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Reading Q&A = Relevant Classroom Content + Built-in Assessment - Econ Lowdown Webinar Series, Episode 9

In this session of the Econ Lowdown webinar series, presenters from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis discuss Reading Q&A—a new collection of online resources within the Econ Lowdown Teacher Portal (ETP). Reading Q&A adds top quality resources such as Page One Economics and Focus on Finance into the ETP with assessment features so you can add them to your syllabus. Flipped classroom or not, Reading Q&A gives you more options for including top-quality classroom resources.

Watching this video will guide you through the creation of an online syllabus, introduce key features of Page One Economics and Focus on Finance and demonstrate how to use these resources in your classroom.


Below is a full transcript of this webinar. It has not been edited or reviewed for accuracy or readability.

Jean Roark: Good afternoon, and welcome to today’s Econ Lowdown webinar. Our discussion for today focuses on Reading Q&A = Relevant Classroom Content + Built-in Assessment. I’m Jean Roark from the Center for Learning Innovation with the St. Louis Fed, and I’ll be your facilitator. Our presenters today are both from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. We’ve got Scott Wolla and Kris Bertelsen. Scott has joined me in our studio in St. Louis and Kris is joining from the Little Rock branch.

Before turning our call over to Scott and Kris, I’ll cover a few call logistics. If you haven’t joined us through the webinar yet, go ahead and click the link you received after registering. For the best webinar experience, use the FAQ document, which can be found using the “materials” button in the webinar player page.

I’ll highlight a few important notes for you. You can listen to the audio through your PC speakers or through the phone. If you use the phone option, slides will not sync with audio unless you change your settings. You can do this by selecting the gray gear located in the upper right corner of the slide window just above the presentation. From there you should see a few options in the media chooser, and you should select the phone option.

You can expand the size of the slides. And, to do this, use the “maximize” button in the upper right corner of the slide window located on the webinar player page. And if you’d like a PDF version of today’s presentation, you can access it using the “materials’ button. We’ll be taking questions at the end of our presentation or potentially in the midst of our presentation, and you can submit them anytime during our call.

If you’ve joined us in the webinar, just use the “ask question” button, and we’ll get your questions queued up for our presenters today. All right, our legal disclaimer. The views expressed here do not reflect the official positions of the Federal Reserve System or the Federal Reserve Banks of St. Louis. And with all that out of the way, I will welcome our first presenter, Scott Wolla.

Scott Wolla: Thanks, Jean. My name is Scott Wolla. I’m here with my colleague, Kris Bertelsen, and today we’re going to discuss a variety of online resources that we’ve designed for teachers who teach Economics and Personal Finance. But we’d like to focus on a new group of resources that we call Reading Q&A. And Jean, the next slide, please.

If you’re unfamiliar, we have over 400 free teaching resources on our website, which can be accessed at The website has great filtering tools, which will help you sort through the grade level, academic subject, and topic tags to find exactly what you’re looking for.

These are actually pre-K through college resources. So, regardless of what level you teach, if you’re interested in teaching Economics and Personal Finance or integrating those topics into your academic topics or subject, we have resources for you. And next slide, please.

One of the resources that we produce for students and teachers here at the St. Louis Fed is called Page One Economics. This is a monthly publication during the school year that seeks to explain the economics behind the headlines. We take topics that are currently being discussed in the news and we talk about the economic concepts behind it to help bring understanding to what’s happening in the world.

This includes a short essay that’s written for high school and college students and their teachers. The two most recent issues you see here are Bitcoin and how robots or automation are affecting the workforce. And, with that, I’m going to pass it off to my colleague, Kris Bertelsen.

Kris Bertelsen: Okay, thank you, Scott. Hello, everyone. I would like to start here with the Page One Economics: Focus on Finance articles. And you see Smart Phones and Budget Changes. And then our most recent, which was a bonus edition for Financial Literacy Month, was Bankruptcy: When All Else Fails. This resource was very popular.

