DESIGNING A HYBRID CLASS IN ACCOUNTING: HOW TO GET MAXIMUM MILEAGE?

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1 DESIGNING A HYBRID CLASS IN ACCOUNTING: HOW TO GET MAXIMUM MILEAGE? Gaurav Kumar Assistant Professor Department of Accounting, College of Business University of Arkansas at Little Rock 2801 S University Ave Little rock, AR Ph. No Fax No

2 INTRODUCTION The purpose of this paper is to present a recommended design for a hybrid course in accounting. The demand for distance education courses has seen a significant growth in the last few years. The Department of Education provides that during the academic year, 56% of all two-year and four-year institutions offered distance education courses (U.S. Department of Education 2003). This emerging method of teaching has been popularly termed as online education by various constituents. For the purpose of this paper, an online course is where the teacher and student may never have face-to-face contact and the entire course is taught through a course management software, such as Blackboard Learning System (Blackboard) or WebCT. Accounting programs have also seen a huge increase in distance education with over 200 universities currently offering some measure of online accounting coursework (Bryant et al. 2005). As this trend is relatively new, unfortunately there is not much research on how the accounting students fare in online classes as compared to traditional face-to-face classes (lecture). Sipes and Ricciardi (2006) provide an excellent comparison between an online course and a lecture course. They provide that in a lecture class, the faculty directs the student learning through classroom lectures and seminars. The teacher has a flexibility is assigning projects and papers and can provide feedback in real time. This format also allows for a healthy discussion among the students as well as the professor. On the other hand, the learning in an online class environment is student-driven, meaning, the students have to be self-disciplined and direct themselves to keep ahead of the class assignments and assessments. This is not an easy task for all types of students. The projects and assignments are all assigned through the Blackboard or WebCT and the faculty provides feedback online which lacks a personal touch. There are virtual discussion boards in online classes, however, the quality of discussion many not be the same as in a lecture. However, the online format does offer some advantages over the lecture format. The students do not have to be physically present for classes. This is an important advantage for non-traditional students who have full-time jobs and families. Moreover, they can access the material anytime, anywhere. For faculty, this format allows for more flexibility in their time management since they don t have to be physically present for a class. However, they need to actively monitor the discussion board and reply to a significantly higher number of s. For an online class, the faculty preparations need to be done before the semester starts as opposed to a lecture class, where, the faculty ideally prepares on every class day. The biggest advantage of an online class for the faculty is that the material that they design for teaching (video and audio files, notes, and slides) can be used for multiple times, therefore offering maximum mileage.

3 HYBRID CLASS As mentioned previously, there is a dearth of both empirical and descriptive accountingbased research in the distance education literature. Bryant et al. (2005) provide an excellent review of the vast literature in distance education that exists outside the accounting domain. One question that attracts heated discussions is how the performance of students compares in an online class versus a lecture class. The traditionalists view lecture class as the gold standard in higher education learning, whereas the advocates of online classes believe that the internet delivered education can improve learning performance and courses delivered online can be of similar quality to the lecture format (Sipes and Ricciardi 2006). Early research in comparing these two mediums has been inconclusive. However, Van Ness et al. (2000) revealed that students enrolled in the online class were less likely to finish the course than students in a lecture class. This study also provided that the grades earned in the online class are lower, but not significantly lower, after controlling for student characteristics. Another study by Gondhalekar et al. (2002) finds that students in undergraduate online classes get lower grades compared to their counterparts, but the year-after cumulative GPAs are not different. In my personal experience, I have noticed that online classes have higher drop-out rates and the grade distribution is not normal as compared to my lecture classes. Moreover, in an online class, it is easier for a student to miss an assignment, or a quiz, as compared to a lecture class and once a student falls behind in an online class, it is very difficult for them to catch up. Finally, I have observed significantly higher instances of cheating on assignments and exams in my online classes. Therefore, I recommend using a hybrid format for teaching, where the class meets physically in a classroom every other week and the remaining material can be taught online. The hybrid classes combine some of the advantages of online format with traditional lecture based classes. The next sections describe the process of designing a hybrid class in accounting. TECHNOLOGY This section discusses the tools that I use to design a hybrid class. I use Camtasia Studio 6, Audacity, and a converter software to convert Powerpoint files with recorded narration into flash files. Out of these software programs, Camtasia is a paid software program, which can be downloaded from the internet and it provides a free trial for 30 days. After that, it requires the purchase of license key. The other two software programs can be downloaded free of cost

