A Visual Language for Teaching Finance

Using visual cards to help students learn financial concepts

Image of Cards with titles Company, Annuity, Net present value, Time Value of Money and Capital Budgeting

The Context

Photo of Drew Hession-Kunz

Carroll School of Management Senior Lecturer Drew Hession-Kunz worked with CDIL to convert his face-to-face Financial Management course into a fully online course.

In the design process, he identified some of the challenges of helping students digest many new financial concepts, particularly when the concepts are complex and often not clearly defined by traditional textbooks.

Our Approach

Since graphics and visuals are powerful tools that can aid with student learning, the team began to explore ways a send of simple visual elements representing the most important concepts might help provide scaffold new learning.

We developed a set of 22 cards that provided a visual language to scaffolded student learning as they progressed through the course.

A screenshot of 22 finance cards in five rows

These cards were specifically designed to support learning in these ways:

  1. Retention: Engaging several modes of memory (not just verbal) will make it easier for students to recall terms and definitions. 
  2. Forming connections:  As students learn new concepts, the visuals can be used as a shorthand to suggest recall of connected concepts. It also inspires them to form their own connections by suggesting that these concepts live in relationship to one another. Once the fact of interconnection is established, students are biased toward looking for relationships on their own. 
  3. Reference: It creates a visual glossary that students can conveniently refer back to throughout the course.


The key concept cards became a set of touch-points and hand-offs throughout the course that help communicate concepts, illustrate relationships between ideas, and inspire new connections. 

Module Introductions

As students began each module of the course, they encountered the cards that correspond to that particular module. 

A screenshot of a module introduction page with several glossary cards under the heading "Featured Building Block"

Video Visuals

The cards appeared in videos as a way to reinforce and animate the ideas students encountered throughout the Canvas site.

Glossary of Definitions

Clicking on a card would take students to a basic definition of the term for reference with links to where it appears in the course.

The cards would repeat and reappear whenever they were relevant to the content or assignment.

A glossary page for "Annuity"

Together, the cards formed a glossary that students could refer back to throughout the course. 

A list of cards under the headings Actors, Agreements, and Measures

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