The Page One Economics in economic topics was very popular, and so we decided to add the personal finance every other month to cover topics addressed in personal finance classrooms as well. This is a very popular resource, and you’ll see why here in a moment. But the reading levels are available for many of them in both high school through college and then also at a middle school reading level so that it’s accessible to more students.

You can see that—when you’re logged into the website or when you look at it, you can see that the middle school edition is labeled so on the teacher version. So two different articles, really two different artifacts from the same resource, one personal finance, one economics. The reason these are so popular—and Jean, if you’d advance for me, please—the articles are very accessible.

They have usually some graphs, some data. And then for teachers, they have a teacher’s guide which includes questions based on the text or based on the graphs. And then the answer is available for the teachers. And these have been a very popular resource for us. They’re easy. I like to tell audiences that they’re good ones for when you have a substitute, even, and I joke that even a substitute can’t mess this up, because the article is there and the students can read it and answer the questions.

There’s lots of different ways to use that, the print resource, and that includes having students do a jigsaw, a round robin type presentation. Or you could assign students in groups or individually to read various articles and present on the topic that they’ve been assigned or that they choose. These are archived on our website, so you can go back and access—I believe it’s six or seven years worth of articles in lots of different topics related to economics and personal finance.

What we’re going to show you today is not the print version, however. We’re going to go through and I’m going to show you how to set up an online account with us, which is free. All of our materials are available at no cost. And that will allow you to assign your students the articles and they can answer questions within our teacher portal, giving you access to see if they’ve completed the work and their scores. You can then export that data in a CSV format or an Excel format, and it can be added to your grade book.

So we’ll go to the next slide. And what this will show you is our website,

And the highlighted part that says, “Start here, online course login for teachers,” you’ll just click that, and when you get to the next page—and if you’ll advance the slide for me—you’ll have options of logging in with an email address and password. And if you haven’t registered, you see down below it says, “New to the site? Let’s get you started.”

And then you would just click “register” and the system asks you questions, essentially to see if you are affiliated with a school or an organization that’s involved in education so that we know we’re not signing up students who can go in and access answers or something. So we ask questions about the school, the address, phone numbers, and so forth. Once you’ve done that, you’ll create your account.

And the system will generate a password for you and send it to the email that you choose. Many teachers use a personal email address so that they can access it whenever they want, assuming you don’t access your school email. But, of course, a lot of teachers do that. But that’s up to you. So, once you’ve got that, you log in with the email address that you gave and the password that the system generates for you. And then it will ask you to change your password, and then you’re in. Next slide.

And so what you’ll do, once you’ve been able to log in, you’ll set up classes. And you can set up classes in lots of different timeframes, things like that. Jean, could you advance the slide, please? You’ll be able to set up your classes, and you can create as many classes as you want and you can change the dates. And what you’re doing is you’re building an interactive syllabus once you’ve done that. And you do that by going into the tab on the top left that says “resources.” And you add those resources, and it generates a syllabus with all of those resources, including the dates that you want them to be available.

So let’s say you have a class that runs—we’ll just use this semester—let’s say it’s January 20 until May 5 or something. You can set the materials to come due at various times throughout that time period or you can have everything come available to the students at once, and they’re able to access any of the materials at any time. And so you have some flexibility there. But this includes all of our online courses and videos and things, which we will talk about here in more detail in the slides to come.

If you’d go to the next slide for me. This slide now will show you what the student would see. And so in this case, this is Econ 101 with Dr. Wolla. And you see that he’s written a description, the introduction to economics and so forth, and then the various parts of the course are what follow. And the student is able to log in, and they would see what he has coming due for them in the coming semester.

So if you’d go to the next slide for me, please. And in this slide you see the options—and if you’d click that animation for me—you see where it says “launch.” This is where students are able to launch any of the materials. And in this case it’s a Production Possibilities frontier video or podcast. And the students are able to launch that right from the syllabus.

