the printer next to Ed's name.
All right. So let's send Ed the information he needs to log in. So if I were to click on the little green envelope next to Ed's name you would get the next screen. And that next screen allows you to enter Ed's e-mail address. You'll see that about in the middle of the page. That's Ed's e-mail address. And then down below it says optional message and you may want to give Ed more information than what's on the prescripted page. So this allows you to add information about a due date, how many points the assignment is worth, a reminder about anything having to do with your class, or just maybe an encouraging word to your students. And then when you click E-mail, which is the green button on the left bottom, you get a picture of what that e-mail actually looks like on the next page.
So when you click that button the e-mail is sent automatically to your student. You can see that that e-mail has a lot of essential information for your students. So for instance the name of the classroom, it says Welcome to Econ Lowdown. The classroom is another webinar class. Your student's name is there. Your student's code and password and the login link is right there as well. So students receive this by e-mail. They simply click the link and the students' browser winder will open, allow them to enter their code and password and then get started on their assignment.
Below that is some prescripted information to students about what to do when they get there. And then at the bottom you see that optional information that was added in the window, so it says, "Looking forward to having you in class this year." So the student will use this information to log in. Again this is the e-mail version. If you so choose, the system allows you to hand your student a paper copy or hard copy as well.
All right. So let's take a look at the next slide. I'm going to show you a few other features that we've added recently. One of them is the left navigation. So we're back on a student page. You can see we have Econ Ed here. And on the left hand side we can see the classroom-specific information so you can see on the dropdown that we're in the class that says another webinar class. There are courses, videos, and the video dropdown has been clicked and you can see that there's an assignment that's been pushed to students. It says Feducation: Saving for College. That green box under that is a reminder to you of the fact that that is an active assignment that your students can see and it also gives you information about when that assignment will end. It also gives you information just below that about written assignments, which is also a new feature.
If you were to click that Written Assignments link you would see what's on the next page. This is a new feature that we're really excited about because with the emphasis on literacy that's really popular in our schools these days, writing is an important skill which sometimes doesn't translate well to online learning. This written assessment feature allows you to really utilize the online tool to both assign written assignments and also to grade them. So once you click that button you can see that you can give a written assignment a title. You can enter a writing prompt. You enter a start date and a due date and when you click that submit button you see what's happened next.
Once that assignment has been pushed out to students when the students log in they will see the written assignment. They'll be able to respond to your writing prompt and once they submit it comes back to you. And you'll know that you have assignments waiting for you in that yellow box. That yellow box on the left hand side reminds you that you have assignments that are waiting for you to grade. When you click that what you see here is a student's response. Econ Ed says, "I think it's really cool," okay, which I'm not sure if that's enough detail for this writing prompt but it does allow you to grade this essay. You can enter a score into that score box and then in the feedback box you can enter a response so you as a teacher might respond that, "I'm glad that you think it's really cool but you needed to enter more detail to get all the points necessary to pass this assignment." And you can enter all that in the feedback box. You push submit and that message gets sent back to your student. So your student can see both the score and the feedback that you give that student.
The next screen has another feature that we're pretty excited about because it's one that teachers have asked about for a long time and it really gives you the flexibility to give students a second chance if you wish. So if students go through an online module, they take the pretest, they access all the content, and then they take the posttest, there are times when you might want to give that student another opportunity to retake the posttest or to redo the class entirely. We've built in the option of doing that with the test reset button and you can see the arrow on the right hand side pointing to that rewind button. And Econ Ed as you can see didn't do too well on his posttest and so you may want to give Econ Ed a second chance. And to do that you would click that rewind button and then next time Econ Ed logs in he'll see that he has another opportunity to go in and he can do the whole module if he'd like or he can just go back and do the posttest.
Also there's a lot of information as I mentioned before. The system actually gives you a lot of feedback about the progress of your students. And so if you were on this page and you were curious about how Econ Ed is doing in class, in this course specifically, you would click on Econ Ed's name and you would get a popup that looks like the next page.