4 from internet. 1 In addition, a microphone is required to record the narrations. I believe that a microphone with USB works best. CLASS PREPARATION This section describes the recommended process of designing a hybrid course in Intermediate Accounting I. This course is taught using the Intermediate Accounting textbook by Kieso, Weygandt, and Warfield (2010), which is used at a large number of colleges. This course covers Chapters one through 14 in this book. For each chapter, I have prepared a MS- Word file which summarizes the contents of each chapter. I call these Chapter Notes. In a lecture class, I provide an overview of these notes before working on the problems for that chapter. In a hybrid class, I recommend that the instructor can prepare an mp3 file with narration recorded using the Audacity software program. The end-of-chapter problems in the textbook contain Brief Exercises, Exercises and Problems. I recommend that the students do the Brief Exercises on their own and I provide them with the solutions to these. The exercises at the end of each chapter include some very basic problems and some really complex problems. It is critical for the instructor to carefully choose the problems in these two groups. For the former, a video file can be recorded with narration using the Camtasia software program. Camtasia allows the user to record narrations while working through the problems, similar to a classroom setting. Once the instructor has finished recording, Camtasia will produce a video file with an avi extension that works on a number of media players. The biggest advantage of this file is that the student can go through this recording as many times as required to understand the solution. For the other group of exercises, I recommend that the instructor work the complex exercises and problems in a live class session. Table 1 provides a recommended format for designing a hybrid class in Intermediate Accounting I. This table has been constructed assuming that the class meets every other week on one night for two hours and 40 minutes. Using this assumption, an average semester will usually have about 16 class sessions (eight live classes and eight online classes). Therefore, on average the instructor will teach two chapters every two weeks in a hybrid format. During the semester, sometimes I will get many questions over problems that are difficult to answer on a virtual discussion board. To answer those, I will prepare PowerPoint slides and record my narration within PowerPoint and convert those files into html files using the ispring software. I will then upload that file to Blackboard for students use. The advantage of this software over Camtasia is that it does not require a license key and therefore can be used on 1 Audacity can be downloaded from and the converter program can be downloaded from

5 any computer (home or work). Finally, this format allows for administration of the final exam on campus. The instructor may give higher weight to the final exam in the computation of the overall grade. TABLE 1 Session 1 st Live 1 st Online - 2 nd Live 2 nd Online 3 rd Live 3 rd Online 4 th Live 4 th Online 5 th Live 5 th Online 6 th Live 6 th Online 7 th Live 7 th Online 8 th Live Chapters Instructions for Faculty and Students Chapters 1 and - Go over the chapter notes 2 - Do problems from both of these chapters in class. Chapters 3 and - Listen to mp3 files for Notes 4 Chapters 3 and - Answer questions from Previous Week 4 Chapters 5 and - Listen to mp3 files for Notes 6 Chapters 5 and - Answer questions from Previous Week 6 Exam-1 May be fully administered online or in a hybrid (Chapters 1-6) format, i.e., half online and half in a classroom. Chapter 7 - Go over the chapter notes - Do exercises and problems Chapters 8 and - Listen to mp3 files for Notes 9 Chapters 8 and 9 Chapters 10 and 11 Chapters 10 and 11 - Answer questions from Previous Week - Listen to mp3 files for Notes - Answer questions from Previous Week Exam-2 (Chapters 7-11) - May be fully administered online or in a hybrid format, i.e., half online and half in a classroom. Chapter 12 - Go over the chapter notes - Do exercises and problems Chapters 13 and - Listen to mp3 files for Notes 14 Chapters 13 and 14 - Answer questions from Previous Week

6 8 th Online Exam-3 (Chapters 12-14) - May be fully administered online or in a hybrid format, i.e., half online and half in a classroom. Final Exam Closed Book - Can be administered in a live setting to minimize cheating - May be given higher weight in the overall grade computation.

7 REFERENCES Bryant, S.M., J.B. Kahle, and B.A Schafer, Distance education: A review of the contemporary literature, Issues in Accounting Education, Vol. 20, No.3, pp Gonhalekar, V., and R. Barnett, and D. Barthelmes Online vs. in-class: Comparison of some non-survey dimesions. FMA Online, pp.1-25 Sipes, K.A., and V. Ricciardi Online vs. face to face: Is there a difference in how accounting and finance students learn in an online vs. face-to-face setting?, Working Paper, available at U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics Distance Education at Degree-Granting Postsecondary Institutions: Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office. Van Ness, B., R. Van Ness, and R. Adkins Student performance in principles of finance: Difference between traditional and Internet settings. Financial Practice and Education, (Fall/Winter), Vol. 10, No. 2, pp

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