Given that this is August and nobody is around to be properly interviewed for this post I have decided to undertake a reflection on my first 11 months at hosting a continuous entry course on a technically challenging topic being ACCT 3231 – Income Tax 2.
A little background on this course. Over the past several years, all designated accountants in Canada have been combining into a single organization under the banner of Certified Professional Accountant (“CPA”) and CPA British Columbia was officially recognized in 2015.
In order to begin a career as a CPA, students are expected to have completed studies on a range of topics at the undergraduate level. On campus in Kamloops, we undertook in the Department of Accounting and Finance in the School of Business and Economics to align our course offerings so that TRU students could graduate ready for direct entry to the new CPA program. This was further expanded to include the same offerings via Open Learning and thus the creation of this course was a result of that process. Also, not all institutions in British Columbia offer the taxation courses and students utilize the Open Learning offerings to complete these requirements remotely.
Finally, a little note on my background to complete the preface to the discussion. I achieved my CPA, CMA designation in 1991 after completing 4 years of evening studies while working at a full time career. I have trained and mentored a large number of clerical staff, achieved an MBA in 2003 and have taught several courses leading to the exams for achieving an accounting designation.
So how does one create a “sense of community and connection” under such circumstances?
I have yet to find a cohesive answer on this one but it has been at best a “hub and spoke” type community with myself as the hub. I have been suspicious of moving away from this as the assignments have common answers and there is a strong risk of answer sharing amongst weaker students. This results in high assignment marks but low final exam results.
The majority of my work has been reactive in nature. My initial attempt at being proactive was met with a level of cynicism and scorn as several learners were feeling “pressured” by a single email. As such, I now focus my efforts on those who are active in the course and respond to them promptly.
Despite my desire to see every student succeed in Accounting, there are many who will fail and not complete this goal. It could range from insufficient capacity to immaturity or an inability to commit to the steep learning curve that is required to achieve success. Whatever it is, it can create a mismatch in student expectations and reality which can be irreconcilable.
Therefore, I am still looking for a way to succeed beyond the “hub and spoke”.
What strategies for facilitating the process of critical inquiry have you used?
I give what I call “honest” feedback to help them form appropriate judgement and approaches to the course material as much of it will be utilized in the CPA program and in their working career. If a student misses on a calculation, I guide them through the process of where their error occurred. I encourage students to break questions down into steps to solve and relate these steps back to items learned in prior courses.
This course relies on the student reading and honestly attempting the recommended self study questions. If the student has difficulty with a question, I expect them to contact me to further discuss.
What have I struggled with?
- Mark centric focus – as you can well imagine this is a competitive environment an high achieving students expect to always achieve top grades. Too many institutions and instructors cater this to maintain high evaluation scores and student ratings as a way to stay in business.
- Lack of control – I am a control freak. Continuous entry and non paced classes seem to have no controls as you have a diverse set of individuals at different steps and expectations.
- Incorrect presence – students associate me with the course material and exams developed by another OLFM. The only other similar experience I have had with this is the accounting designation course which was consistent across Canada, extremely accurate and proven to be error free.
- Who’s on first? – I have had a steep learning curve primarily by trial and error on determining what my role is or isn’t under certain circumstances. I want to respect and maintain the integrity of courses and those on the development and maintenance side of the operations by not messing things up on Blearn.
Take away from this reflection
As I always have done, I keep trying to find the best way to deal with any endeavor I undertake. I believe in order to achieve that in this there needs to have the following happen in this course:
- Matching of students – a formula such as those who registered between date a and b or wish to complete the course by mm/yy are given a link to communicate with each other
- Deadlines – not just the complete the course by but rather Assignment 1 is due by dd/mm to allow for follow up from myself