Magazine article The CPA Journal

Embracing Technology in Education: Considering Options and Outcomes

Magazine article The CPA Journal

Embracing Technology in Education: Considering Options and Outcomes

Article excerpt

Along with the rest of the world, the accounting profession relies on technology. All large, medium, and competitive small CPA firms are striving for a paperless environment, where the entire staff works on computers utilizing software, electronic storage, and the Internet. In addition, CPAs have access to online tutorials, staff training, and continuing professional education (CPE) classes.

Technology has allowed professionals to be more productive. So if technology is appropriate for the workplace, why does it encounter resistance in the education process? Perhaps a better question is: should the profession continue to resist it or should we drop our defenses and embrace it?

The Transformation of Learning

The authors' own experiences as students confirm that a great teacher makes the learning process more interesting than simply reading a textbook, even when the materials are fairly straightforward and the textbook is well written. Once the concepts become more complex, it is imperative for a teacher to explain and demonstrate the intricate details, particularly in mathematics, chemistry, and accounting courses. The need for interaction and the ability to see the student's body language increases with the complexity of the course work.

Some students are visual learners who prefer to see the knowledge demonstrated, whereas others are auditory learners and need to hear the new subjects discussed; still others are kinesthetic learners who need to experience and feel the knowledge. The profession's opinions about online university educations are likely based on practitioners' learning styles and their experience with technology. Today's children have grown up familiar with hand-held computer devices for watching cartoons and playing video games. Many restaurants offer online games, social media access, and Wi-Fi. Parents need to stay abreast of the technology, understanding social media and texting as a means of communicating with their children.

According to the Pew Research Center, as children age, they become quite skilled at sending text messages on their phones as they move through their day (Amanda Lenhart, Rich Ling, Scott Campbell, and Kristen Purcell, "Teens and Mobile Phones," April 2010). Students might spend more time browsing the Internet and chatting through instant messages and social network sites than they do studying for and attending class each week. Has this environment created more visual learners who no longer see the benefit in a live teacher? Are they correct?

The American Council on Education reported that as many as 78% of university students work either part-time or fulltime while attending classes. A survey of undergraduate accounting students at the University of South Florida, SarasotaManatee, where the vast majority of students hold jobs and attend school primarily late in the day, revealed that more than 75% of the students prefer to enroll in online classes.

The popular press has suggested that major public and private universities benefit from the demands for online classes in terms of both enrollment and revenue. Economic critiques of higher education suggest that online learning is a solution to the ever-increasing costs of education. Implementing online learning provides another benefit Ivy League universities with nationally recognized professors can become accessible to a larger number of students worldwide. In July 2012, the University of Virginia joined Stanford University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, Duke University, and 10 other schools in offering courses worldwide through Coursera, an organization that provides free courses. These courses are in addition to the schools' offering of their own online courses.

For the past 20 years, employers and academics alike have found young CPAs' communication skills lacking, and all regard mis skill as essential for a successful career. Research has shown that students generally perceive communication skills as far less important to successful careers in accounting man practicing CPAs and employers do (Elsie Ameen, Sharon M. …

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