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Archive for January 2008

This is my attempt to give insights as to how the original case study (see below) evolved from its print format into the machinima version. This evolution is linked directly to the overall course design.

The course goal states:

With an emphasis on professional and ethical practice, students will gain an appreciation of the role and needs of audit professionals in business environments.


Course objectives 1 and 3 are the key targets of the first machinima that we are developing for ACCT19064:

1. given authentic scenarios, evaluate the environment within which the professional auditor operates

3. given case studies, analyse the legal liability and ethical issues, and formulate strategies using common law and ethical decision-making frameworks

Drawing from the principles of cognitive apprenticeship, we believe that enacting the workplace scenarios, and giving insights into the challenges and predicaments of an auditor provides a more powerful tool for the students, i.e. to gain an appreciation of the role and needs of audit professionals. As Bonk and Cunningham point out (1998, p. 27), we need to “anchor learning in real-world or authentic contexts that make learning meaningful and purposeful”. The machinima provides this anchor within which students can analyse ethical and legal issues involving a particular audit client, as they play the role of Audit Assistants operating within an audit team for a fictitious audit firm.

Key changes to the original case storyline

You will note in the original case that the characters are nameless and uses unimaginative names, e.g. “ABC truck”. Because our pedagogical intention is to enable the students to ‘apprentice’ into the profession and to start thinking and acting like auditors, we needed a story that delivers realistic enactments of this profession. In collaboration with Jenny Kofoed (Course Coordinator), I developed a script based on this case for the production of machinima, akin to traditional short film production. We integrated a fictitious audit firm Hird & Co into the story to situate the professional auditing environment for the main character Michelle O’Loughlin. The profiles of other characters were also carefully scripted into the story, to reenact practices of business environments in Australia.

During the writing of the script, I was cognisant of potential challenges that international students might face in the machinima environment, such as language difficulties and cultural differences. For example, the term “secretary manager” might not be as common in other cultures and, for that matter, the organisational sturcture and practices of a “registered club”. The transformation of the case was therefore highly focused on the inclusive nature of the case delivery.

The production of “The Audit Practice” machinima is currently in progress. We have produced the first three scenes, which are mostly background information for the case but also tacitly integrate ethical issues that students need to identify. I am sharing these below along with the original case study.

Scene 1 http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=mUekwt_6oGo
Scene 2 http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=zGUcNaXoepQ
Scene 3 http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=v0u-8zlEkHc

The original case study (Gay & Simnett, 2007, pp. 133-134) reads:

You are a senior auditor in a firm of auditors in a country town. The major client of the firm is the town’s largest registered club. You are in charge of the audit and report directly to the partner.With the rural recession and the move of certain industries from the town, your firm is your firm is dependent upon the continuance of the club as an audit client.

The secretary manager of the club has held this position for over 20 years, and is well respected in the town. He has worked hard to build the club from humble beginnings. The secretary manager has a strong personality and exerts influence on the board of directors of the club. The audit partner and the secretary manager are members of the same golf club and play regularly on Saturday mornings.

The club is currently undergoing major renovations with the work being undertaken by ABC Builders.

To get home you have to drive past the secretary manager’s house. One night you notice that the secretary manager is having more renovations done to his home and that there is an ABC truck delivering materials to the house. Next day at lunchtime you drive past the house and again see an ABC truck and this time there are tradespeople working on the house.

You have just commenced the year-end audit work for the club and during your vist to the club’s premises, you obtain copies of the tenders for the renovations and find that ABC was the most expensive tenderer with the director’s minutes revealing that the secretary manager convinced the board to accept ABC’s tender based on their perceived quality.

You are concerned that there may be some impropriety on the part of the secretary manager. You raise your suspicions with the audit partner, who dismisses them out of hand and says that even if there was any substance to them, what could the firm do about them.

References

Bonk, C. J., & Cunningham, D. J. (1998). Searching for learner-centered, constructivist, and sociocultural components of collaborative educational learning tools. In C. J. Bonk & K. S. Kim (Eds.), Electronic collaborators: learner-centered technologies for literacy, apprenticeship, and discourse (pp. 25-50). Erlbaum, New Jersey.

Gay, G. & Simnett, R. (2007). Auditing and assurances services in Australia. 3rd edn. McGraw-Hill, North Ryde.

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From the course evaluation feedback we have analysed, it is clear that students appreciate the blurring of theory to practice – a position which is also shared by Harrington and Oliver (2000). As such, one of the critical elements of the new learning design for the auditing course is that knowledge must be learned in context in which such knowledge will be used in real life. Business cases provide effective business contexts that can mediate authentic learning opportunities (McLellan, 1994). In its written form, however, business cases are often difficult to understand, particularly if they include large amounts of accounting data coupled with lengthy narratives to describe complex business situations. We are mindful that a large proportion (more than 70%) of the student cohorts in the auditing course are non native speakers of the English language and may find it difficult to deal with complex business situations by simply reading about them. Muldoon, Pawsey & Palm (2007) indeed found in their study that business cases became more accessible to students by combining print and pictorial representations, which made complex accounting problem solving more manageable. Equally important for this redesign, however, is recognising different learning styles and preferences.We are aware of possible authentic contexts that environments like Second Life and Alive 3D can provide in terms of reenacting authentic accounting practices that combine textual, aural and visual approaches in the delivery of business cases. However, we are also critically mindful of students and teaching staff readiness to a new learning environment and any radical transformation of delivery methods. It was these dilemmas that facilitated CDDU staff to brainstorm strategies that meet design goals for the auditing course, with the aim of overcoming identified user difficulties in rich environments like Second Life and Alive Web 3D technologies. Our design solution interestingly fitted the description of “machinima” – at the time we didn’t know that such concept existed!My next blogs will talk about our experiences in the development of The Audit Practice, which makes use of machinimas. I will share other key elements of the learning design, the idea of constructive alignment, critical design questions we have identified thus far and where we are at in the course redesign.In the meantime though, it would be great to hear ideas/experiences out there with these types of projects and/or thinking about embarking on a similar project to transform courses… care to share them with us?

