Why Professors Should Integrate Social Media into Classrooms


An Interview with Kelly Richmond Pope, Ph.D., CPA, CFE, CGMA

Despite the fact that a 2016 Pew Research report shows 75% of male and 83% of female internet users are on Facebook alone, there is still a low percentage of accounting professors integrating social media into their classroom settings.

Professor Nick Bowman of West Virginia University argues in his article, “Social Media and the 21st Century College Classroom,” that social media “…could be used to both enhance learning in the classroom as well as sustain learning outside of class. That is, with a bit of technology literacy as well as a clear set of expectations for both students and teachers, there seems to be little reason to believe that social media can’t be as influential to the classroom as the video cassette recorder or even, the very invention of writing: both technologies that were challenged in their day, either by the US Supreme Court (the former) or by Socrates himself (the latter).”

As social media continues to scale to meet the needs of its audience, it has proven to be far more than a short-lived craze. Professors can harness the power of social media to share academic content with their students instantly and across multiple platforms, as well as connect formal learning environments to their students’ everyday lives. Social Media can also enrich classroom discussions while increasing student engagement.

One accounting professor who has embraced social media as a tool of engaging with students in her university classroom is Dr. Kelly Richmond Pope, CPA, CFE, CGMA, Associate Professor at the School of Accountancy and MIS, DePaul University. She and Professor Mfon Jacob Akpan, MBA, MAFM, from National Louis University presented, Incorporating Social Media in the Classroom at this year’s Teachers of Accounting at Two Year Colleges (TACTYC) conference.

After the event, we were able to reach out to Dr. Pope to gain more insight on how she has successfully bridged classroom academics with real world scenarios by employing social media platforms to engage her student audience.  

Roger CPA Review:  Dr. Pope, what or who inspired you to go into the field of accounting and what was your motivation to concentrate your studies specifically in fraud?

Dr. Kelly Pope: My father inspired me to go into the field of accounting. He was the dean of the School of Business North Carolina Central University in Durham, N.C. I took my first accounting course as a ninth-grader at Charles E. Jordan High School in Durham and always felt that understanding accounting was important in every area of business. I chose fraud because fraud is where accounting breaks down. I thought fraud was a more interesting way to get people excited about the power of understanding the accounting discipline.

RCPAR: We’ve spoken to many accounting professors in various focus groups over the last few years and a couple of pain points that seem to continually surface amongst them is a) how to inspire students to major in the accounting field, and b) how to keep accounting students engaged in the classroom setting. How do you approach both challenges in your classroom?

KP: The best way to engage students in accounting is not to talk about accounting as much, which is weird to say, but instead bring some of your outside interests and passions into the classroom and show them how accounting is everywhere. Far too often we focus on the accounting course, so in a course like Intermediate Accounting, an instructor will generally focus on accounting concepts and not link those concepts to every day life. If you go out and buy a car, consider bringing that car buying experience story into the classroom to share with your students. You can talk about leasing and lease accounting.

Professors must stop being so focused on theory and lean more towards teaching how accounting theory impacts our every day lives. Remember, most students are bored. You can’t expect a student to be excited if you’re approaching the topic in a dull and boring way.  

RCPAR: Speaking of inspiration and engagement, you were a co-presenter at TACTCY in Austin, Texas, this year with professor Akpan on the topic of “Incorporating Social Media in the Classroom.” With Social media being such an ingrained part of today’s society, how do you use social media as a learning tool and prevent it from being a distraction in your classroom setting?

KP: As professors, we must realize that today’s students are dealing with different issues than they might have been dealing with ten years ago. Unless you’re working with a traditional population of unmarried 18 to 21-year old students with no children and who have healthy parents that are paying for their college experience, most students need to have access to the outside world in class, especially during a 3-hour class.

I don’t ban mobile phones from my class. It’s impossible to ban phones or social media in this day and age, especially when people are wearing smart watches. Students are getting emails on their arms! Banning devices and social media in the classroom is outdated thinking. I use social media in the classroom as a way to bring other people into our classroom conversations – reporters, thought leaders, actors and hosts of television shows. Social media is a great way to increase engagement in a way that students find interesting.

The minute you walk into your classroom and don’t know what your students are using, whether it be Snapchat, Twitter, or Instagram, you’re dating yourself and making them feel that you’re obsolete. Embrace social media as a tool. I don’t understand why we are having conversations about not having social media in the classroom. It’s the currency of the day. There is a great deal of valuable Information that is exchanged via social media channels. Whether you like it or not, this is where we are. Professors need to figure out how to embrace it and use it.

Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen predicts that as many as half of American universities would close or go bankrupt within 10 to 15 years due to online education, therefore, innovation is key., The traditional university classrooms must be an enriching experience for students. When you have the face-to-face interaction time with your students, you must be using that time to change lives and empower students. You just can’t do that from a traditional lecture and PowerPoint slides.

RCPAR: You recently directed the feature film, All the Queen’s Horses. It’s extremely exciting to see a professor step outside of academia and use their knowledge and expertise to influence and address current challenges in their field of study. What inspired you to make this film?

KP: I integrate not only social media into my classroom, but also consider other media as well.  I have a company I started 5 years ago, Helios Digital Learning, and we develop educational content using video stories. We have a team of people who we use to develop content, so when I heard the story, I thought it would make a great documentary. The team started traveling back and forth to Dixon and that’s how All the Queen’s Horses was born.

RCPAR: As a professor, researcher, film maker, and public figure, how do you balance your academic life with your outside passions and do you use your success at doing this to motivate your own students?

KP: I put in the effort to try to achieve balance by blending my interests in accounting, television, film and fraud into what I do every day. It’s interesting to see how your college major can merge into other fields such as filmmaking.

When students think accounting is boring, they must think about the skill set they are acquiring and how it will impact their lives. The impact might not be immediate and sometimes you don’t notice it until much later in your career. But being a CPA is a very special thing. You are an important business advisor, it’s something I don’t take lightly, and I hope I show through my own experiences that accountants can do anything; even be filmmakers.

Watch the trailer to Dr. Pope’s current documentary, All the Queen’s Horses, which chronicles the largest municipal fraud in U.S. history:

A big thanks to Dr. Pope for the time she took to speak with us for this interview.


Kelly Richmond Pope is an Associate Professor in the School of Accountancy and MIS at DePaul University in Chicago, IL and founder of Helios Digital Learning, Inc. She received her doctorate in accounting from Virginia Tech and is a licensed certified public accountant and certified fraud examiner. She worked in the forensic practice at KPMG, LLP on anti-money laundering engagements, insurance fraud investigations, and fraud risk management projects.

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