Faculty Spotlight – Jeremy Ryan

(Faculty Spotlight is a series of articles focused on highlighting faculty at FHSU that are using technology in interesting ways. Faculty Spotlight is intended to be a regularly published series, so check back often to see if your peers are doing any intriguing activities with technology. If you have a faculty member you would like to recommend for Faculty Spotlight, contact Teaching Innovation and Learning Technologies at tigerlearn@fhsu.edu. Faculty Spotlight graphic by Cari Kelly.)

Is it possible to get every student interested in accounting? Before, the best way to teach accounting, along with many other classes, was to give lectures and exams. But many students learn best with hands-on and interactive tools. Mr. Jeremy Ryan, adjunct professor of agriculture and farming, found a way to make agricultural accounting more interesting and interactive for his students by utilizing a program called SoftChalk. His virtual Introduction to Agricultural Accounting course explains and applies basic accounting principles to agricultural production. “The changes in the agricultural industry over the past 30 years have increased the need for more complete and accurate farm financial information,” explains Ryan, “[and] this course addresses some of the situations that are unique only to the agricultural industry.” Mr. Ryan created a farm simulation game using SoftChalk that gave the students lifelike ownership of agricultural accounting. “I wanted students to be excited about accounting!” said Ryan.

Jeremy Ryan – Adjunct Instructor of Agriculture

SoftChalk is an e-learning authoring tool that allows professors to bring a level of interaction to courses that Blackboard otherwise could not. SoftChalk is a blank canvas where you can mix text, video, activities, and assessments easily and seamlessly to bring a new dynamic into your course. SoftChalk is Content is designed directly on the desktop and then uploaded to the SoftChalk cloud for storage. Professors can then embed their lessons directly into Blackboard so that students do not have to leave the course shell, or they can embed a special link that sends students to the lesson and allows for grades to be automatically sent back to the Blackboard grade book.

Accessing activities in SoftChalk

Mr. Ryan wanted students to better understand the accounting process by being able to create their own financial statements and perform financial analysis on their own farm. He first thought of using a dice roll to get a random selection but, after consulting with Andrew Feldstein and Linda A…in the Learning Technologies Department they decided to incorporate SoftChalk. Together they created a complete agriculture simulation. “The project consisted of over sixty realistic scenarios that can happen to producers over the course of a year,” said Ryan. The scenarios could include anything from purchasing assets and acquiring liabilities to managing cattle herd and harvesting corn. “After ‘one year of production’ students would analyze their financial statements and, depending on the choices they made, were either in a healthy financial position or operating in the red,” stated Ryan.

An example of Mr. Ryan’s simulation

According to Ryan, his students “ran with it!” Having the students use what they are studying in a real-world simulation really helped them learn. “Rather than me lecturing all semester…they actually do the process themselves,” Ryan said. Setting up the project did take some extra time. “I had to think about how a herbicide and fertilizer application in April would affect the financial crisis of an October harvest,” explains Ryan. It was worth his while though as it made for a new technological experience. SoftChalk’s flexibility and versatility allowed Mr. Ryan’s  vision to become a reality. As for the project, when asked if he would assign it again Mr. Ryan responded with “Absolutely!”

If you’re interested in trying SoftChalk, please contact Teaching Innovation and Learning Technologies at tigerlearn@fhsu.edu.

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