What this popup shows is every individual webpage within this online module. And it will tell you if Econ Ed has accessed and completed every single one of those pages. As it turns out Econ Ed has finished the course so they all say complete. But if Econ Ed had worked through about half the course you would not only get information about what percentage of the course he completed but you could actually tell what was the last page in that module that Econ Ed had accessed. So once again it just gives you some great feedback about how your students are doing.
All right so you've seen a little bit about the written assessments; you've seen about how to reset scores and to check student progress in the modules. We also have a large collection of videos, which you'll hear about in a few minutes from Barb. And all of those videos can be assigned to students, which the next page this allows you to see how you can check the progress of your students on those videos.
So here you see Econ Ed again. You can see that Econ Ed has been assigned a video. That video is called Saving for College. And you can see that Econ Ed watched the video once and he took the quiz once and he got an 87.5 on that quiz. The fact that he can tell you the number of times and the number of times that Econ Ed both watched the video and took the quiz tells you something about the way this is set up. The videos are set up such that students can watch the video a number of times and they can take the quiz a number of times, and the system will automatically keep the highest score. And we give you that feedback as well so you can follow up with Ed and kind of talk to him about where he might find some low-hanging fruit for increasing his scores.
All right so I think you've got a pretty good tour of the teachers' side but you might be curious about the students' side of the portal. And so I'm going to take you on a brief tour of what the students' side looks like. So now we're going to be Econ Ed, the student, and we're logging in so we would put in Econ Ed's user name and password and when we click submit we would see the next screen. And that screen gives Econ Ed some feedback so in the upper left hand corner you see Ed's name there; you see the classroom he's enrolled in; you see the instructor for that classroom. And then we have three tabs there, three different classes of assignments that Ed has.
So the first one there is courses and that's what we're looking at here. So these are all the active courses that Ed has been assigned. And it gives Ed his pretest score, his posttest score, and it allows Ed to see what kind of progress he's making in the course. The other class of assignments is videos and the next screen shows what Ed sees when he wants to know about his performance on those videos. And once again if you remember from before, the video that Ed had been assigned was Saving for College and he had completed it. This screen shows Ed that he has viewed the video and his highest quiz score was an 88 percent.
And the last class of assignments is written assignments, which is the next screen. And Ed gives some feedback here too so Ed can see the writing prompt. The title of the written assignment was Webinar Written Assignment. He can see the beginning and the due date and he can see the status as well. He can see that the instructor has graded this assignment and that he got a 70 percent on his written assignment.
Denise Davis: All right. We do have a polling question so get your mouse ready. I'm going to go ahead and pose that question to you all and I will read it out loud. So you should see that pop up and the question is which new feature offered through the Econ Lowdown instructor management panel are you most excited about? A: new feature scrolling bar; B: test reset button; C: written assessments; or D: I can't decide. I'm equally excited about all of them. So I'll give you just a minute to go ahead and answer that and I'm going to stop the poll and show the results. Should be popping up in just a moment here. Wow, 100 percent, written assessments. All right, cool. Now we'll turn it over to Barb.
Barbara Flowers: Hello again. Scott has been talking to you about how you can access online programs for your classroom, so I'm going to talk a little bit about some of the online courses that you might choose for your students.
Our newest high school course online is Economic Growth and it explains the path toward productivity, economic growth, and a higher standard of living, so take a look at that one. Our most recent elementary—oh and next slide, I'm sorry—online program is Ella Saves Today. And in Ella Saves Today Ella learns that saving money in a box kept on the floor of her closet isn't a secure hiding spot. So Ella learns that money kept in a commercial bank is not only secure but pays interest. These are very appropriate courses for elementary students to learn a little bit about personal finance. There's another one, Once Upon a Decision that is the first in the Ella line where students learn the importance of considering criteria and assessing their alternatives according to that criteria in making a sensible decision.
And next slide. Okay. This guy talks about the story of unemployment and this course, The Story of Unemployment, is a comprehensive look at the topic including its causes and its remedies. I use this course in my classes as a homework assignment. It takes my students about an hour to complete it and this is an intro college course in economics. And that's just fine for my class but many high school teachers were more interested in presenting just one or two topics in unemployment and presenting those in much short snippets so they could show them in a class period.
