Level up your accounting class with these tech tools

These teaching tools liven up both in-person and virtual classes.
By Courtney L. Vien

Apps and other forms of technology can be more than just bells and whistles: They can add a sense of fun to a classroom, increase students’ engagement with the material, and introduce future accountants to the emerging technologies they will encounter in the workplace. During the 2020 AAA Annual Meeting, many faculty members shared their experiences using tech tools in the classroom, with most observing that these tools translate well to both in-person and virtual classes. Here are a few apps and other tools faculty found especially useful:

A faculty-created website packed with Excel tutorials and podcast episodes

Ben Trnka and Boz Bostrom introduced BenandBoz.com, a website they created to share resources for students taking financial accounting classes. The goal of the website, they stated, is to provide materials in a variety of media so that students with different learning styles could choose the ones that work best for them.

“A unique aspect of these resources,” Bostrom said, “is that they involve the voices of two faculty members, who engage and play off each other in a way that connects them with their audience.” Since it launched two years ago, the site has received almost 20,000 pageviews from viewers in 38 countries, Bostrom said.

The site, which is free to access, contains 12 Excel tutorials on basic skills ranging from formatting and printing to functions such as SUMIF and VLOOKUP. Each tutorial consists of a video around 15 minutes long, plus a template.

BenandBoz.com also houses 12 narrated PowerPoint videos on financial accounting topics, as well as 12 episodes of The Ben and Boz Show, a podcast in which the professors expound on real companies’ financial situations.

Ben Trnka, CPA, is an assistant professor of accounting and finance and Boz Bostrom, CPA, is a professor of accounting and finance at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minn.


An illustration of how machine learning can assist in audits

Allen Blay uses the app CountThings in conjunction with a case from the EY Academic Resource Center to help students see how machine learning might impact the accounting profession. The case, called Bryan’s Amazing Animals, asks students to use software to count the number of sheep in a flock in an overhead photo taken by drone.

Blay has students perform the count with CountThings, which uses machine learning to automatically count objects in a photo or video. The app can make it easier to count things that it would be difficult to do manually, such as logs in a pile, bacteria on a petri dish, or animals in a herd. Students then read auditing standards around inventory and discuss whether the standard would permit the use of drones and counting software. They also talk about the pros and cons of counting sheep manually and using software to so, and about how different stakeholders might view the use of such software.

CountThings offers free educational licenses to faculty; contact the company for details.

Allen Blay, CPA, Ph.D., is an associate professor of accounting at Florida State University in Tallahassee.


A tool to encourage all students to weigh in during lectures

Jill Mitchell uses clicker system GoSoapBox in her classes to encourage broader participation. The system allows students to submit questions anonymously during lectures, which makes it easier for more reticent students to ask questions. Instructors, however, can see which students made which comments, enabling them to address inappropriate comments if necessary or know which students are struggling with a concept.

Students can also see the questions their classmates have posted and upvote the ones they most want to have answered, letting instructors see which issues her students are most confused about or intrigued by.

Instructors can also use GoSoapBox for quizzes, polls, and discussions. The app is browser-based, so it will work on most devices. It’s free for small classes, but there is a fee for larger classes.

Jill Mitchell is a professor of accounting at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Virginia.


A lively alternative to the traditional discussion board

Veronica Paz, Christina Olear, and Timothy Creel discovered that social learning platform Flipgrid was a fun way to interact with students. Flipgrid, a free Microsoft app, allows faculty and students to post short videos in a designated, private space called a “Topic.” Students can comment on their instructors’ and classmates’ videos, making the app function as a discussion board.

Students can use Flipgrid to record their own videos including features such as emojis, text, gifs, media clips, and backgrounds. Faculty can review students’ videos before they go live. Paz, Olear, and Creel reported that students enjoyed using the app and that it helped develop their presentation skills.

Veronica Paz, CPA/CITP/CFF, CGMA, DBA, is a professor of accounting at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, in Indiana, Pa. Christina Olear, CPA, is an accounting lecturer at Penn State Brandywine in Media, Pa. Timothy Creel, CPA, is an assistant professor of accounting at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn.


Tools to create mind maps, flowcharts, and animations

Sid Bundy uses two programs, Miro and Doodly, to make “mind maps”: flowchart-style illustrations of concepts. Miro is an online collaborative whiteboard, and Doodly is an app that helps users create animated videos in a hand-drawn style. Bundy has made some highly creative videos with the apps, including one that likens audit sampling to surviving the zombie apocalypse.

Mind maps, Bundy said, help visual learners grasp the connections between the parts of a process or concepts. Students appreciate the approach due to its similarities to turn-by-turn navigation, a technology they’re already very familiar with, she said.

Miro offers users three free collaborative workspaces, allowing groups of students to work virtually together on the same map at the same time, Bundy said. Doodly costs $39 per month for the basic level.

Sid Bundy, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of accounting at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, Tenn. View her AAA presentation on mind maps here.

Courtney Vien (Courtney.Vien@aicpa-cima.com) is a senior editor on the Magazines and Newsletters team at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.


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