If you email the syllabus to the students, those links in there are hot, and they can go in and click those and use their unique user name and password to log in and then click from there into any of the material that you have assigned them. The next piece that we’re going to describe—and I’m going to turn this over to Scott—is how to use our Reading Q&A within that portal. So, Scott…

Scott Wolla: Thanks, Kris. So Reading Q&A blends these great online learning tools that we’ve developed, the teacher portal, with the content that’s in Focus on Finance and Page One Economics. And so what you see here is, within that syllabus feature that Kris was talking about, you see three Page One resources that have been integrated and assigned as Reading Q&A assignments.

So you see the first one is a Focus on Finance about renting. Then you see a Page One Economics about, Will Robots Take Our Jobs?  And then you also see the Page One Economics on Bitcoin. This is the student view. So when the students log into their syllabus, this is how they would see their semester shaping up or their assignments. When the student launches the assignment by clicking that small “launch” button, they would see what’s on the next page, which is the Page One Economics topic that they’re reading about.

And on this screen, the student would actually be able to read the entire article. They can scroll down. Many of these articles have FRED graphs or data or tables that relate. Some of them have an illustration. All of that is embedded within the webpage. When they’ve read the article, they click that “next” button in the upper right-hand corner and that takes them to the assessment piece, which is on the next slide.

The assessment piece is usually, say, five to ten multiple choice or short answer questions. If the student is seeing multiple choice questions, those questions are actually self-correcting. So, the teacher wouldn’t have to go in and correct these individually, and the student gets instant feedback as far as their assessment grade when they finish the assessment. In cases where there is a short answer question, the teacher would go in and grade those individually. And you’ll see that in a coming slide.

When the student has completed the assessment—well, actually, one thing before we talk about completion, once in a while you get a student who is going through the assessment and wants to refer back to the essay. They can do that by clicking that “back” button on the left-hand side. You can go back and forth between the essay and the assessment as they answer these questions. But when they’ve completed the assessment, they would click the “submit” button in the upper right-hand corner.

And then on the next slide you see what that assessment looks like when the multiple choice has been graded. So, because this assessment piece was all self-correcting, the student gets this instant feedback, 100% or 12 over 12. And then the student clicks the “next” button, and the student would actually see a short sign-off where it says, “You just learned…” You know, we recap the main points of the essay and the assessment that the student just completed.

This next page actually shows another Page One article, the “Will Robots Take Our Jobs?” Similar to the other one, students would scroll through, do the reading. They’d be able to see the FRED graphs and the data. All of the ancillary parts of the lesson and the essay would all be there. When they’re comfortable with the content, they would click the “next” button.

And on the next page here, you see the assessment piece. And this assessment is short answer. And so here you see an example of a question. The student types in or keys in the response. Instead of an instant grade, it will say “waiting for grade,” because, of course the teacher will go in on the teacher portal and grade these assignments. And if you click for the next slide, please.

When the student goes back to the syllabus, they can check their progress. And so, on the first one there, the Renting Basics, Focus on Finance, there’s a status update there where it says “graded” and it gives the student his or her grade. There’s also feedback where they can go in and see the teacher feedback that was left in the grading process. They can also review the content. So if they wanted to go back and relearn or refer to that content, it is available to them.

The next one there, the “Will Robots Take Our Jobs?” there’s a note there under the status that says “waiting for the grade.” And that’s a situation where the teacher goes in and grades those short answer essays, so the student has a status update to know that the assignment has been completed, but the grading isn’t finished. And the last one, Bitcoin, is an example of an assignment that has been completed. So they see their status as graded, and it gives their score.

The next slide actually gives you a preview of what the teacher sees for the two different scenarios. The first scenario is the self-grading scenario. And so you see the student there. You see the grade. And you can see that everything is completed already. And the second scenario, “Will Robots Take Our Jobs?” this one has the short answer. And so the teacher needs to go in and grade this, and so you see the big, blue, glowing button there that says “grade.” And when the teacher clicks that button, they see what happens on the next slide.