So we broke the course into four modules. The first looks at the consequences of unemployment on the individual and on society. The second discusses how educational attainment not only provides options in employment but also reduces the chances of unemployment. The third examines how unemployment is measured, and the fourth explains that not all unemployment comes about in the same way. So some people suffer unemployment when the economy slows. Other people lose their jobs because new technologies render their skills obsolete. So it talks about cyclical, structural, and frictional unemployment.
Other short courses have resulted from breaking up the online course time value of money. So in that suite of courses you can find short courses on opportunity costs, inflation, interest, present value and future value. So this is a course that is applicable in economics but also in personal finance and also in math classes. We will be breaking up other large courses too to accommodate your schedules and your interests. So if you have any suggestions for us after you get familiar with our online courses please let us know what would work well in your classroom.
Next slide. I'll just point out briefly three other online programs featuring our superhero Jack of All Trades and his trusty sidekick Andy. Jack got his name from his first course, Comparative Advantage of Justice. Due to his superpower prowess Jack can do everything better and faster. He is a regular Jack of all trades. But does that mean he must do everything while the rest of the people stand around helplessly? This somewhat wacky course provides a serious explanation of the benefits of specialization in trade according to comparative advantage.
Next slide. Okay. In Courtesy Crusaders Jack of All Trades and his best buddy Andy are traveling the world by cape, having a coffee at each stop. Throughout the module students learn how economic conditions affect exchange rates and the price of coffee everywhere. And in the Great Inflation Course Jack and Andy are confronted by a villain who threatens to disrupt society and rob the world of the certainty people have come to expect. This dastardly villain is inflation. Jack and Andy time travel to the period known as the Great Inflation to discover the truth about inflation. With the help of Dr. Equilibrium, professor of economics, they learn that inflation is a result of too much money in the economy and that the Federal Reserve System plays a key role in maintaining stable prices.
We have many more online courses and I won't go through all of these. And I think I just heard a collective phew. Glad to hear that. But I would like to point out that we have a high school course in Decision Making, which is the most fundamental of economic concepts and personal finance concepts so that certainly is a course that you would want to introduce ninth graders to.
A very popular course in our collection is Supply and Demand, which takes students through all the aspects including the different between quantity demanded and demand, quantity supplied and supply, the demand and supply shifters, market equilibrium, and shortage and surplus. So it really is the entire course on supply and demand and I would say would be but I know for a fact is very advantageous for students who are studying that either in macro or in micro.
We also have a number of personal finance courses such as Credit Cred and Budget 101; It's Your Paycheck; Cards, Cars and Currency. So, you can take a look at those. We also have some new courses coming this year. We have a course on Aggregate Demand and Aggregate Supply. We will have a course on Government Budget, quite complicated but we're going to try to make that as simple to follow as possible. And we're going to have another Ella course, that elementary course that I mentioned earlier. This one is called Give Ella Credit and it's about credit.
And now I think it's time for another polling question.
Denise Davis: It is time for another polling question so grab your mouse. I'm going to pose the question now so it should be popping up on your screen and I'll read it out loud. In your opinion what is the ideal length of time we should target for future online modules? A: 15 to 30 minutes; B: 30 to 45 minutes; C: 45 to 60 minutes; or D: 60-plus minutes. So I'll give you just a moment there to answer and I'm going to stop that poll and show the results. Should be popping up here soon. Oh wow. All right. B, 30-45 minutes,100 percent. Thank you guys for answering that.
Barbara Flowers: Okay, on to the next slide. So Scott was showing you the instructor management panel and through that panel you can also assign videos. So this is one of our new videos. In the Saving for College video, the second in our continuing Feducation Series, Martina learns about the benefits of advancing education beyond high school. In addition during this video students will learn about what it means to invest in your human capital, how to choose a college, and how to pay for it.
Next slide. Also in our video collection is Financial Fables. That's a video series created by the Kansas City Fed for use in elementary classrooms. And these are available as videos with questions in the instructor management panel. Topics including saving, credit, and budgeting.
And we'll move on to the next one. These are just some of the videos behind the instructor management panel. So there's kind of a slew of them back there. There are seven Economic Lowdown videos on basic concepts such as supply and demand, and equilibrium, GDP, circular flow, and some others. And if you have your students tune in to those you'll see Scott's mug all over them. And we constantly hear from teachers telling us that students tell them they want more Scott so you definitely want to check those out.
