There is a great shortage of some professionals like chartered accountants, while the standards of the professional body are relentless in denying the unsuitably qualified. Low pass rates in the first year challenge Higher Education’s eventual delivery of adequate numbers of candidates in order to balance the book of supply and demand.
In this paper we outline the results of the research that informed the design and piloting of new teaching initiatives in Financial Accounting, the rationale and instructional design principles behind them, and briefly describe the approaches aimed at increasing the success of first-year students.
At the end of 2010, the Department of Financial Accounting sought to uncover the reasons for the unacceptable attrition levels in the first year. Research entailed semi-structured focus-group interviews with students across all levels of achievement. Students also completed a questionnaire consisting of both open-ended and structured questions. The results of this mixed-method investigation were triangulated with a larger longitudinal study of student expectations and experiences in the Faculty.
One of the most salient findings was that students had unrealistic perceptions of the subject. What they learnt at school did not prepare them to think wider and to solve problems. Students eschewed the lecturers’ recommended approaches to solving problems because of ill-perceived expertise (based on high marks at school). Students also underestimated the importance of studying the theory of accounting before attempting solutions. The findings of this research provided the second research question that called for learning innovations to address those. The lecturers therefore provided a wish-list that constituted the third research question, namely how to design and implement in a learning management system the required educational innovations.
Some of the initiatives that were designed primarily for implementation in the learning management system (LMS) are • a clickable mind-map of all the courses in the 4 years of study, explaining how they articulate horizontally and with the next academic level
• a scrolling banner and pop-up windows reminding students to study their theory before attempting problem-solving
• online glossaries of terms explaining subject terminology in lay language
• a weekly multiple choice test with explanatory feed-back
• online tutoring questions-solving in the Discussions.
Implementation of the newly designed Accounting pilot course is taking place during 2011 with about 120 students, with some of the practices already being replicated in other classes in this Department.
Paper presented at the Design, Development and Research Conference, 23 September 2011 to 27 September 2011, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town.