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February 16, 2013

Stock room simulator sees big return on investment

Falls School of Business asset applicable to many classes

ANDERSON, Ind. — Above the professor’s head, an LED banner ticks off changes in stock values.

They roll across the screen in a kaleidoscopic blur: “Disney up .01,” “Boeing up .72,” followed by “Welcome to the Falls School of Business.”

Opened one year ago, the STAR Trading Room at Anderson University’s Falls School of Business embeds students in a small-scale simulation of Wall Street’s stock trading room floor.

“It gives you a taste of what it’s like,” said senior entrepreneurship major Tami Swearingen.

But the room, located in Hardacre Hall off Fifth Street, has proved useful in other classes, too. For example Jill Merle’s business finance class, where Swearingen sits in the back.

Merle uses the advanced technology, such as its dual-screen monitors and touch-screen SMART board, to teach students about the determinants of interest rates and inflation premiums. She uses a projector to work practice problems.

“This is much more than a stocks and finance room,” Merle said. “There are all these media options, more presentation options, more interactivity.”

She can have a student come to the front of the room to work a problem, and display it for the rest of the class on-screen. Or, she can pull the desktop from any of the students’ dual-monitor computers to the SMART board.

“It should make education more dynamic and interactive,” said Mike Wiese, director of undergraduate studies for the Falls School of Business. “As faculty, we are learning to use the technology, and the experience in the STAR Trading Room has led to the introduction of the technology in more of our teaching spaces.”

SMART boards will be installed in other Hardacre classrooms before the end of the academic year.

Falls has integrated the technology into a wide array of its courses, including communications and finance economics, he said.

Tools like the multi-colored stock charts on the front display screens give students in classes such as micro- and macroeconomics a more comprehensive understanding of the causal relationship between stock values and a company’s internal workings, Swearingen said.

“It helps you understand how what’s going on in a company affects that number,” she said. “But I think a lot of classes can benefit.”

Students in investments and portfolio management classes can use those tools to study stocks and bonds prices, and to diversify investment portfolios. For example, in recent years, upper-level finance students have used the room’s tools to help manage the $700,000 Raven Investment Fund portfolio, which the University invested out of its own endowment. On the students’ watch, it’s outperformed the market in return and risk.

With the STAR Trading room, they can monitor the investment’s progress in real-time.

Other classes can also benefit from the tools, Swearingen said. She points to the three large view screens at the front of the class, which “illustrate the point and give you something interesting to look at,” she said.

At the front of the class, Merle works a math problem on the overhead projector to calculate a bond’s likelihood of default. While informative, it’s not quite the “something interesting to look at” Swearingen described.

So, she raises her hand and asks if Merle would please show what the technology can do. Merle taps the SMART board, and suddenly the screens come alive with videos, colorful charts and webpages.

“There you go,” Swearingen said, and returned to her notes.

Find Baylee Pulliam on Facebook and @BayleeNPulliam on Twitter, or call 648-4250.

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