Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

At first glance, this blog post appears to be fluff put forth to get a chuckle or laugh from you. There is a serious side to it, though.  Social media should be a subject of keen and intense interest for all financial professionals, be they out working or still at college.  Opinions, thoughts, ideas can go viral in this social media world.  Memes are one such channel for these opinions, thoughts and ideas.

In this blog post I exhibit a collection of memes on studying for tests.  Working professionals probably remember taking their own exams.  Current professors and students are now in crunch time just prior to final exams.

As defined by Merriam-Webster, a meme is “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.”  In 2012, many of us think of it as an image or video passed from one social media user to another.

The study of memes is important, because memes open a window into the popular culture.  Memes that spread quickly reveal what a large number of  people think or believe.

I am an accounting professor, and what students think is of interest to me.  I performed Google image searches on key words related to studying.  Google results are structured to reveal the most clicked on images first.  All images presented in this blog post are thought to be in the public domain.

Most of these memes convey what older generations have called gallows humor.  Those who are about to be hanged are somehow able to find humor in their situation.

A consistent theme running through the various memes is that studying is painful.


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It’s official, I’m a flipper. The Accounting Today commented on my work in flipping the classroom. I’ve been doing it for years, predating the 2007 figure in the image below. In this post, I explain what is flipping the classroom.

What is a flipper? I’m not talking about the dolphin named Flipper. Nor am I talking about a 1920s flapper, nor a basketball flopper.

In a flipped classroom, students study theory at home and come to class for the how-to. To give the students the theory (and the why), professors digitize their lectures (usually via video or audio). Students are supposed to study these.
Now to present an infographic by Knewton and Column Five Media that does a fine job of summarizing the approach.

Flipped Classroom
Created by Knewton and Column Five Media

Flipping the classroom works well in college, and it works great in collegiate accounting courses. It is the foundation of my becoming a master teacher.

by David Albrecht

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Professors across the the country and around the world struggle with fighting student distraction in an age of BYOD (bring your own device).

In the following clip, a student goes retro in a very funny way.

I’m old enough to have been there and done that.

by David Albrecht

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Cheating.  About 99.9% of humanity does it at one time or another. It’s common in education.  It’s common in business.  It’s common everywhere.

Accounting is one profession where honesty and integrity is part of the job description.  Yet, cheating exists.  A friend, former accountant and CFO Sam Antar, orchestrated much of the splashiest fraud of the 1980s at Crazy Eddie. Accountant cheating, as in financial statement manipulation, is pandemic.

In my surfing, I came across a website with this catchy banner:

Pic credit: WeTakeYourClass.com

WeTakeYourClass will take your on-line class and guarantee at least a grade of B.  It says it will get you an A 99% of the time. It specializes in taking math, business and sciences.  It specifically mentions accounting.

It is frustrating for me to know that while I spend my life trying to teach students to do the right thing, there are people trying to get them to do the wrong thing.

Pic credit: WeTakeYourClass.com

The site claims to get a student an A about 99% of the time, and it also claims to be risk free to the student. Are they being honest about cheating?

A comment to a similar story at Carpe Diem says, “I … found out that there are many sites that offer this service. One quotes a fee a low as $695 for grad level courses and only $430 for undergrad economics courses.”  Hey, that’s affordable.

If you are a student and are reading this, please don’t do it.

I prefer F2F classes where a student can look you in the eye while he/she cheats.  It’s more honest that way.

Thanks to Jim Ulvog for the tip.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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A meme is an image or recording packaged in such a way as to communicate a message or capture the fancy of those who see/view/hear it.  It is communicated via the Internet.   Their explosive impact has come of age in today’s social media world.

A few minutes ago I received an e-mail from Auntie Bev, into which she had pasted several meme images.  One caught my eye, and I’ve since been able to determine that it’s a true viral phenomenon, posted to thousands of blogs and Facebook accounts.

