Adding an Accounting Component to a Computer-Based Interdisciplinary Exercise: Descriptive Results

Article excerpt


Educators and accreditation organizations have recently been extolling the value of interdisciplinary education in business. Often, students work in a single-major vacuum and do not see the inevitable working relationships that are established within a company. Interdisciplinary experiential exercises are one way to show students what other majors "bring to the table" in terms of skill sets and complementary information.

The exercise detailed in this paper began 10 years ago. Marketing, advertising, and public relations classes joined to participate in a computer-based business simulation. In time, it became obvious that the students involved had little understanding of the accounting procedures that form the structure of a business. Building financial statements for a viable business plan was an exercise in futility. The program needed to add an accounting component.

The simulation exercise described in this paper incorporates a number of suggested learning strategies. This paper details the experiences gained when an accounting component was added to an interdisciplinary simulation that previously incorporated marketing, public relations, and advertising students. Some of the background material and results of the first ten years are provided (prior to adding the accounting component), but the focus is on the benefits realized when adding the accounting component in the eleventh year. The objective is to provide accounting instructors with a case study of an interdisciplinary teaching experience, to show how simulations and small group work might facilitate this process of integrating accounting into such an experience, and to provide an overview of a working model.

This paper also details the pedagogical theories underpinning such an endeavor. The advantages for the accounting majors are detailed. In addition, procedural issues are addressed allowing any accounting educator to devise a similar exercise.


Several important themes have converged in recent years to impact the landscape of accounting education: the demand for student core competencies that extend beyond the mechanics of accounting to include communication skills, problem solving and critical thinking skills, and social interaction skills (; the introduction and widespread adoption of instructional technologies (Leidner & Jarvenpaa, 1995; Massy & Zemsky, 1995; Chickering & Ehrmann, 1996; Butler & Mautz, 1996; Hagen et al, 1997; Hein & Stalcup, 2001; Karakaya et al., 2001; Rankin & Hoass, 2001; Basile & D'Aquila 2002; Milliken & Barnes, 2002; Parikh & Verma, 2002); and a focus on what constitutes "good practice" in undergraduate education (Chickering & Gamson, 1987; Newlin & Wang, 2002). This paper presents some ideas on how a computer-based, interdisciplinary exercise can be used to leverage good practices in accounting education and improve core competencies of undergraduate accounting students.

One of the objectives of accounting educators is to supply job-ready accounting graduates who possess a skill set demanded by the profession. This objective is addressed by identifying core skills and by formulating strategies to develop well-equipped students. Subsequent to the 1989 Accounting Education Change Commission (AECC) report, accounting educators have been striving to address these changing needs within the accounting curriculum. At the same time, instructional technology has entered the educational arena, providing opportunities to enhance the undergraduate experience through a wider array of learning media.

In 1916, John Dewey wrote in Democracy and Education that education should be alive and involved. He believed that knowledge is linked to experience but that mere activity does not constitute experience. In other words, learning has both passive (learning the connections) and active (learning the consequences) components. …