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Monday, October 17, 2011

Interview with Jody Hoff, Federal Reserve Bank: Innovators in E-Learning Series

With all the recent efforts by the U.S. federal government to respond to the ongoing economic challenges, the demand for understanding the role of the Federal Reserve Bank has grown dramatically. In response, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (FRBSB) has developed an informative and innovative way to help learners of all levels gain an understanding of the banking crisis of 2008, in addition to ongoing current challenges.

The materials that the FRBSF has developed are appropriate for online and hybrid courses, and would fit in well in portfolios developed for many different subjects, ranging from economics to marketing.

Welcome to an interview with Jody Hoff, Senior Manager at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

1. What is your name, your organization, and your relation to elearning?

a. Jody Hoff, Senior Manager

b. Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

c. I direct our education efforts for the 12th District which includes nine western states. An important component of our educational strategy leverages elearning approaches to reach our key audiences, including students and educators.

2. What is the Federal Reserve Bank San Francisco (FRBSF) doing in the area of elearning?

a. In the Education group, we are in the process of shifting our strategy to provide content to students and teachers in an electronic format. Examples are the Crisis and Response and What is the Fed? web resources. In addition, we are rolling out a new project called DataPost that will provide a weekly chart/visualization of the economy with a brief explanation of the story behind the data, discussion questions for the classroom, and the actual data set so that students can experiment with their own visualization or chart.

3. What is the mission of the FRBSF's educational outreach? Why? What do you hope to see in the future?

a. Our education mission is to provide meaningful learning opportunities about the Federal Reserve, economics, and the economy.

b. As an institution, the Federal Reserve is charged with implementing monetary policy to promote a healthy economy, job growth, and stable prices. We are committed to providing a variety of opportunities for people to learn about the Federal Reserve and its role in the U. S. economy.

c. The explosive growth in access to technology and information is erasing the traditional split between teachers and students. I recently witnessed two teenagers utilize a YouTube video to complete their algebra homework. They were having trouble remembering the classroom lecture from earlier in the day and rather than dig through the textbook, they pulled up a video on the exact topic, watched it for about 90 seconds and then completed the problem. We view our online resources, like the Crisis & Response site, as offering a self- serve, if you will, source of information and analysis. Our strategy is to support learning in a way that gives the user some control about how to process the information. OurWhat is the Fed? resource follows this model with text, conceptual images, discussion questions, and a monetary policy game called The Fed Chairman Game.

4. You've used a combination of video, animated graphics, and an interesting schema-building instructional strategy that allows learners to move to ever increasing levels of detail and depth. Could you describe how that happens in your site, and why you took that approach?

a. The sites are organized around essential questions and bullet point answers. We wanted to provide a way for the reader to get their arms around the big picture before diving into the specifics of the content. We also wanted to provide a variety of tools for the reader to develop their own meaning about the narrative. We used compelling data and graphs to support the bullet point answers and also created a number of conceptual images to help readers understand unfamiliar terms such as ‘macro-prudential supervision’.

b. Our approach was to frame the issues around essential questions that would tell the story of the economy without completely overwhelming the reader. We wanted to experiment with an approach that didn’t just drop you in the deep end of the pool and hope you could swim. Rather, we wanted to provide an entry point to the story that you could follow to increasing levels of complexity.

5. Cause and effect plays a big role in the fundamental narrative and logic structure of your site and the approach you take. It seems extremely effective and appropriate given the economic crisis and the need to untangle the basic "why's" and "how's" of what occurred. Could you discuss how you settled on which major issues to address?

a. Because of the challenge of synthesizing the complexity of the crisis into a concise, essential question format, our most senior economists wrote the narrative. And, we spent a great deal of time thinking through the story of the crisis and how best to contextualize the issues.

6. What are your plans for the future? Do you have any plans to encourage banks to put in links in their online banking portals? If so, how do you see your role in relation to local banks and also users of banking services?

a. That’s an interesting question. A direction we are exploring for the future is the use of short, immersive video “talks” to quickly and directly pull the viewer into a look at the economy from the perspective of a research economist. Our goal is to share new understanding and insight about economic processes. These efforts are focused primarily on educators, students, and the general public.

7. Please discuss an aspect or two of your philosophy of elearning.

a. My philosophy of learning is based on the constructionist perspective that places the learner at the center of the action. We design content with a specific context and provide tools that support the learner’s efforts to understand and create meaning. Taking that perspective to the elearning environment, we’ve incorporated many of the instructional design principles outlined in Richard Mayer’s Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning. The Crisis and Response site is really all about trying to reduce the cognitive load for the non-expert members of the public, including teachers and students, who want to understand more about the complexity of the financial crisis. Our What is the Fed? resource and upcoming new DataPost project also incorporate these design principles.

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