This is what the grading portal looks like. So a page pops up, and you will see each of the questions. You’ll see the student response. And then there’ll be a place for you to assign points per question out of a certain number of points. And then the portal does the calculations and transfers that grade to the student grade. When the teacher is done grading this assignment, they would click that “submit” button in the upper right-hand corner.

This slide, one of the things we built into this feature is the knowledge that teachers oftentimes hand out a paper copy of the syllabus. Maybe it’s the first day of class. Maybe, when you’re getting to a certain unit where there are a number of assignments that they’ve been assigned through the portal. And so we developed a feature where the teacher can download a PDF version, so it’s easily printable. It prints in a more attractive form than just printing the PDF version of the document.

And on the next slide. We started this webinar talking about Page One Economics and Focus on Finance. And Kris mentioned that we’ve done a number of different topics and we have archived all of these topics. This page goes through some of the recent issues that we’ve done in each of these series. So, again, these series are—you know, we think of them as siblings. The format is very similar.

The target audience is high school-college students. The only difference is that Page One Economics focuses on economic topics and concepts and Focus on Finance focuses on personal finance topics and concepts. And so on Page One we’ve done Bitcoin, Will Robots Take Our Jobs?, Does International Trade Create Winners and Losers?, Why are Some Countries Rich and Others Poor?, The Economics of Subsidizing Sports Stadiums, all those issues in, say, about the last year.

Focus on Finance has tackled Bankruptcy, Smart Phones and Budget Changes, On the Move: Renting Basics, Credit Bureaus: The Record Keepers, Advertising: Dollars and Cents, and Insurance: Managing Risk and Balancing Responsibility with Affordability. So, again, we’ve done all of those in about the last year. And, of course, going back, we’ve done a number of topics, enough that if you were covering a current event topic or if you want an application for something you’re covering in your textbook, chances are, if you look through our archives, you’ll find something that’s related.

On the next slide, we also want to remind you that it’s not just Page One Economics and Focus on Finance. We actually have a whole collection of online resources, online learning tools, that you can build into that syllabus. We have a number of online modules. And one of our more popular modules is the Supply and Demand module. It has some great interactive pieces.

One of the things that students struggle with most in an economics course is, you know, shifting curves and looking at how a shift in one of those curves will affect price and quantity. These modules have the ability for the student to click and drag the curves interactively, and they see the effect on price and quantity. So it uses all the positive attributes of online learning to help the student really learn the economic content.

This module, however, takes about an hour and a half to complete it from start to finish. And so what we’ve done is we’ve actually chunked them. And on the next slide you’ll see that the one course is called Supply and Demand. The chunked courses do just that. They chunk the content into these smaller pieces. The three pieces are Supply, Demand, and Market Equilibrium. And what this does is allow the teacher to break up the content, to think of it more in an à la carte type of way.

And usually, you know, a high school economics textbook is usually broken into chapters. There’s a chapter on supply. There’s one on demand. And there’s one on equilibrium. And so it allows you to assign these products in a way that is more consistent with the textbook or the way that you teach the course.

Another really popular course is on the next slide. It’s called GDP and Pizza. This course was actually our very first foray into online learning, and it’s still one of our more popular courses. But it too is about an hour, a shade over an hour if they take the full from start to finish. So we did a similar thing, and we call it pizza in smaller slices.

So, on the next slide you’ll see the smaller chunks of this course. So you see a shorter module called “GDP: What is it?” a module on “GDP Measurement and Growth” and “GDP policy.” And so this once again allows the teacher to either assign the full course or to fine tune their content and assign these smaller modules. And, with that, I’m passing the baton back to my colleague, Kris.

Kris Bertelsen: Okay. Thank you, Scott. If you’d go to the next slide for me—oh, already there. All right. So one of the features of the teacher portal that we’ve really enjoyed and teachers really like is that fact that we can put videos behind it. And the videos are—I’m not 100% sure how many, but it’s 150 or so videos that we have behind the teacher portal. And those videos are not just from the St. Louis Fed. We have some from various organizations.

