Or at least that is what one investor, New Enterprise Associates, seems to think. They recently invested $11 million in EverFi in a Series A round of financing. Here is what TechCrunch had to say in early September:
"EverFi has created a SaaS [software as a service] application for schools to help educate young adults on financial literacy, student loan default prevention, filing taxes, credit card debt and more. The application’s curriculum incorporates virtual worlds, gaming, social media and videos to help teach children these life skills.
For example, the company’s Buttonwood platform, aims to prevent teenagers from student loan defaults. The application includes a Second Life-like virtual world where users can learn and implement key financial literacy concepts, such as credit worthiness, the loan application process, interest rates and more.
Currently over 2,000 public schools in 47 states will be using EverFi, with the company’s reach expected to more than double in 2011. While EverFi’s technology is not free to use, the platform’s use in public schools is completely funded by outside corporations and foundations that license its programs. Partners include United Negro College Fund, Capital One, Genworth Corporation, U.S. Bank, PayPal, BB&T Corporation, and others."
My hometown paper, the San Jose Mercury News, noted this Sunday that "gamification" is coming and this investment clearly seems to be playing into theme...
"At its most basic level, the term refers to the idea of incorporating the elements of video games into nongaming Web sites and services that utilize social networking features...Done well, developers believe game design will make the dreariest of tasks more fun and engaging.... Gamification really came into its own thanks to the phenomenal success of social games like "FarmVille," the Zynga game that has attracted millions of users who help each other build their virtual farms. Developers across the Web began studying the underlying behaviors for those playing "FarmVille" and wondering how to apply that dynamic to increase the engagement with their own websites and services..."Some of the ingredients of games are absolutely psychologically primitive," Reeves said. "We know the brain responds to gains and losses, whether it's real dollars or virtual gold pieces. There's something fundamental about recognition, seeing yourself compared to other people."
Tapping into concerns about student loan defaults, EverFi recently launched Buttonwood, which they described as a college financial literacy and student loan management product. Here is how they define themselves on their twitter page: "EverFi is a 3D gaming and education company that teaches, assesses, and certifies students ages 16-22 in Financial Literacy."
As this earlier SLA survey on financial literacy indicated, no one company had become the standard for financial literacy on college campuses as of October 2009. Clearly that $11 million in financing will be used by EverFi to try and become that standard. Up to this point, EverFi seems to have focused on the K-12 market and their product has been paid for by foundations and financial institutions. Their Buttonwood product represents their entree into the college market. Let's see what happens...
Education Week highlighted these financial literacy games in January 2010:
- MoneyU: "The Web-based program consists of 120 lessons, each of which takes three to five minutes to complete. It incorporates videos, cartoons, and simulations to cover personal-finance topics such as savings, banking, financial planning, and credit card use. Since its launch in February 2008, the game has been used by more than 4,000 students across the country."
- The Stock Market Game: "To play the Web-based game, students work in teams to invest a hypothetical $100,000 in the stock market. Using Internet research and news updates, they evaluate and track stocks and bonds. A study by Learning Point Associates, a nonprofit education research group based in Naperville, Ill., found not only that the game increased students’ financial-literacy scores, but also that students who played it scored higher on evaluations of math skills."
- Visa: "In 2005, Visa unveiled a Web-based game called Financial Football, which aims to teach financial literacy through a game-based National Football League format. This Web-based game, which can also be downloaded to a cellphone, challenges players to answer questions about money management in order to score points. In September of 2009, to fulfill its commitment to deliver financial education to 20 million people across the world by 2013, the company launched a new game called Financial Soccer, which requires players to answer questions about personal finance to advance down the field and score goals."