Integrating Technology and Business Process Analysis into Introductory Accounting Courses

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The last decade brought tremendous changes in how business is conducted, in the U.S. and globally. The last decade similarly witnessed tectonic changes in the practice of accounting, worldwide. As a result, there have been several calls for change to accounting education. In the late 1980s and early 1990s the mission of the Accounting Education Change Commission was exactly that: to encourage and facilitate curriculum change. A plethora of subsequent surveys and studies culminating in Albrecht and Sack's (2000) seminal work Accounting Education: Charting the Course through a Perilous Future repeatedly pleaded for change or threatened market obsolescence. The AACSB, the premier business and accounting accreditation body, notably revised its standards also emphasizing mission-based strategic planning and energetic continuous curriculum improvement.

As mentioned specifically in the Albrecht and Sack (2000) monograph, one area where the need for change is especially acute is incorporating information technology. It is in this area that we direct subsequent comments and analyses. Many universities have begun initiatives to implement changes to incorporate technology into their programs. For example, the SAP website identifies over 400 universities that have joined their university alliance program to help introduce Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software to their students. However, our experience shows that many universities have struggled with how to implement such major changes to their courses and curriculum--even some who have joined a software alliance. This is because change necessarily involves costs: financial costs and, most importantly, personal costs--and there are few guarantees of success. In the technology area, accounting faculty have observed the costs to be especially high and confidence in success, low. This is in part due to the fact that relatively few accounting faculty have an extensive background in technology, and thus change implies a personal investment in re-education and development for most--for which rewards are unclear.

Given that the costs are potentially high, what can be done to reduce the costs? Reflect first that many of the costs have receded significantly over the last decade. In a recent study, Haistings et al. (2003) surveyed 150 accounting department chairs. No longer do these chairs score the following items as significant impediments to curriculum innovation in technology:

   Pedagogical Goals
   Technology Infrastructure
   Administration's Support
   Software Availability
   Economic Feasibility

The remaining major impediment to technology integration in accounting curricula is lack of Faculty Expertise. There are too few technology-savvy faculty to carry the load, and there are equally few "in-process" currently in doctoral programs. In this environment, it becomes critical to use existing resources wisely, and not repeat mistakes of the past. A best-case scenario would find currently technology-savvy faculty working together to develop course materials that other non-, or less, technology-savvy faculty could deploy in classes. The costs are simply too high for each institution to have to "go it alone" and develop and frequently refresh course materials.

Fortunately, University Alliances established by software vendors have removed some impediments to integrating technology into the curriculum. They all make the software available to Alliance universities, and in some cases the vendors even provide (or subsidize) technology infrastructure, both of which have reduced the costs of implementing major software products. Although these initial efforts allowed some schools to begin integrating IT, each institution tended to develop its own materials, at the cost of its faculty and staff. These efforts were significant, and so even some Alliance universities were unable to successfully integrate IT into their courses. …