One of the greatest hurdles I have when teaching Financial Accounting is conveying to students that accounting can be engaging, really! This hurdle arises for several reasons, and I will be documenting attempts to engage my students through the use of various Web 2.0 and Web 3-D technologies here. Let’s first list the hurdles that typically need to be surpassed.
- This is a required course, thus most students are taking it because they have to (not really motivating).
- This is the 1st course (Financial accounting), thus requiring students to learn:
- A new language
- A new logic (Assets = Liabilities + Equity), which seems mathematical but isn’t – there aren’t positives and negatives
- A need to understand the inputs to a system
- A need to understand what to do with these inputs (processing)
- A need to understand what the outputs of the system mean
Let’s start with the language aspect, when learning a language say Spanish, you take a context that you already know and learn how to apply things from one context into another. So if you know what the abstraction ‘house’ is you can create a link in your mind between ‘house’ and ‘casa’. But most of my students don’t know what an ‘Accounts Receivable’ is, or for heavens sake what a ‘debit’ or ‘credit’ is. Those obstacles are not going to change anytime soon, its the nature of the course, even if one moves towards a more user oriented approach, students still require an immersion in a new language and a system they’ve never been exposed to.
One last hurdle which can be the most important and difficult to overcome is the engagement of the students. Lets face it, learning Debits and Credits and how to capture important data related to, for example, Bonds that a company issued at a discount to raise capital may not be sexy enough to motivate students to practice. There are two fundamental reasons why: First, students are not immersed enough in the context of accounting in the first course – its enough material to cover without also having them open up a business in a really meaningful way to see what all this accounting stuff is all about, and without a proper context practicing accounting is not very relevant. Taken as a whole it’s surprising to me that students are engaged at all (the non-accounting majors that is).
Enter Second Life. To keep this long post from getting any longer, Second Life is a 3-D online digital world. And because they say a picture is worth a 1000 words, I have created a short video demonstration of one possible implementation of Second Life for teaching accounting. Introducing the 3-D interactive accounting model. This model allows students to visualize the equality of Assets, Liabilities and Equity. They can interact with the model directly via chat or by writing a transaction on a notecard which is read by the accounting model. As each part of a transaction is entered the model provides feedback by saying whether the debit/credit is increasing/decreasing a particular account category. When chatting with the model only one part of the transaction can be entered at a time, thus reinforcing the notion of dual-entry accounting. As transactions are entered into the 3-D model, floating text of the accounting equation is updated so students can see if how the debits/credits are effecting the model both numerically and visually. So without further ado, the model…..
Click here for a slightly larger file, it’s a bit easier to see some of the text as I ‘chat’ with the model.
Update: The model has been selected as an effective practice by Sloan-C