I’m not sure about the message of this meme.  Perhaps it is that some cheaters are unstoppable.  Or, masterful cheating is admirable.  Perhaps the message is that because cheating is unstoppable, it’s OK to do it.

Using my screen capture utility, I have snipped the following image from another viral meme.  It delivers quite a different message.

I suppose the message for this one is that opportunistic cheating is everywhere.  Or, it might be that cheating is due to teacher carelessness.  Whatever, the meme is funny.  Darn kids.  If this one would only try to learn as much as he tries to cheat.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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In early May, one of the concurrent sessions I attended at the American Accounting Association Ohio Region Conference was “Using Video Podcasts and Other Technology to Provide Instruction Outside the Classroom.”  It featured David Randolph and Wendy Tietz.

The session was divided into two 45 minute presentations that revolved around flipping the classroom.  I last wrote about flipping the classroom on January 6, 2012, in, “Turning the Accounting Classroom Upside Down.”

David Randolph, Xavier

David Randolph (Xavier U) made the first presentation.  He first reviewed, “Flipped’ classrooms take advantage of technology,” a USA Today article on flipping the classroom.  He then reflected on his flipping experience at Xavier.


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Lycoming College is a small liberal arts college of 1,400 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.  It has published an online game that is designed to teach students about what is plagiarism.

Called Gobin Threat, it is an entertaining way for students to learn what is plagiarisms and how to avoid it.  The game takes no special skills or knowledge.

It is appropriate for undergraduate students, and I will require astudents to view it prior to writing term papers for me.

Link to Goblin Threat Plagiarism Game

The Goblin Threat game was created by Mary Broussard with assistance on question writing from Jessica Urich.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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Andrew Martin and Andrew W. Lehren write “A Generation Hobbled by the Soaring Cost of College,” a story in today’s New York Times.  It is a sobering, yet fascinating read.  The topic is relevant for all Americans, not just families, and employers, of today’s college students=.  It leads me to call for an end the 150 semester hour educational requirement to sit for the CPA exam. 

The educational debt bubble seems positioned for a loud and messy pop.

Accrued student loan debt is over $1 trillion USD.  Large numbers (60-80%) of students graduate with a bachelors degree and holding $20,000-$40,000 of student loan debt.  If a student pursues a graduate degree, debt soars quickly because colleges have cut much of their financial assistance for graduate education.  Total student debt exceeds credit card and other consumer debt.

I see the impact of this debt on a daily basis.  My accounting students during college  struggle with the emotional impact of accumulating so much debt.  It is normal for students to have two or three part time jobs, which adversely impacts their ability to study and learn.  Many opt for getting required education (150 semester hours to qualify for CPA) at the less expensive undergraduate level instead of pursuing a more expensive masters degree that would provide more educational benefit.  At Concordia College, over 90% of graduates leave college with over $30,000 in debt.  For a typical American college student, adding a MAcc or MBA would likely add $30,000-60,000 to the personal debt level.

To a large extent, the problem today exists because society no longer wishes to shoulder the burden of providing collegiate educations to its citizens.  State legislators have cut massive amounts of aid to public colleges.  Colleges and universities have responded with increased prices and decreases in scholarships and aid.  It is unlikely that even outstanding students today will receive adequate financial assistance for graduate school.

Yet, educating one citizen benefits all of society.  Providing the capable with a college education increases the productivity and wealth of us all.

What needs to be done to fix the problem? It would be nice if the USA was wealthier.  It would be nice if the USA was not crippled by an overwhelming and debilitating national debt of its own.  But the USA is not as wealthy as it once was, and it is facing a national debt which it may be forced to default on in the intermediate future.

We need to scale back educational requirements for the CPA.  Historical analyses show the push for the 150 hour requirement came mostly from collegiate accounting programs.  For sure it was self-serving.  Requiring accounting students to enroll and pay for more classes keeps highly paid accounting professors employed.  There is some benefit from a masters education in accounting, but the USA can’t afford it, anymore.  I call on fellow accounting professors to initiate the effort to rescind the 150 hour requirement.

