Academic journal article Issues in Accounting Education

Using Hypertext in Instructional Material: Helping Students Link Accounting Concept Knowledge to Case Applications

Academic journal article Issues in Accounting Education

Using Hypertext in Instructional Material: Helping Students Link Accounting Concept Knowledge to Case Applications

Article excerpt

We studied whether instructional material that connects accounting concept discussions with sample case applications through hypertext links would enable students to better understand how concepts are to be applied to practical case situations. Results from a laboratory experiment indicated that students who learned from such hypertext-enriched instructional material were better able to apply concepts to new accounting cases than those who learned from instructional material that contained identical content but lacked the concept-case application hyperlinks. Results also indicated that the learning benefits of concept-case application hyperlinks in instructional material were greater when the hyperlinks were self-generated by the students rather than inherited from instructors, but only when students had generated appropriate links. When students generated inappropriate concept-case application hyperlinks in the instructional material, the application of concepts to new cases was similar to that of other students who learned from the instructional material that lacked hyperlinks.

INTRODUCTION

Two fundamental goals of most education programs are: (1) to enable students to acquire knowledge about the concepts of the discipline, and (2) to cultivate the ability to use that knowledge to solve real-world problems. Although these goals are compatible, many commentators have argued that, historically, an inordinate amount of attention in accounting instruction and testing has been given to students' acquisition of concept knowledge rather than their application of that knowledge (Albrecht and Sack 2000, 2). (1) The purpose of the research reported in this paper is to determine whether an instructional intervention that emphasizes the linkages between accounting concepts and cases will enable students to better apply their concept knowledge to new accounting cases.

The instructional intervention that we examine is the linking facility that is enabled in hypertext. (2) We believe that this facility can be used to highlight the linkages from specific accounting concepts to relevant case facts. Previous research in accounting education has speculated that hypertext linking could be used to enhance student learning (Phillips 1998, 124), but no studies have been conducted to test this speculation. We believe that hypertext linking can produce substantial learning effects particularly in the context of case-based learning by helping students to "see" (literally and figuratively) the linkages that exist when concept knowledge is applied to solve unstructured cases. In this context, hypertext linking serves two purposes. First, it presents an "affordance" (Gibson 1979) that visually indicates an opportunity for action (Jacobson and Archodidou 2000), whereby learners are prompted by the technology to become engaged in viewing linked units of information, or in creating linkages themselves. Second, when used in case applications, hypertext linking can reify or make explicit the conceptual or deep structural aspects of knowledge (Jonassen et al. 1993), which are so often overlooked when novice learners attempt to connect concepts with cases and transfer that knowledge to new situations (Gentner 1983).

The research reported in this paper makes several important contributions. First, our study is one of the few in accounting to provide empirical evidence about whether student learning is enhanced by using mechanisms embedded in educational technology. Despite the abundance of educational technology applications in accounting classrooms, e.g., multimedia presentations, online textbooks, real-time interactive dialogue and testing forums (American Accounting Association 2000), few have been subjected to empirical testing (Bryant and Hunton 2000, 152). Further, our study is also the first in any field to assess whether student-generated hypertext linking can foster greater learning than instructor-provided linking. …

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