Currently, our global economy faces numerous challenges that have adverse effects at every level, impacting both multi-national businesses and the average consumer. A recent report from the Presidential Advisory Council on Financial Literacy (PACFL) strongly linked the recent and continuing economic downturn with a need to improve the financial skills of people in the United States. Unfortunately, financial literacy among people in the United States is generally poor. This is partially because few states require financial literacy education among high school students but also because most financial literacy courses are ineffective. Courses that show learning gains often include experiential learning methods. This five-year single case study of a teen-aged business owner in the virtual world Gaia Online investigates how development of a business in a virtual world can facilitate informal experiential learning and the development of financial literacy among teen and young adult business owners.
A specific set of subject domains and a model of types of understanding are used to evaluate financial literacy manifest by the case study participant and evaluate the potential overlap of the financial literacy affordances of Gaia Online with definitions used in the literature and computer games used to teach financial literacy in school and community programs. With the exception of credit and insurance, the case study participant evidenced understanding of standard financial literacy domains. Based on the experiences of the case study participant, this study proposes expanding the subject domains to include property, especially intellectual property. The model of understandings is also modified to separate specialized language from conceptual knowledge of financial literacy.
The study also explored experiences that encouraged learning. Changes in the business' status quo, positive or negative, caused the case study participant to seek out advice or resources to help her learn in order to adapt to the changes. This high-commitment, low-stakes environment mirrored the real world economy sufficiently to allow the participant to bridge between virtual experiences and real world formal learning and financial management. Over time, the participant's confidence in managing her virtual business and real life finances increased, and adopted an identity as a financially literate person.
University of Minnesota Ed.D. dissertation. August 2012. Major: Teaching and Learning. Advisors:Joyce Strand, Terrie Shannon. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 277 pages.
Johnson, Barbara Zebe.
Virtual economies as financial literacy sandboxes: case study in Gaia Online.
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