How to keep financial education thriving in a virtual world

As credit union professionals, financial education and wellness is baked into our philosophy. For many of us, that’s included in-person learning, including fairs and classroom visits. But with traditional forms of learning and member engagement turned upside down in the past few months, how do credit unions adjust their plans?

Is there an app for that?

For many years now, our credit union has held annual “CU 4 Reality” learning fairs to teach middle and high school students about real world budgeting. However, when local schools switched to virtual education in March 2020, we had to quickly come up with a way to provide this knowledge in an interactive yet virtual way. We discovered an opportunity to purchase an app that we used to create a hands-on money management simulation, in which students are tasked to make various financial decisions, such as selecting a mode of transportation, home and food options, while sticking to a fixed budget based on the student’s career of choice. A game board was used to explain how spending your paycheck is like walking along a path of decisions and events that are not always foreseeable. By gamifying the virtual lesson and making it mobile, students were given a fun way to engage with the activity at hand, on a platform that is native to them.

Don’t forget about human interaction

While the virtual fairs were app-based, it was important to us that we kept a human element to them, too. That’s why a member of our financial literacy team was on-hand during all fairs to help guide the sessions and answer questions from students.

Change up the setting

Not only did COVID-19 put a wrench in our plans for younger students, we’d also been really excited to launch a series of first-time homebuying classes at bars and wineries. However, rather than canceling those altogether, we partnered with breweries and wineries in the area to conduct virtual homebuying classes and stream them on-location. In addition to being a needed change of scenery, it was also a great way to promote local business at a challenging time.

Partner up

Team work makes the dream work, even when we have to be at least six feet apart. We’ve been lucky to partner with great organizations such as one which provides a learning platform for our members to dig into financial wellness topics of their choosing, such as credit cards or leasing a vehicle. 

We were also excited to continue our relationship with the VETRN program, which provides free executive leadership courses to veteran business owners. While we previously hosted the program at our corporate location, this year’s VETRN program is being offered virtually, and we have committed to helping mentor participants in the online classroom setting.

Let’s face it, learning remotely can be a struggle at any age. However, by thinking a little more creatively and still maintaining a human element to everything we do, we can keep providing our members with the financial education they’ve come to expect from credit unions.

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