Popular Board Game Incorporated Into Northeast Ag Class

Published on: January 16, 2019

NORFOLK, NE – For over eight decades, players of all ages have passed “Go” and raced their tokens around Monopoly game boards. Their strategy is to acquire the greatest net income and largest capital account, while buying, trading, selling and managing their properties.

Brandon Keller, agricultural business instructor at Northeast Community College in Norfolk, wondered if the fun element of Monopoly could also serve as an educational experience for students in his Farm and Ranch Management class.

Keller said the overall purpose of the class is to teach general management practices, including record management, financial management, business planning and overall risk management. Accounting is one of the focus areas.

“Learning accounting can be daunting and not as exciting (as other classes) for students,” said Keller, who took accounting classes for his undergraduate and graduate degrees. “When you look back at the content (of business courses), it’s not going to be something of much interest to our students, so I wanted to find something that would be fun and educational.”

Searching Google, he explored the idea of incorporating the fast-dealing property trading game into his curriculum. He found an accounting variation of Monopoly that had been copyrighted in 1996 by Carl Lyman, a Utah educator.

Keller said the version he finalized is “a traditional Monopoly game with a few minor edits.”

Tara Smydra, associate dean of agriculture, math and science at Northeast, gave Keller the go-ahead to incorporate his version of the game into his Farm and Ranch Management curriculum in the fall semester of the 2018-19 academic year.

At first, Keller said his students were apprehensive when they saw the board game on the tables.

“They then realize they’re not just playing Monopoly,” he said. “You start seeing them catching on. Its relevance causes them to start asking questions, not just with me but with the other people in their group.”

The classroom experience, he said, “was comforting because it took accounting out of a formal business education lecture and put it more into an interactive experience for the students.”

Dustin Schmit of Hospers, IA, was among the 86 students in four sections of Keller’s Farm and Ranch Management class in the fall. The sophomore precision agriculture major called the inclusion of Monopoly into the classroom as fun.

“We were divided into groups of four, and each group had a good time with it,” he said. “Students like me have all of their banking on their phone, so this was a way to track expenses, debits and credits by hand, just like balancing a checkbook.”

Instructor Brandon Keller (center) observes as his students, Ellie Navrkal (left) of Wayne, and Dustin Schmit of Hospers, IA, play a game of Monopoly. Keller incorporated the game into an educational component of his Farm and Ranch Management classes at Northeast Community College this past fall. (Courtesy Northeast Community College)

A fellow student, Ellie Navrkal of Wayne, said, “As a child, you play Monopoly for fun. However, playing the game as a college student, you realize how the game ties in with reality, regarding money, assets, liabilities, revenues, expenses and so on.”

“I benefitted from this class, including the hands-on activities, because I was not well versed in any type of accounting prior,” said Navrkal, a sophomore majoring in agronomy and minoring in animal science.

Keller said, “Whenever money came out or came in (during the game), it needed to be recorded. It’s an electronic world. We don’t write checks anymore. We run a debit card. Students are not used to keeping records. You get a bank statement in writing or pull it up on your phone.”

The Monopoly transactions, Keller said, were “not real life, but they went through real-life feelings. I wanted to get them thinking about how accounting is used in everyday life,” such as paying rent, utilities and taxes.

Keller said he plans to again incorporate Monopoly into his Farm and Ranch Management classes next fall, but with a few modifications.

“It was a learning experience for me, as well as my students,” Keller said, adding that he’s on the lookout “to find new and exciting ways to present (class) material.”