The future of accounting education has arrived


The accounting profession quickly adapted to digital online learning at the onset of the pandemic, and the transformation continues to deliver many benefits

When the pandemic sent the world into lockdown, the accounting profession quickly embraced digital learning solutions to safely educate and test their members and students. Several professional designation exams have moved online using digital monitoring programs, while in-person lectures, workshops and educational events have all gone virtual.

Accounting associations around the world have taken action. The Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW) has introduced remote monitoring for its Associate Public Accountant (ACA) qualification exams and learning material published digitally on a ‘library’ online (saving 262 tonnes of paper). In December 2020, Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) partnered with a local education technology platform to deliver exams directly to 25,000 applicants online each year. More recently, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) launched a new interactive learning application, allowing students to view previously recorded lectures and download lecture notes and assignments. Here in Canada, the profession is developing a new skills grid that defines the framework for the future development of digital education and the types of skills that CPAs will need to acquire for the future.

Almost two years later, the digital transformation of accountancy education shows no signs of slowing down. Keen to take advantage of the improved accessibility and flexibility offered by virtual learning, professional accounting bodies and organizations are increasing their investments in online education like never before.

Accountants are eager to learn new skills that will better prepare them for a digital business landscape. A survey conducted in November 2020 by the UK-based Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) found that while 57% of those surveyed had no knowledge of coding, 40% expressed an interest in learning. All respondents wanted to learn to code at some point over the next three years, according to the survey. “Not all professional accountants may need to code, but even a basic understanding can add value to their organizations, help them differentiate themselves and open up future career opportunities,” says Narayanan Vaidyanathan, responsible for the future of ACCA companies.

The new map explicitly incorporates the skills sought that will allow CPAs to interpret historical data to create value-added impacts

As part of CPA Canada’s foresight initiative, the CPA Competency Map Working Group was created last year with the mandate to determine skills such as coding, among others, that CPAs will need. in the near future. “The profession has recognized that the world is changing and as a profession we need to change with it to stay relevant,” said FCPA Tim Jackson, Chairman of the CPA Skills Map Task Force and CEO by Shad Canada.

To create a forward-thinking skills map, Jackson and his team, which includes representatives from industry, academia and the public sector, began with a blank page approach that met the changing expectations of customers and parties. stakeholders of what a CPA can and should provide. . “Accountants have always been involved in validating historical data,” he says, “but the new map explicitly incorporates the skills sought that will allow CPAs to interpret historical data to create value-added impacts they want. work for non-profit organizations, government or the private sector.

Building on an ethical mindset and foundational professional skills in areas such as organizational behavior and sustainability, the Competency Map (CM) 2.0 has been expanded to highlight the importance of sub-foundational skills, such as as diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as emerging and transformative skills. technologies, including artificial intelligence, intelligence augmentation, and distributed ledger technology. “Our goal is an evolving map that is neither prescriptive nor dogmatic. So even if the core and sub-core skills remain the same, the rest of the map may evolve as the world around us continually evolves, ”says Jackson.

The first version of CM 2.0 was released for viewing in July, with the final version due for release this winter. But CM 2.0 is only the beginning of a journey that will continue with the profession’s current Certification 2.0 project. “CM 2.0 is the driving force behind the development of new training and certification programs that the profession will put in place over the next several years,” said Tami Hynes, Vice President, Pre-Certification Training, CPA Canada. “This next phase will see CPAs and certification experts working together to translate the CM 2.0 vision into reality.

Similar efforts are underway in the world of accounting. Over the past year, new educational programs and programs that emphasize forward-looking skills, such as digital literacy, have been introduced or announced by professional accountancy bodies in several countries including India, l ‘South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Earlier this year, the UK’s ICAEW even incorporated data analysis software into some exams, “allowing students to explore and query ‘real’ client data for their response,” helping them demonstrate their analytical and interpretative skills.

In the United States, the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA) recently released its CPA Evolution Model Curriculum, a sample guide designed to provide educational institutions with a plan to update their programs and course offerings. for future CPAs.

The new program was created following a national survey conducted by the AICPA earlier this year that revealed a major learning gap, said Jan Taylor-Morris, senior director of AICPA, academic in residence. . The survey asked accounting department heads at educational institutions across the United States if their programs covered increasingly vital technology topics such as predictive analytics and numerical sense. Of the eight subjects included in the survey, only two (data analysis and IT audit) were taught by more than half of the participating schools.

“We are in the midst of a transformative change that will modernize education as we know it”

“The survey results clearly showed that we need more accounting programs to help students receive training in emerging technologies, like blockchain and machine learning, that are changing the way we practice our profession.” Taylor-Morris said. She helped write the program as AICPA’s Academic and Student Engagement Team Leader, in partnership with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). The 91-page CPA Evolution Curriculum Template, available free online, will serve as a potential guide for educators, as well as a framework for competencies assessed in upcoming CPA exams.

Investments from professional accounting bodies are part of an unwavering boom in digital education – the market is expected to grow into a $ 108 billion global industry by 2026. Educational publishing giant McGraw Hill has grown at double digits year over year in 2021, with 1,400 campuses in the United States alone participating in its programming. McGraw Hill’s digital learning platform for higher education institutions, Connect, has seen student enrollment increase by 27% in 2021, with more than six million currently enrolled globally.

This remarkable growth coincides with digital innovations driven by the challenges and limitations imposed by COVID-19. In Waterloo, Ont., Tech company Maplesoft harnesses intuitive artificial intelligence software to help high school and post-secondary students (as well as researchers from Google organizations at NASA) solve advanced math problems. In Montreal, Paper Education Co. Inc.’s instant messaging platform seamlessly connects tutors to up to one million students in the United States, helping it become one of the software companies to fastest growing in Canada.

“We are in the midst of a transformative change that will modernize education as we know it,” says Hynes, who adds that she is excited about the new capabilities and skills that the next generation of CPAs will bring to the profession over the course of time. decades to come. . “CM 2.0 offers a broad and relevant view of what a modern professional accountant will look like and gives aspiring accountants the tools to answer key questions:” Why am I interested in this profession? What does he offer? And where will that take me? “she said.” We still have a lot of work to do before we know exactly where [the Competency Map] will take us, but it’s just inspiring to be a part of this visionary, profession-wide change.


Find out more about the Competency Map working group. Plus, learn how CPAs prepare to manage big data and learn about CPA Canada’s Certificate in Data Management program.

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