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Assoc Prof Seow Poh Sun has spearheaded numerous technology-enabled learning tools during his career. (Photo: Getty Images, Anya Berkut)
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Transformative Education

Transforming accounting education in a digital age

Published on 23 May 2022

As digital technology continues to transform the world, it is clear that the traditional model of accounting education needs to change.

The digital generation is used to interacting with their surroundings, and expect their learning experiences to be similarly engaging. To motivate digital natives, accounting education must move away from its reliance on one-way lectures, dusty tomes and rote learning, and embrace gamified, interactive approaches that mirror the real-world environment.

Seow Poh Sun, SMU Associate Professor of Accounting (Education) and Associate Dean (Teaching and Curriculum) has undoubtedly done just that, by constantly embracing new modes of engaging his students.

Recently recognised as the first recipient of the European Accounting Association (EAA) Accounting Education Excellence Award, Associate Professor Seow has spearheaded numerous technology-enabled learning tools during his career.

He co-created the world’s first mobile-gaming accounting app, the SMU Challenge App, which has over 40,000 downloads across 90 countries, and Red Flags Accounting Fraud, to help students learn ways to identify accounting fraud.

In addition, he has designed three online e-Learning tutorials; Resource-Event-Agent (REA) Data Modelling, Business Process (Revenue Cycle), and Business Process (Expenditure Cycle), to teach Accounting Information System (AIS) courses. The REA online tutorial received the 2018 Outstanding Instructional Contribution Award from the American Accounting Association Teaching, Learning and Curriculum Section to recognise his development of original instructional materials.

“I view technology as a tool to help students achieve certain learning outcomes,” explains Associate Professor Seow.

“Technology-enhanced learning can help to better engage students in their learning process. But at the end of the day, teaching is about motivating and inspiring students to be curious and excited about learning. I believe that learning becomes a joy if I can ignite their interest to pursue knowledge.”

Game-based learning is one such approach that has proven to be highly effective in engaging digital learners. By adopting such methods, accounting educators can encourage students to interact with concepts in a fun and challenging way, helping them develop a deep understanding of key principles.

The SMU Challenge is a mobile trivia game app that allows faculty to upload questions for students to answer. Primarily played by students outside of class time, it can be employed to review concepts. The also app includes a leader board that ranks the student’s performance against that of their peers.

Associate Professor Seow, a self-professed Liverpool fan who has seen his football team top the table in recent years, believes the competitive nature of the app motivates students to aim for higher scores and thus increase their level of participation. 

“I was also challenged by a friend who claimed that accounting is ‘boring’ and that it would be hard to develop a game for students to study accounting,” adds Associate Professor Seow.

“As almost every student nowadays has a smartphone, I saw the potential for mobile learning. Game-based learning has gained popularity among educators in recent years. It makes learning fun and livelier and people learn the best when they are having fun.”

And while some educators had to scramble to master video conferencing tools during the pandemic, Associate Professor was ahead of the game, having already leveraged the interactive potential of videos to encourage active learning.

He had received feedback that the topic of internal controls —procedures and policies implemented by a company to ensure the accuracy and completeness of its financial reporting — is dry, especially when taught from textbooks and lecture slides.

“Thus, I was motivated to design a project for students to produce their videos on internal controls to increase their interest and better understand internal controls in their everyday life,” he adds.

“The video learning approach is an engaging way for students to be self-directed learners and complements the written materials in the textbook. In addition, students must comment on videos produced by their peers, and bond as a group while making the videos. I feel that this approach facilitates collaborative learning.”

Each group was required to create a video related to internal control, capped at three minutes. Students can choose any format for the video, such as acting, using the GoAnimate software to create animations or Videoscribe for whiteboard-style animations. Besides creating the videos, students were required to identify the learning objectives and craft a discussion question on a forum to facilitate collaborative learning.

As such, videos serve as a visual medium to bring principles to life as “seeing is believing”, and help reinforce concepts learnt in textbooks and encourage stimulating discussion.

The video-learning project was awarded the 2020 Howard Teall Award for Innovation in Accounting Education (First Prize) by The Canadian Academic Accounting Association. Associate Professor Seow was the first faculty in Asia to receive the award.

Having co-developed two online tutorials for students to learn about revenue and expenditure cycles, he is now exploring the use of augmented and virtual reality technologies so that students can visualise and understand business processes in an immersive experience.

“Education is about the holistic development of an individual,” shares Associate Professor Seow.

“Therefore, mentoring is important. Outside the classroom, I offer my support to mentor students and share my life experiences with them. I aim to help students find their strengths and develop to their potential. I have witnessed students grow and mature and feel very privileged to be part of this amazing journey.”