It is customary for accounting firms and corporate employers to skimp with low salaries for entry level positions.  Another potential fix for mitigating the problem would be for employers to help shoulder principal payments debt.  It would be more palatable if these payments were tax deductible.

But other than these two potential solutions, there are no cheap or agreeable fixes.  Any solution will require large amounts of real money, and that money is already allocated for other purposes.

What do you think?  Do you have a solution?  Please leave a comment.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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It is end of semester time across the country.  For a lucky few professors, finals ended early and tests/papers are already graded.  For the rest of us, pain awaits.

At this time of year, there are two types of professors.  The first type uses multiple choice questions on tests.  The grading process is easy:  take a pile of scantron sheets to the data center, leave them, go to coffee shop and read paper, return to data center to pick up summary sheet with each student’s grade.   They laugh at the second type of professor (of which I am a charter member).

The other type of professor wouldn’t be caught dead using multiple choice tests, because they believe multiple choice tests actually work against learning.  These professors have essay tests, problem tests, projects and term papers.  This is where the grading problem starts.

Students are tired by the end of a semester.  Occasionally one turns off his/her brain during week six.  However, by week 15, the din of flicking switches to the off position has reached a deafening crescendo.

In this blog  post, I’m pasting a few cartoons by Jorge Cham, Ph.D.  He has been drawing cartoons depicting the grad school experience for nearly two decades.  His cartoons are copyrighted, but may be used by bloggers if they provide attribution and a link back to his site.  His extensive archive of comics can be found at PhDComics.com.

The first cartoon I’m showing captures one aspect of grading–the assigning of partial credit.  The theory goes that surely a student who has sat in class after class has picked up something, so should be due some sort of partial credit for the partial understanding in his/her brain.  Right.

I don’t assign negative points, but there are times when I’ve been tempted.

The second cartoon shows the instructor’s frustration after grading many tests, all of which required assignment of partial credit.  The joy, the relief, of a good answer truly lifts the soul.  Several times I’ve graded my own answer sheet! After a while they all look the same.

The third and final cartoon shows the instructor’s mental pain when depression sets in.  You doubt this?  Don’t.

Jorge Cham, Ph.D., has a terrific sense of humor.  You can sign up for e-mail alerts that arrive every time he draws another cartoon.  You can also buy products, such as t-shirts, books and the PhD Movie.  http://phdcomics.com

Happy finals!

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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Intermediate Accounting students from Concordia College threw an end of the year party earlier tonight. The class social committee (Ian and Rachel) chose Buffalo Wild Wings as the host establishment.

The theme of the party was to say goodbye to ProfAlbrecht, who is leaving Concordia College at the end of the school year.  The adding machine cake was baked by Barb Torgerson of Classic Cakes & Catering.  It tasted as good as it looks.

Good luck, Prof. Albrecht. We’ll miss you.

I’m not sure exactly why my students chose to make the effort, but I’m glad they did.  In this world, there are far too many instances when we have an opportunity to say thanks, but don’t take it.  My Intermediate Accounting students are good people, and with this party reminded me of the positive impact that good people can have.

It has been my privilege to have been a teacher to Concordia College students in general, and to this group of Intermediate Accounting students in particular.  As so often is the case, the teaching has gone in both directions.  I’ll share a few memories of lessons learned from this group of students.

It is easy for a professor to ask questions of the class at large.  The students who “get it” respond with a good answer, and the professor can feel good that someone benefited from the teaching efforts.  This group of students, though, really appreciated it when we would go around the classroom and each (and every) student would have to answer a question when it was his/her turn.  By this, the class reminded me that education isn’t just for the smartest students, but for all the students.  I was impressed with how students weren’t embarrassed by making errors.  The end product, for them, was the lesson eventually learned.

