Accounting is the language of business and a sound business education requires students, regardless of their majors, to be at least conversant in it. Even, or perhaps especially, those who aren’t accounting majors need to understand basic accounting principles.
The struggles persist as students work to move from the initial accounting course to Intermediate Accounting, which is required of Finance majors as well as Accounting majors. Faculty members Jennifer Cornett and Lisa Miller noticed “big gaps” in performance among the roughly 600 students moving into the second course, Mueller-Phillips says, which led to a “boot camp” approach aimed at bolstering students’ grasp of fundamentals.
“The first course is tough enough, but many students were really struggling in the second course,” she says. “The faculty members saw the need for an intervention.”
That came in the form of an intensive review of the material taught in the first course, delivered in three-hour sessions over three nights. “We believe it is helping students,” Mueller-Phillips says. “Students are grateful that these faculty members are spending this time with them to help them be successful.”
As valuable as these sessions are, faculty began to recognize that that their utility could be enhanced with technology that makes the review and instruction available to students any time and repeatable as many times as a student needs to solidify understanding of the material. “Interactive presentation can be more appealing than textbook or lecture presentation, especially for students who learn better with interactive materials,” she says.
The idea was pitched to accounting giant KPMG, which provided a $250,000 commitment. Combined with a Harbert Matching Grant, that established the KPMG Endowment for Instructional Excellence.
Harbert’s Media Production Group is developing the material for the boot camp program.
Students in the initial accounting course can benefit from the boot camp as well, Mueller-Phillips says. “After about the midway point of the first course, this can be helpful to those students. It can help them pass finals, for example.”
KPMG’s investment in the School of Accountancy is also an investment in its own future, she says. “This gets students—their future recruits—off to a good start.”
For those who wonder why students who don’t plan to be accountants should study accounting, Mueller-Phillips says it’s about decision-making. “To make good business decisions, they need to understand basic accounting, how the dollars relate to the decisions they’re making for the company. A lot of decisions come down to accounting information.”
You have to speak the language.