Filene’s Experiential Learning Colloquium a Success

Credit Unions Explore Monopoly, Apps and Simulations to Improve Members’ Financial Literacy

Credit unions learned about a more effective way of reaching out to large member groups at the Filene Research Institute’s Experiential Learning Colloquium held Jan. 31 at The Carter Center in Atlanta.

“Credit unions have always been committed to financial literacy and members’ well being, but traditional outreach, especially to large groups like students and select employee groups, often falls short,” said Ben Rogers, research director at Filene. Filene brought together five experts to explore the foundations of financial literacy and help credit unions ensure that the money they spend reaching out to members helps members to make better financial decisions.

Each of the speakers presented ideas that credit unions can use to help their members learn through doing. “Offering a flyer or a presentation isn’t enough to truly help members become financially capable. Most of us learn best through experiential learning – or learning through doing,” said Rogers. 

"Credit unions must provide a variety of financial education channels and they must offer convenience, excitement and rewards," said attendee Linda Birt, community outreach director at People's Trust Federal Credit Union in Houston. "Learning by doing has profound benefits especially in financial education."

Presenters and topics at the colloquium included:

  • Professor Lou Centini – Experiential Learning Foundations. Centini, professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, explored the theoretical foundations of experiential learning. From South Pole expeditions to progressive business schools, he offered examples of experiential learning and its application in helping make better personal finance decisions.
  • Tim Vandenberg - Young Tycoons: A Better Way to Teach Math. Vandenberg, an accomplished Monopoly player, star of the 2010 documentary Under the Boardwalk, and sixth-grade teacher in the Hesperia Unified School District, explained how he uses gamification to bring a record number of disadvantaged students past state standards and teaches them to love math along the way. “Monopoly can teach math from every angle,” said Vandenberg.
  • Jason Young and Ty Moore - Revolutionizing Financial Capability through Mobile Gaming. According to Young, the founding partner of Mindblown Labs, 94 percent of college students text every day; 75 percent sleep near their mobile phones and 60 percent are “addicted” to their phones. Young and Moore, director of business development at Mindblown Labs, discussed how the app revolution makes it easier and more fun than ever to learn financial life skills.
  • Professor Lance Palmer – VITA Sites and Joint Learning. Experiential learning thrives on timing. “What’s more regular than tax time?” asked Palmer, professor of Housing and Consumer Economics at the University of Georgia. Palmer connects Georgia United Credit Union ($925 million, Duluth, Ga.) with financial planning volunteer students from the University of Georgia. He demonstrated how helping credit union members during tax time can benefit the students who help, the members who learn, and the credit union that serves both.
  • Lois Kitsch – Life Simulation. Kitsch, national program director, National Credit Union Foundation, presented The Life Simulation experience, which is designed to help credit union employees, volunteers and leaders understand what it might be like to live in a typical low-income family trying to survive from month to month. “Credit unions help members every day who have difficulty managing money or who live paycheck to paycheck. Walking in another’s shoes is a far more effective way to sensitize others to the needs of low-wage working families and help them become more financially literate,” said Kitsch.

The event was presented through generous support from CO-OP Financial Services and the National Credit Union Foundation. “We're incredibly grateful for the mentorship and support of our partners. Giving credit unions access to these innovative experts are vital to future of our industry,” said Rogers. 

About Filene: The non-profit Filene Research Institute is a consumer finance think tank serving the North American credit union system of $1.5 trillion in assets and more than 106 million members. Filene publishes objective research and fosters consumer-focused financial innovation. The Institute collaborates with leading researchers and academic institutions worldwide.