How faculty can learn emerging technologies

Try these tips for low-cost ways to keep up with the latest tech.
By Sean Stein Smith, CPA, CGMA, DBA

Technology is permeating nearly every aspect of the accounting profession. To effectively prepare students for a fast-moving business landscape, faculty are having to grapple with learning new information and tools and integrating those materials into their courses. In some cases, they and their students are learning about new technologies simultaneously.

Digesting all this new material can prove a challenge given the heavy demands on most educators’ time and the fact that many departments have limited budgets for continuing education. As someone who has recently transitioned from a full-time practitioner role to a full-time tenure track role, I fully understand these challenges. Here is some of my best advice for learning about new technologies while under time and budget constraints:

Integrate what you’re learning into your class. This is the best advice I can offer to any faculty member seeking to increase his or her knowledge of an emerging technology tool. Integrating emerging technology into courses will require you to be an active participant in the learning process. Ideally, educators will know enough to be able to point to current market examples of how the tools are used, connect news headlines to course materials, and integrate exercises leveraging these technologies into class discussion.

Establish a plan, and get a learning buddy. Emerging technologies may seem like mysterious forces only understandable to a select few, but that is not the case at all. Any new skill or body of information requires consistent effort to acquire, and keeping well-informed about blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and software is no exception.

The best way to learn about new technologies is to establish a plan and stick to it. Pairing up with a learning buddy will help keep your efforts consistent and on track during the year. Every educator gets busy, has deadlines, and has a variety of other obligations, so having a learning companion to check in with during the busy times can help keep the learning going.

You may also want to team up with a practitioner for co-teaching or guest teaching. Work through a member of your accounting department’s advisory board, local business council, or state CPA society to identify volunteer subject-matter experts. Don’t dismiss opportunities to conduct these sessions virtually through video chat.

Try these free and low-cost resources in your classroom. Budget constraints are a fact of life at almost every institution, but there are still low-cost ways to integrate emerging technologies into your classroom. Here are just a few suggestions:

  • The film Banking on Bitcoin, a documentary available on Netflix, includes commentary and appearances by many of the most prominent earlier adopters of cryptocurrency. Students might find it easier to digest than what could otherwise be dry technical material.
  • BitcoinExchangeGuide, a well-known hub for bitcoin and cryptocurrency news and information, has a comprehensive listing of free and low-cost resources for enthusiasts of all levels.
  • Khan Academy and Udemy offer introductory videos, as well as other resources available for students to use.
  • The Big Four offer educational case studies and data sets free of charge.
  • The AICPA’s Go Beyond Disruption podcast series features experts discussing topics such as cybersecurity, blockchain, and the skills accountants will need to succeed alongside automation.
  • This cryptocurrency ICO Whitepaper Database presents the technical and business case for dozens of cryptocurrencies.

Take advantage of AICPA resources. The AICPA has made significant strides in producing content and materials focusing on blockchain (including industry-specific content), robotic process automation, and cybersecurity, just to name a few. Though these certificates and programs do come with a cost, at some schools you may be able to apply for or advocate for reimbursement.

Build technology items into your daily news routine. Use tools such as RSS feeds or programs such as Flipboard, Feedly, and TweetDeck to curate your own lists of content. You can also subscribe to customized news alerts on technology from organizations such as the AICPA, Deloitte, Bloomberg, and numerous others.

The reality is that no one has expertise on all of the emerging technologies that are swarming the accounting and educational landscape. Many educators will have to shift their mindsets and think of themselves as learners just as much as teachers. These tips can help you to do that.

Sean Stein Smith, CPA, CGMA, DBA, is an assistant professor at Lehman College in New York City. To comment on this story, email senior editor Courtney Vien.

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