Using Minyanville in the Classroom, Part II
Improving market awareness so that better financial decisions can be made.
Editor's note: This missive is part two of two on using Minyanville in financially oriented classrooms. Here is part one.
Don't you try and pretend
It's my feeling we'll win in the end
I won't harm you or touch your defenses
Vanity and security
Previously, we sketched conceptual foundations for using Minyanville in financial programs of study. In this missive, we'll offer thoughts on how instructors can employ Minyanville to supplement financial classroom activities. These remarks are aimed at initiatives at the collegiate level and below where the objective is to help students develop financial market awareness.
Free Wheeling It
Discretionary reading. The simplest approach available to instructors involves sending students to the Minyanville website and having them read content at the students' or instructors' discretion. Most of the Minyanville website is free to the public. The News and Views section, comprised of 10-20 feature length articles posted daily by Minyanville professors, represents a primary destination using this approach. Breadth of topics here is considerable, ranging from company specific analysis, such as these evaluations of Eastman Kodak (EK) and Akamai (AKAM), to assessment of market landscapes, such as these takes on government treatment of financial firms like Fannie Mae (FNM) and on current market risk and its implications. Snippets of TV commentary appear as well, such as this potpourri that discusses energy stocks like Exxon-Mobil (XOM) and hedge fund performance.
(For instructors interested in exposing students to Minyanville's premium Buzz & Banter thought stream on a gratis basis, ping me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Journaling. To add a reflective element, instructors can require students to journal about what they have read. A convenient way to do this is to have students register at The Exchange, Minyanville's social network (it's free). The Exchange includes a blog function that can serve as a student's online journal. An advantage to this approach is that others (including instructors) can comment on student posts to further enhance social learning (example 1, example 2, example 3, example 4).
The unstructured approach makes sense for instructors seeking to expose students to financial markets in an economic, low maintenance manner. While research suggests a positive relationship between exposure to the Minyanville website and student financial market awareness, this link strengthens when participants possess previous market knowledge and experience (Ford, Kent, & Devoto, 2007). Students taking upper level finance or economics electives, or those managing personal portfolios, will likely glean more from the unstructured approach due to their capacity for 'hitting the ground running' when they visit Minyanville.
Structured Learning for Novices
Students enrolled in introductory finance courses, such as those focused on personal finance basics, often possess little incoming financial knowledge or experience. Exposing novice learners to Minyanville content in an unstructured fashion may intimidate some students. Primarily, this is because novices have yet to gain rudimentary understanding of the jargon-rich language spoken by market professionals.
Under such circumstances, observational learning is often enhanced by structure that guides novice learners through the experience (Hickman, 1994). Findings from our studies (e.g., Ford, 2006) have led us to develop various tools to enhance development of financial market awareness among students new to markets.
Education portal. Minyanville's Education page is the primary expression of our efforts to date. This page has been designed to help novices gradually learn about markets while keeping them connected to the 'flow' (important for learning). The Education page is a portal of sorts. Notice that it is populated with thematic modules that link students to Minyanville content 'handpicked' for its high learning content. These modules are routinely updated so that the content remains fresh and connected. Findings from recent research suggest that students can significantly increase financial market awareness by spending 20-30 minutes reading content through the Education portal over a six to eight week period.
Classic lessons. Over the years, Minyanville has amassed volumes of searchable archived content. Sort of like a librarian, I scour daily posts for 'classics'-timeless pieces that offer standalone lessons on various aspects of financial markets, such as risk management, market psychology, and structural influences. These lessons are categorized by subjects that reflect Minyanville's 'body of knowledge' as expressed in the daily writings of Minyanville professors. Instructors seeking to focus student exposure on particular topics should find the classic lessons page useful.
The Exchange. Regardless of teaching strategy, instructors should have students register for The Exchange. Participants can create a personal profile (here's mine) and start building a network of friends. In fact, I require students involved in my Minyanville-related classroom activities to 'friend' me so that I can verify that they've signed into the site. As noted above, students can blog (here's my blog). As the functionality evolves, I'm certain that social learning emanating from time spent on The Exchange will be central to a Minyanville-centric teaching strategy.
Two other social learning-related thoughts. The University of Minyanville, while still under development, intends to be an aggregator of college student groups such as investment clubs, student managed funds, and finance student groups. Also, instructors might point students towards MVTV to facilitate learning about current market events while supplying an animated dash of humor. See, for example, Hoofy & Boo's recent takes on the Anheuser-Busch (BUD) buyout, purchasing advanced degrees, General Motors' (GM) phase out of the Hummer, the business of golf, and Bill Gates stepping away from Microsoft (MSFT).
Materials are available to help evaluate degree of financial market awareness and what has been learned from the Minyanville experience. Currently, we rotate a half dozen online quizzes on Minyanville body of knowledge subjects (e.g., balanced perspective, market psychology, structural influences on markets) on the Education and UMV pages. These quizzes provide rapid feedback on level of basic market knowledge and understanding. Instructors interested in obtaining a test bank of 100+ multiple choice questions that that can be incorporated into their classroom quizzes and tests can shoot me an email.
To be sure, Minyanville's education initiatives are, and will continue to be, a work in progress. But the vision is steady: Helping individuals improve their market awareness so that better financial decisions can be made.
Feel free to look me up on The Exchange with questions or comments.
Ford, M.W. 2006. Outside the lines: Exploring student use of web-based vicarious learning about financial markets. Journal of Business and Leadership, 2(2): 325-333.
Ford, M.W., Kent, D.W. & Devoto, S. 2007. Learning from the pros: Influence of web-based expert commentary on vicarious learning about financial markets. Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, 5(1): 43-63.
Hickman, G. 1994. Practicing what we preach: Modeling leadership in the classroom. Journal of Leadership Studies, 1(4), 135-144.
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