Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Adapting Teaching to Meet New Needs: Using Technology to Plan for Retirement

Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Adapting Teaching to Meet New Needs: Using Technology to Plan for Retirement

Article excerpt


A college course on Retirement Planning and Employee Benefits was revised to meet the needs of consumers in a technological world By replacing one weekly lecture with computer-based assignments, the instructor involved students in solving retirement planning cases though the use of interactive Internet calculators and retirement planning software. For the final project, students interviewed a client and developed a retirement plan. Learning objectives provided a framework for adapting to include technology.

The greatest technological invention of the 20th century was supposed to be the television. However, the personal computer is transforming the way people communicate, learn, and earn. In addition to the use of computers for writing and quantitative analysis, the personal computer is the gateway to the Internet, also known as the information superhighway. The demographics of the Internet have changed gradually over the past few years. As the total number of net users grows, their demographic profile becomes more similar to that of the average American. Primary demographic characteristics such as age, gender, and income are beginning to stabilize and more closely resemble the population at large (Http://www.e-marketer. com/estats/net_user_demo_exp.html, February 17, 1999).

The Internet is becoming cheaper, easier to use, and more widely accessible to the public. The typical net user has a median age of 38. Women represent 39% of the net population, up from only 30% in 1996. Women are the fastest growing segment online. The median household income of users is $59,500. The distribution of net users by educational attainment is: high school only, 8%; some college, 25%; college graduate, 30%; some graduate school, 16%; and graduate school, 21%. Gathering news and information is the top reason for using the Internet (Http:// demo_profile.html, February 17, 1999).

The increased use of the Internet prompts the following questions. Are educators in family and consumer economics adapting teaching to include the use of technology? How is it being integrated into the curriculum? The specific purpose of this article is to show how a college course in Retirement Planning and Employee Benefits was adapted to include technology. The course is an upper level course in the undergraduate degree in Financial Counseling and Planning at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.


Most professionals recognize the importance of developing skills to use emerging technology in their work (Hayden & Ley, 1997). In fact, family and consumer science professionals in the United States were challenged by the Conceptual Framework for the 21st Century developed at the Scottsdale Meeting to keep up to date with emerging technology (Haley, Peggram, & Ley, 1993). There are at least three approaches to using technology in an educational setting (Zins, 1996). They are (1) the technology itself, (2) the subject matter, or (3) the student. Although Zins focused on educating teachers, any of these approaches can be applied to the use of technology in the classroom.

The first approach poses the questiondoes technology improve the work of its users? The second approach focuses on subject matter, suggesting that technology should be justified and evaluated based on its contribution to the teaching of relevant topics. The third approach focuses on the student and is based on the belief that education plays an important role in shaping the future of society and its individuals. In the third approach, educators prepare students to succeed in a highly technological, sophisticated, and competitive world. This approach is based on the belief that acquiring the knowledge and skills needed to benefit from the use of information technology is essential to develop open-minded competent citizens (Zins, 1996). The third approach focusing on students provided a model for changing the course in Retirement Planning and Employee Benefits during the fall semesters of 1997 and 1998 at Purdue University. …

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