A Not So Modest Proposal: Teach My Financial Literacy for Educators Class

So I’m not quite sure how to do this without it seeming like I’m bragging. And, in a way, I am, but there is a higher purpose here, so please bear with me. Here are three recent reviews from teachers who just completed the latest section of my financial literacy class for Colorado educators:

Now, to be sure, I do think the class is good (otherwise I wouldn’t be offering it). But it isn’t THAT good to get these kinds of reviews. Instead, I think this points to the desperate need for financial education for educators (and, really, for everyone, but especially for educators). The reason this class is being so well received isn’t just because it’s a good class (which I think and hope it is), but because it’s filling a void. It’s not hard to get great reviews for a financial literacy class when the alternative is no financially literacy education at all.

The problem I’m having is scale. While this course could certainly be totally self-paced with no instructor, I feel strongly that a huge part of the success of this class is that it is discussion based (in this case, discussion boards within a Moodle). Yes, the participants hopefully learn a lot from the readings and videos that are assigned, but I think they learn even more from the interaction with both me (as the instructor) and their classmates. Even though I think I could create it as a standalone, self-paced class, I just don’t think it would be the same without those discussions. (Even though the discussions are online and asynchronous, I think the participants would agree that they are very meaningful.) But as the instructor this takes a fair amount of time and effort (reading all of their responses and responding to many of them). The very first section I taught I set the class limit to 12 for this reason, although we expanded it to 16 due to the demand. Since then I’ve expanded class size to 20 (and bumping it to 24 now), but I think that’s about the limit I can handle at one time. Discussion boards start to get very unwieldy with too many participants, and I only have so much time and energy to respond in a timely fashion as the numbers grow. But there are currently 245 people on the wait list and probably a bunch more who didn’t bother to put their name on the list. And because the class is well received, every time another 20 or so folks take it, they recommend it to their colleagues, so this number is likely to continue to grow.

A class like this should be available to every educator in the United States. Some school districts, obviously, are too small to do this, but there are plenty of larger school districts that could also make it available it to educators in those smaller districts (within the same pension plan). Or perhaps even the State Department of Education could offer it to everyone in the state within the pension plan. Or maybe a community college or university. The class is completely online, which means it’s easy enough to offer to multiple districts if necessary (my current participants are from across the state of Colorado). (Not that it has to be online, folks could certainly offer it face-to-face.) The class is not overly long or overly complicated. I currently offer it over seven weeks with an expectation of about 45 hours total commitment (asynchronous, and they earn three hours of recertification and/or graduate credit, although those options would depend on who was teaching it and via what organization or institution). Obviously, the length and structure could be different. The content is pretty straightforward and is just an introduction to the basics of personal finance along with some specifics related to working for a school district and having a defined benefit pension plan. It’s completely replicable and it not only is beneficial to the participants, but I believe it’s beneficial to the participants’ students as well. Not just because participants can pass on some financial literacy knowledge to their students (although this is important), but because it will help relieve the incredible stress that many educators feel due to financial issues. Classes like this will allow them to be even better educators in the classroom because they won’t be as worried about their finances.

So while I can’t scale me, I’m wondering if I can perhaps scale the class by finding additional instructors. My thinking is that the class is basically built (inside the Moodle so I can’t link directly to the activities, but here is the syllabus), with modifications only needed to the lessons that deal with the specific pension plan (mine is for Colorado PERA, but easy enough to modify for other pension plans). I would be happy to work with other folks to simply port over the class for their use (all the links to readings and videos, the discussion board prompts, the assignments, etc.). Of course they could choose to modify it as they wish, but I was going for the least amount of up-front work as possible to try to convince folks to take this on. I currently have books for 22 other pension plans (in addition to Colorado’s), so I could easily help modify the pension module for those pensions. For any pension plans I haven’t written a book for, it would take a bit more time to modify the lessons for that module. but I’d be happy to help (and more books are in the works). If the instructor chose, it could be pretty much plug-and-play (copy-and-paste), with the time commitment being figuring out how to offer the class to folks (credit is a huge motivator for teachers) and then facilitating the class (which is a time commitment, but at least you wouldn’t have to develop the materials). The instructor wouldn’t necessarily need to be a financial expert, but they would want to be reasonably knowledgeable about the topics on the syllabus and comfortable engaging in discussions.

So, if this idea appeals to you and you think you might want – and have the opportunity (time, knowledge, ideas on organization/institution to host it and hopefully offer credit) – to take this on, please contact me and we’ll go from there. Or, if you have a suggestion for an alternative, I’d be happy to listen.

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