And there are also five No-Frills Money Skills videos on personal finance concepts such as compound interest, stocks, and bonds. And I suggest taking a look at those. They're pretty whimsical and it might be a little campy but they're funny and they get the point across and that's our goal.
And the next slide. And that is just to encourage you once again to subscribe to our e-mail alerts. Everything that we have is free of charge and downloadable, easy to use. And so I'm just going to do a shameless plug and commercial here. It would behoove you to just check us out and subscribing to our e-mail alerts will give you information about our upcoming events. But it will also give you access to our monthly newsletter, which tells you about everything that's new on the site during that past month. And every month we do come up with a few new items so it would really be beneficial to take a look.
And that's about it I think.
Denise Davis: All righty. So we are going to ask some questions now so if you're in the webinar tool you can just go ahead and click on that ask-question button and type a question to us. I'll go ahead and just pause a moment here to see if we do have some coming in. Okay, it looks like we have one question. Do I need to download software to use the materials? Scott?
Scott Wolla: Actually you don't. All of our materials are available through our website. You just register and use our resources. Your students don't have to download anything. Your school doesn't have to download anything. If you have a computer and a website you can access it.
Barbara Flowers: I'd also like to mention that sometimes our videos stream slowly just depending on your bandwidth—I guess that's the right word—in your building and so another option is to download the MP4 files that are on our website and so that you can just have those videos contained on your own computer and show them at any time. So it's just another way that we were trying to make things a little easier and a little quicker in the classroom.
Denise Davis: Okay, thanks. Next question: Do you collect personal information from me or from my students?
Scott Wolla: Actually no. So to register we ask you to supply your name and e-mail address and share a little bit of information about school demographics, but we don't collect any personal information about you. And regarding your students we don't collect anything so for information security purposes we don't collect their last names or e-mail addresses or any personal information about your students.
Denise Davis: Okay, thanks, Scott. Next question: Do you offer any professional development opportunities for teachers?
Barbara Flowers: Yes, if you go to the left nav—I don't remember even talking about this but I will talk about it now—there is a spot for teachers. I think it says Teachers PD. And teachers can get personal development credits, CPDUs, for using our online programs in their classroom. But they can also get graduate credit through University of Colorado. The tuition expense is very reasonable. The courses are one hour of graduate credit and we offer five different topics. The topics are GDP, inflation, unemployment, monetary policy, and money. We're hoping to add more topics this year. So if you have an interest in getting a little bit more graduate credit you can get online. The courses are generally about—there are five modules to a topic. You choose three of them so you have some choices in the study that you want to go through. So for instance if you wanted to learn more about unemployment one of the modules might be about minimum wage. One of the modules might be about the different types of unemployment. And so you would have your choice. You'd do some readings; you watch some videos; you answer some questions; do a short essay. And if you are successful at all that you get your graduate credit.
Denise Davis: All righty. Thank you. Are there any costs associated with these programs?
Scott Wolla: Well, Denise, thanks for asking but all of these programs are available at the low, low cost of free. And so all you have to do is go on the website and access them, use them with your students. These are supplied as a public service of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and we're happy to provide them at no cost to you.
Barbara Flowers: The only exception being the graduate credit because University of Colorado is going to want a little bit of money for the courses that they're offering, but that would be the only exception.
Denise Davis: All right. Well thank you guys. I'm checking now and I don't see any more questions coming in. Do you have any final closing comments?
Scott Wolla: Well, I'd just like to thank Barb and Denise and our audience for attending. We love to get feedback from teachers, communicate with teachers, help teachers find our resources so if you have any questions about anything that we talked about today or feedback about other options and resources you'd like to see feel free to drop us a line. Our information is there and thanks again for attending.
Denise Davis: All righty. And if you joined us via the webinar tool you likely saw a survey link pop up on your screen. Please take a moment to complete that and let us know how we did. We'll also be sending the survey out via e-mail and you'll only need to fill it out once. And with that I'll officially bring the session to a close. Thank you so much for joining us and have a great rest of your day.