In this article, Wendy Tietz, CPA, CGMA, Ph.D., associate professor of accounting at Kent State University, shares her innovative methods for using technology in the classroom. It is adapted from a version that first appeared in the April/May 2015 Journal of Accountancy.
I teach Introduction to Financial Accounting, which is usually the first accounting course anyone takes. I don’t like to start out a new class with bullet points about abstract concepts. I want things to be fresh and real. So I illustrate accounting principles with news stories about real-life companies.
I’ll give a short lecture—we’re talking five minutes or so—about, for example, treasury stock. I’ll say, “Here’s what treasury stock is,” and talk about why companies might buy back their own stock. I’ll then launch into a story about a real-life company and its treasury stock. Most recently, I used Samsung Electronics as an example. I told students, “Samsung recently announced that it would be buying back $2 billion of its own shares. Why would Samsung want to do that? What happens to its balance sheet when it buys those shares?” Then we had a lively discussion about treasury stock.
Accounting can be like a foreign language to students the first time through, but stories about real companies like Samsung help them see that accounting isn’t just for accountants—that this material affects everyone. A lot of my students aren’t even business majors. They’re fashion majors and sports administration majors, but these stories help them see how accounting issues in a company might impact them.
I aggregate the news stories I use in class in a blog called Accounting in the Headlines. Twice a week I write a short article on a news item from the popular media, recasting it in accounting terms. The blog is my offering to other accounting educators. They’re welcome to use it in their own classes. I hear from my colleagues that they do use it. In fact, my husband is an accounting professor, and he uses the stories in his class.
My class is delivered in a unique way. It is pretty exciting. My classroom holds more than 200 students. In addition, a large number of students attend my class online through my live broadcasts. These students see a small video of me during class, but they also see what’s on the screen like PowerPoint, Excel, or whatever tool I am using. If I draw on the screen, they see that too. They can hear my voice.
It’s not just a one-way broadcast. My graduate assistant runs a chat room where students can ask questions and interact with us online even though they are not physically in the classroom. Class is recorded so that my students can go back and review it.
To make class more interactive, I can send questions to any web-enabled device students have: a smartphone, tablet, or computer (Editor’s note: Tietz uses Learning Catalytics from Pearson Education). After I discuss a topic, I send a question to students’ mobile devices about it, testing to see if they understand this concept. When I close the question after students have answered, a graph shows up on the students’ devices that shows the distribution of answers and the correct answer. If many students don’t answer the question correctly, then I know I need to discuss the topic a little more. The immediate feedback lets me know when I can move onto the next concept. It also helps engage the students with the material. How many students in a 200-person class do you think are going to sit there without their phones in their hands? Why not embrace that technology to make it part of class instead of fighting it?
It’s a whole new world. It is very different to teach live online than it is in person in a traditional face-to-face class. I’m drawing on the best of both worlds to teach this class.
—As told to Sheon Ladson Wilson, a freelance writer in Durham, N.C.