For example, we’ve got some on fraud and investor fraud from the FINRA Foundation and, you know, just a lot of different content, lots of different Federal Reserve Banks. For example, the Board of Governors, we’ll be putting more videos from them behind the portal as well. And so I just want to run through some of the features of using those videos behind the teacher portal. So ones that we’ve shown you—the materials we’ve shown you so far are new, and that will be the case with this as well.

The No-Frills Money Skills video series is personal finance-related content. And so I’m going to just show you a couple of screenshots from those videos. The insurance video, Protecting Yourself from Damage, is a basic overview of how insurance works. You see the dangerous activities or potentially dangerous activities there. Students, you know, would choose a various level of risk. Some kids would do all of those things; some wouldn’t. So the video discusses insurance and how it transfers risk to an insurance company for a fee.

If you’d switch the slide for me here. The next video in that series was on insurance, and that’s episode seven, Understanding Car Insurance: Paving the Way, and you can see that. This is three segments. And, like Scott mentioned with our online courses, with the videos we really don’t want super long videos if we can avoid them. This one, had it been one video, would have been 16 minutes or something like that. So we also broke those into three segments. And I’ll explain each of the three segments here quickly.

The first segment was just about premiums and how insurance coverage works. And I guess, not surprisingly, a lot of adults really don’t have a good grasp of bodily injury, liability, and property damage on their auto insurance policies, possibly because it’s one of those things we have to buy and hope we never use.

But that’s the first segment on Premiums and Coverage: How it Works, followed by the second segment, which is Losses, Deductibles, and the Types of Coverage. So that segment goes through how a deductible is applied in the event of a loss and how comp and collision work, medical payments coverage, things of that nature.

And then, finally, the third segment is on the application process, what goes into the underwriting process, how rates are determined, that sort of thing. And, of course, students are always—you know, they’re always surprised that they have to pay so much for insurance. And so this segment goes through why that happens, for example, the fact that young men have more accidents than young women, more expensive accidents, things like that. And so that video goes through that process a little bit.

For the teachers, using these videos is very classroom-friendly, very helpful for a number of reasons. First of all, the students can log in. You give them the unique user name and password that I explained earlier. The students go to the website. They see the syllabus that you’ve created. And they have the opportunity to launch those videos or courses, whatever you assign them, from their own personal dashboard.

They can go in, watch the video or any segments that you’ve assigned if it’s a segmented video. And, once they do that, they can take the quiz that is associated with each of those videos. And so, depending on the length of the video and the content covered, there may be five or so questions based on that content. And the student can answer them right there. And these are a formative assessment.

I didn’t catch if Scott said it, but the online modules have a pretest. The students work through the module, and then there’s a posttest. And if Scott said that, I apologize. I didn’t hear it. The difference between the videos is that the students can watch the video as many times as they’d like. They can take the quiz as many times as they’d like, and the teacher portal system maintains the top score. So if a student launches the video two times and takes the quiz three times, the system will keep that—of the three, it will keep that top score.

But you’re able to go in and see how many times the student watched the video. And we’ve all taught that kid who said they watched the video four times and the reality is they watched it zero times and just kept retaking the quiz. Well, the portal allows you to see that. So it will list out the number of times viewed, the number of times they took the quiz, and the final score, along with the date that they did it.

The other thing that’s nice about the teacher portal—and any of our materials this can be done—you can print certificates of completion for the students. And so it’s just another artifact, another way to document their completion of the course or the module or the videos, other than just another test score. So that is a feature that we’ve added. It’s on a—it’s got a watermark, Econ Lowdown watermark, and you can print it out on Cardstock or something. It’s really a nice piece. And then you can sign it.

