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State Board Report

November 2013

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are coming into accounting education, Professor Karen V. Pincus, Immediate Past President of the American Accounting Association, explained to the NASBA Annual Meeting. For the first time in September 2013 people could sign up to take “An Introduction to Financial Accounting,” presented by a University of Pennsylvania Wharton School Professor, Brian J. Bushee. The completely on-line course meets once every 10 weeks and can be listened to without charge, or for $149 Coursera will send the participant a certificate of accomplishment.

These courses come at a time when the schools of higher education are looking for new ways to cope with financial problems. While accounting students are able to find jobs upon graduation, overall college graduates are not doing as well and this is reflected in students not paying back their loans, Dr. Pincus said. Universities have operated on the same economic model for 150 years, but the states don’t have the money anymore to support them. “The accounting departments are healthy, but in a sick city,” she reflected, noting that total student loan debt now exceeds credit card debt at over $1 trillion.

“The internet is the students’ source of information – not books or newspapers,” Dr. Pincus said. The preferred learning style for the current advanced technology generation of students is 5-7 minute chunks. MOOCs were first offered about two years ago by Stanford University. While at first they were available for free, universities have revenue sharing agreements worked out for the future, she reported. New this year are SMOCs (synchronous massive online courses), which have everyone getting on at the same time. The University of Texas is running an introduction to psychology as a SMOC this year, with 1,000 students on campus participating in the pilot project. The students are charged $450 to take the course (instead of the usual $900 fee for in-state students and $3,000 for out-of-state students). This kind of course “makes the university more sound and significantly reduces the cost for students,” Dr. Pincus said.

Course providers “are hiring armies of people with masters’ degrees to be available 24 hours a day for discussion groups with students,” she said. For the accounting profession: “We could separate out the technical courses and then have the students come to the campuses for some courses. It would mean less time on campus than now.” Although she said she had no problem in having a MOOC for the “Introduction to Financial Accounting,” Dr. Pincus said that she would not like to see the “Auditing” course delivered that way. “We have to be vigilant,” she told the NASBA audience.

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