The Big Data revolution has changed nearly every aspect of business, and the seismic shift has been felt throughout the accounting profession.
Accounting students still need to know the fundamentals like tax law and accounting standards, but nowadays they also need to have what Margaret Christ, an associate professor in the Tull School of Accounting, calls “an analytics mindset.”
“The analytics mindset is a framework for teaching students to thrive in a technology-driven profession. It’s modeled after the scientific method and entails the ability to ask the right questions; extract, transform and load relevant data; apply appropriate data analytics techniques; and interpret and share results with stakeholders,” she said.
The American Accounting Association awarded Christ and her co-authors this year’s Innovation in Accounting Education Award for creating a curriculum that supports the development of “an analytics mindset.” The award was presented in August at the AAA’s annual meeting, held virtually.
Christ worked with accounting professors at Brigham Young University and Arizona State University along with the EY Academic Resource Center’s representatives to draft a framework of competencies and skills needed in the modern accounting firm, supplemented by a series of 27 case studies they curated to help students practice applying advanced data analytics tools to realistic accounting problems.
“The competency framework provides more structure for how this mindset is applied in the accounting profession and offers a framework for teaching technology,” Christ said. “The cases cover multiple technological tools, and they often provide multiple versions of the solutions for different technological approaches to the case problems.”
The cases include datasets that can be edited and analyzed in multiple software platforms.
Because the EY Academic Resource Center supported publication of the case studies and curriculum materials, it has been widely adopted by accounting faculty. To date, the resources have been used by 3,700 faculty members at 870 institutions in 41 countries, including in accounting courses at the Terry College of Business.
“Today’s accounting graduates must be able to think about how data can help solve problems, how technology can help improve decision making, and how technology can improve business processes,” Ann Dzuranin, a distinguished professor of analytics in accounting at Northern Illinois University, wrote in her nomination letter supporting Christ’s award.
“If we are to evolve as a profession, we need to find a way to accelerate the process of change in academic programs. To this point, I believe the educational materials that have been developed by the EY Academic Resource Center team have substantially helped the accounting academy meet the demand for new skill development.”
Christ shared the award with Scott Emett of Arizona State University, David A. Wood of Brigham Young University, and Jason Guthrie and William R. Titera, both with EY.