There was a major turning point in traditional academic settings during the Spring 2020 academic term as COVID-19 swept the nation. Academic institutions, professors, and students had to quickly adapt and switch to a virtual exchange of both teaching and learning remotely. This unplanned and immediate shift in educational priorities has been difficult for many professors and students.
Bay View Analytics recently conducted and released a survey entitled, “Perspectives: COVID-19, and the future of higher education,” that polled over 800 U.S. higher education faculty and administrators from over 600 different institutions. The goal of the survey was to get a better understanding of how higher education faculty and administrators mitigated moving to a wholly remote teaching environment. According to the survey, “The sudden shift from face-to-face instruction to distance-learning has been disruptive, forcing a sea of change in behaviors and practices in academia.”
Key take-aways from the survey report provided the following responses from faculty:
- 56% reported using teaching methods they had never used before,
- 48% reduced the amount of work they expected students to complete, and
- 32% lowered their expectations for the quality of student work.
Transition to Remote Education: An Accounting Professor’s Experience
We had the privilege of interviewing online teaching expert, Dr. Veronica Paz CPA, CITP,CFF, CGMA, Associate Professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. While Dr. Paz understands the struggle accounting professors and their students might be facing with remote teaching and learning during COVID-19, she was able to provide some helpful tips on how they can easily transition their methods, especially before the Fall 2020 academic year begins.
Luckily for Dr. Paz, the shift to online teaching has been virtually seamless because her curriculum has always been mostly online. She built a free educational accounting-resource hub for her accounting students and colleagues on her professional website, DrVPaz.com. She offers Principles of Accounting, Upper-level Accounting, Accounting Information Systems, Forensic Accounting, and Graduate courses all online. When COVID-19 hit, Dr. Paz quickly moved to a more asynchronous learning environment by reducing her synchronous course options.
She also thinks it is extremely important to have open communication with her students. She polls her students to find out their concerns about the course, when they want to have their online sessions, what they need from her to be successful for the remainder of the semester, and to find out how students are managing school and life, overall. She modifies each course based on the student surveys, polls, and recommendations. Each group of students from each course has different requests and requirements. Some students only want lectures and simulations while others want more hands-on learning.
And, like one-third of the faculty respondents in the Bay View Analytics Survey, Dr. Paz also realizes that her expectations on her students’ work needs to shift, especially for those students who are working on the front lines as essential workers. Dr. Paz states, “It’s really important to communicate with your students at this time, not only to ensure they are safe, but to make sure they are in a good space mentally.”
For those accounting professors struggling with the online teaching transition, Dr. Paz recommends the following tips to make the transition easier:
- Embrace technology. Learning to embrace technology aids in the transition from in-the-classroom to online teaching. Dr. Paz abundantly uses video in her virtual classrooms. She creates weekly videos about upcoming lessons, provides feedback to students using video, and has now modified most of her assignments into videos. She started to embrace technology years ago and learned to love it, especially data analytics, AI, and is starting to experiment with using podcasts as a teaching tool. She even incorporates technological platforms into her curriculum that will be used in real-life business scenarios once the students move into their careers.
- Communicate with your students. Dr. Paz emphasized the importance of making sure students get what they need from their learning experience. The surveys she provides to each class helps her find out how her students want to receive their assignments. She continually polls them to ensure she is meeting their learning expectations throughout the semester. It is not a “set it and forget it” scenario. She believes open communication and dialogue are vital for a successful online learning student experience.
- Go paperless. Dr. Paz has all her accounting resources easily accessible online for anyone to use. She stated, “You would never hand a piece of paper to your CFO, you would hand them a file. So, I use Dropbox for my students to send me their assignment files.” Capturing your teaching notes and assignments in a virtual file center makes it easier for both students and professors to access when needed, especially during times like this. This goes for grading assignments, too! Create short videos providing feedback on assignments so students can refer to the feedback when reviewing their work.
- Be creative with your curriculum. While Dr. Paz uses videos heavily in her curriculum, she also knows that her students all have different learning styles. She creates different modalities to keep things exciting and incorporates different ways of teaching and communicating in each virtual classroom. She also tries to add interactivity and reflection activities into her curriculum each semester. Mainly, she encourages students to ask questions, communicate their needs, and to really own their work.
There are many online teaching resources for accounting professors to use when making the transition to virtual teaching. The American Accounting Association has an Online Teaching Resources page filled with teaching tools, videos, webinars, sample online accounting courses, and articles from other accounting professors helping professors transition to online teaching. Dr. Paz has articles on the AAA Online Teaching Resource page and has also dedicated a section of her Website to helping her colleagues with the transition. The Transition to Online Teaching section of her site provides several videos and resources to help professors with online tools, tips, and tricks to move their curriculum online.
How Accounting Professors Can Help Each Other Through This Transition
Dr. Paz reminds us that we are all in this together. She encourages other professors to reach out to their colleagues and their professor network for help. She believes that if there is a willingness to learn a new way of teaching, there is a way. Dr. Paz’s final words during our interview about COVID-19 and the current academic situation are, “Look for the silver lining and new ways you can be a better teacher for your students.”
A big thanks to Dr. Paz for this interview and for providing insight, resources, and feedback to our audience about virtual teaching.