Okay, if we can go to the next slide. Another new video that—and Scott will have to let us know if this actually came out—this is brand new, the video on unemployment. And there are few economic data series as confusing to students, I think, as unemployment. Students really struggle with this notion of how unemployment is measured, specifically who is in the labor force and who’s not, that kind of thing. And so this video will help go through that and hopefully just shed some light on just how unemployment is measured, how the labor force is determined, and things like that.

Okay, if you could go to the next slide, please. We have a newsletter that comes out every month, and the newsletter is easy to sign up for. It lists our K-12 resources. So when new lesson plans and content come out, it will be in the newsletter, various press releases, things like that. And you see this article where the cover of this one says one million student enrollments.

That’s the number of times our courses were enrolled for a given time period. And this was a year. So over a million enrollments, so people are using our materials all over the world, actually. And so we were celebrating that milestone. But if you sign up for the newsletter, you would be kept on top of those new resources coming out as well.

And so if you could go to the next slide, you’ll see how to do it. And you just go to, again, forward slash education, and you would end up here at our home page where you see subscribe as an option. And you click on “subscribe” and you can go in and see the various publications that you can subscribe for. The Econ Lowdown newsletter would be listed under there, and that will keep you abreast on new materials and events coming out. Next slide for us.

We also have a Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis—the Econ Lowdown Facebook page. And if you like our Facebook page, you go to it, you’ll see there’s just a screenshot of it. But we don’t harass people on our Facebook page. We just put out frequent—if there’s a new lesson plan or a new event listed, something like that, we’ll list that on the Facebook page. Articles that are perhaps referenced, where the Fed is referenced or where our materials are referenced, we’ll put those.

But it’s not a steady stream of things in your Facebook page, so I’d encourage you to go like that page for us. And that will also help you keep connected to what’s going on in economic education at the Fed. Next slide, please. The Twitter followers on our website or on our Twitter handle @StLouisFed receive the economic data. So if the Fed does research, St. Louis Fed does research on a topic, that is oftentimes sent out via Twitter.

There are nearly 80,000 followers of the St. Louis Fed, and so what we’ve done is we’ve added Econ Lowdown tweets to it so that new resources or new event listings, things of that nature, are also found on the bank’s Twitter handle along with the economic data and information that is listed on—via Twitter. So you can follow us at St. Louis Fed. And if you have any questions, we would be happy to take those now. And if you have follow-up questions, our email addresses are listed on the next page of the slideshow.

Jean Roark: Okay. Thank you so much, Kris. Like Kris mentioned, we are ready to take your questions. You can use the “ask question” button in the webinar if you have a question for Kris or Scott today. And I will just refresh my inbox. And I am going to give Scott a minute or two to provide some closing remarks just in case we don’t get questions.

Scott Wolla: And in reference to Kris’s question earlier, the unemployment video actually just went online on our website today. And so it’s literally a new resource. It is about six-and-a-half minutes long, and it covers all of those concepts that you would want to cover in the classroom about unemployment. You know, what is it? How is it measured? The types of unemployment and so on. That will be added to the Video Q&A feature of our teacher portal within a week or so.

Jean Roark: Okay. So we haven’t gotten any questions yet, but you can still do that if you’d like. Do you want to have any other additional closing remarks, or ready for me to close it out?

Scott Wolla: Well, we just want to thank you for participating in the webinar today. Again, is our website. There are over 400 free teaching resources for teachers, kindergarten to college, and even some preschool resources as well. And so please feel free to reach out to us. And our contact information, email addresses are on this screen here. And, again, thank you very much. Have a great day.

Jean Roark: All right, thank you, Scott. So, if you joined us in the webinar, you’ll see a survey link pop up on your screen. Please do take a moment to complete that. We’d love to hear your feedback. Thank you, Scott and Kris, for sharing your time and expertise. This concludes today’s Econ Lowdown. Enjoy the rest of your day.

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Audience:   High School, College, Consumers
Language:   English
Subjects:   Economics, Personal Finance
Resource Types:   Webinar