One memorable aspect of the two semester class was when two of the students were unable to continue from fall semester to spring because of schedule conflicts.  I offered to teach the two during the evening, in a class section of two.  They accepted, and by so doing gave me a chance to relearn and recommit to what education is all about.  Both told me that they weren’t looking for a guided independent study, where the focus would be on the material.  They wanted a regular class where the focus would be on process, logic and thinking.  Moreover, I was to do this with no tangible reward, the class was “off the books.”  It was only about them being two students in need of learning, and I could help make that happen.  A few other students eventually joined the two, and we all had a special time.  The informality of the class gave me an opportunity to observe how the students worked together to learn the material.  Learning, for them, was not always a solo experience.  It also reminded me of the value of friendship and camaraderie.

And, I need to say thanks to the two, for each bought me a meal in appreciation.

Dividing the class gave me a chance to tailor the classroom experience to the needs and desires of the individual students in each group.  And that was cool.

As the year progressed, they persuaded me that they could do better on tests if they used their laptops, just like a regular class when they used MS Excel to take notes.  In turn,  I gave the students the flexibility of scheduling their tests at favorable times for them.  Not everyone had to take the test at the same time.

At the party, students could earn extra credit if they took a second piece of cake.

Hey, gang. I will miss you.  I enjoyed the party. We’ll have to do it again, sometime.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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There are a lot of misconceptions about social media usage in higher education.  In a similar fashion, there are lots of misconceptions about controlling costs in higher education, or in controlling healthcare costs in America.

from Mashable Social Media

When President Obama talked about controlling costs of higher education in his recent State of the Union Address, he really was talking about the prices charged by educational institutions.  If the President had been concerned about controlling costs (money spent in instructional or business operations), he would have discussed whether to use more non-tenure track faculty to decrease wage expense, or reining in the administrative bureaucracies that have been created to deal with government imposed reporting mandates, or in revising the priority of resources directed toward not very valuable research and publishing.  I would find these alternate discussions more interesting and useful than controlling prices.

When Senators and Representatives talk about controlling healthcare costs, they really are talking about the prices paid by citizens, their insurance companies, and the government.  If they really were concerned about controlling healthcare costs, they might debate the value of billions spent in reimbursement paperwork, or the tests performed by physicians mindful of potential litigation, or perhaps on limiting or increasing the availability of healthcare to certain segments of our society.  I would find these alternate discussions more valuable than controlling prices.

Likewise, when journalists and bloggers write about social media usage in higher education, they usually are talking about social media marketing.  Oh, they could be talking about using social media in the classroom, but they usually aren’t.  They could be talking about adoption of social media by professors as they pursue their responsibilities in research & publication or service.  But they aren’t. I would find these alternate discussions more interesting and useful.

The media focus seems to be on the use of social media by colleges and universities to recruit students, as shown by the infographic from Mashable Social Media.  The sad reality is that social media usage in higher education tends not be applied for other reasons.   There is increasing interest by professors in using social media in the classroom.  However, my experience is that professors use social media to replace outdated or stale applications.  They don’t use social media in a truly innovative fashion.  And finding a new breed of professor–a social media savvy professor–is next to impossible.  Schools simply wouldn’t know how to use and benefit from such a creature.

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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In this article I review and comment on a recently published study about patterns of grades assigned by professors.  the study reports that currently, 43% of the grades assigned in college are As (in private schools, 49% of all grades are As).  The trends reported provide evidence in support of a theory of grade inflation.

Should this issue matter to accountants that read The Summa?  Yes.  College grades and GPA permeate the profession.  A collegiate education, with a degree in accounting, is a fundamental requirement for becoming an accountant.  The largest accounting firms (please note that I did not say the best, or top, accounting firms) require a minimum GPA for the opportunity to interview.  Traditionally, this GPA has been 3.50, but anecdotal evidence suggests that this threshold is rising.  Accounting professors categorize students by GPA and only give scholarships and recommendations to the students with the best grades.  Moreover, memories of academic adversity and its overcoming (or not) die hard.  Decades later, I remember the grades I received in every accounting course.  I also remember the scores received on many tests and papers.


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