References

Herrington, J., and Oliver, R. (2000), An instructional design framework for authentic learning environments, Educational Technology Research and Development, 48(3), pp.23-48.

McLellan, H. (1994), Situated learning: Continuing conversation, Educational Technology, 33(3), pp.39-45.

Muldoon, N., Pawsey, N. & Palm, C. (2007). An investigation into the use of a blended model of learning in a first year accounting subject. Paper presented at AFAANZ Conference, Gold Coast, Australia, July 1-3.

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The traditional approaches to the learning and teaching of courses within the accounting discipline have long been criticized as lacking rigours to adequately prepare graduates for the profession (Accounting Education Change Commission, 1991; Albrech & Sach, 2001; Carr & Mathews, 2002). Because of the limitations of approaches commonly found in traditional lectures and tutorials many graduate accountants cannot “integrate rule based knowledge with real world problems” (Catanach, Croll & Grinaker, 2000, p. 583) and, as Sundem (1994, p.39) points out, “the average graduate accumulates a storehouse of knowledge, but has difficulty applying it to real situations”. According to Brown, Collins and Duguid (1989), this untenable situation is a product of a didactic education system which assumes a separation between knowing (learning – “know what”) and doing (use – “know how”).
Such problems resonate with issues we have identified in the auditing course. Feedback from students’ course evaluation for instance describes some underlying course design problems, an example of which is shown below verbatim:


“If our school provide some career is better, it helpful to us. In addition, you can employ some experience auditor to come to discuss in real world. Sometime, we just got theory. Actually, we do not [in] reality know all things in real world. If you employ them, i believe it is helpful to us to understand more. And then we prepare some material and obtain more knowledge to help us in our future job.”

Deeper analysis of the whole course confirmed that one of the key pedagogic design problems was the lack of opportunities for students to apply knowledge and skills in professional problem solving situations which, given such opportunities, should raise students’ competency level. Consequently, we have also identified that our goal for the course redesign is to enable students to behave and think like professional auditors by allowing them to collaborate and identify problems through observation, have access to authentic business artifacts, and make decisions through evidence-based conclusions. If we were to “enculturate” students to think and act like auditors, the culture of the accounting profession and, in particular, auditing practice must be central to this redesign.

We have found a direct alignment between our design problem and the seminal work of Collins, Brown and Newman (1989) on cognitive apprenticeship. The idea behind cognitive apprenticeship approaches is that it attempts to enculturate students into authentic practices through activity and social interaction, similar to craft apprenticeship. The central tenet is to promote learning within the nexus of activity, tool and culture in which students are


“exposed to the use of a domain’s conceptual tools in authentic activity — to teachers acting as practitioners and using these tools in wrestling with problems of the world. Such activity can tease out the way a mathematician or historian looks at the world and solves emergent problems. The process may appear informal, but it is nonetheless full-blooded, authentic activity that can be deeply informative — in a way that textbook examples and declarative explanations are not” (Brown, Collins & Duguid, 1989).

Guided by the principles of cognitive apprenticeship, the first phase of the course redesign for the auditing course is underway and the necessary approval process for this redesign has taken place, which will be implemented in Term 1 2008.

References

Accounting Education Change Commission (1992). The First Course in Accounting: Position Statement No. Two. Issues in Accounting Education, 7(2), pp. 249-251

Albrecht, W.S. & Sach, R.J. (2001). The perilous future of accounting education. The CPA Journal, 71(3), 16-23

Brown, J.S., Collins, A. & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning, Educational Researcher, 18(1), pp.32-42Carr, S. and Mathews, M.R. (2002). Accounting curriculum change: Is it a rational, academic exercise. Working Paper, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, NSW.

Catanach, A.H., Croll, D.B. & Grinaker, R.L. (2000). Teaching intermediate financial accounting using a business activity model. Issues in Accounting Education, 15(4), pp. 583-603.

Collins, A., Brown, J.S. & Newman, S.E. (1989). Cognitive apprenticeship: Teaching the craft of reading, writing and matematics. In L.B. Resnick (Ed.), Knowing, learning and instruction: Essays in honor of Robert Glaser (pp. 453-494). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Sundem, G.L. (1994). Scholarship in four dimensions. CA Magazine, 127(3), pp. 39-44.

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With L&T funding from Central Queensland University (CQU) and support from Curriculum Design and Development Unit, I am collaborating with Jenny Kofoed, Michael Cowling and Emma Simming Zhang to redesign a core course within CQU’s Bachelor of Accounting program, ACCT19064 Auditing and Professional Practice . We are conducting a series of studies to determine if the learning and teaching of auditing through cognitive apprenticeship can provide students with engaging and meaningful learning experiences, and hope to improve reasoning, problem solving, communication and interaction, among other sets of important skills and graduate attributes, necessary in today’s business environments. We are using a design-based research approach to the iterative development of The Audit Practice, to study the impacts of a learning design that makes use of authentic business scenarios and artifacts in classroom settings through “machinimas” and team-based activities.From now and over the next few months, I will be sharing our experiences in this funded research project in my blogs, and provide insights into our design-based research methodologies. We appreciate any comments and feedback from folks about this or similar endeavours.

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