Reasons for the limited use of software in accounting training

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A majority of accounting schools, across the world, continue to provide their teaching without the assistance of accounting software. Although most companies use software to keep their accounts since decades, students continue to practice with paper and pen and when entering the labour market, will have to be trained anew by their companies, in order to use modern technological instruments.

The limited use of technology for the training of accountants is a well known problem in throughout the world. This situation is considered to be a regrettable one by all the actors, including the schools themselves and the urgency to solve the problem is increasing with the advancement of modern technology.

A study carried out in the United States in 2017 very well documents the situation (An Examination and Analysis of Technologies Employed by Accounting Educators, Alan I. Blankley, David S. Kerr, Casper E. Wiggins). The authors point out that accounting software is used in only 9% of classes for Bachelors of Accounting.

In other teaching environments, such as in architecture, engineering, software development, graphics and videos, the situation is completely different. Students use the most recent versions of software from the outset of their studies. Students will be prepared for the new digital reality upon entering the labour market and are often more advanced technologically than the companies hiring them.

Lack of studies on the lagging use of technologies

We have been unable to find any in depth studies, that analyze the motives that prevent a wider use of technology in accounting training. Very often this delay is attributed erroneously to a lack of willingness by schools to adapt their own training courses.

Evaluating the motives for this delay in using IT tools will be the first step towards deal with this topic correctly. Below, we list what we believe to be the main reasons for the current situation.

Wrong criteria in the choice of accounting software

Schools tend to opt for software used in the labour market in their various educational environments. Excel is generally used for spreadsheets, Photoshop for photography, Archicad for architecture.

All accounting software are based on the double entry method and are very similar in terms of accounting aspects and functions. Schools and teachers are thus directed towards the most widely used software in their relative countries. Hence, it is assumed that the software used in the company is also suitable for teaching. Unless you wish to take a course on a specific software, this approach is flawed as it does not take into account the differences between the requirements of a teaching environment and the priorities for businesses. Not all accounting software are suitable for teaching. Schools must adopt a more determinate strategy, by defining the criteria that need to be applied to the selection process so as to base their teaching on an informed choice.

Accounting training remains largely theoretical

As with other subjects such as law and medicine, accounting training, is strongly oriented towards the building of a methodology and presupposes the assimilation by the student of a whole series of theoretical knowledge. The medical student must first understand how the human body works and only then, will he go into practice. Similarly, in accounting, the teacher provides with framework of knowledge that allows you to understand the business cycle in a company. The difference between third party capital and equity capital requires specific legal knowledge. The registration of a sale with VAT presupposes the explanation and knowledge of how the value added tax works. The same is true for income, capital or other taxes. Understanding how a depreciation of a fixed asset takes place, presupposes knowledge of the life cycle of an asset and of the different methods to calculate the depreciation.The central part of accounting training is relevant to providing students with the theoretical knowledge, which will then lead to the means by which a chart of accounts is set up and how transactions are recorded in accounting.

While learning, accounting software allows you to speed up calculations, have an easier perception of the links between operations and overall results, but will always require theoretical training.

High school students do not have a practical knowledge of how a company operate, how money works, what taxes are.
In accounting training, concepts are explained first and then how they are translated into accounting language.

Arithmetic differences between manual and computerized accounting

The theoretical bases of accounting have remained unchanged, even after the advent of computers, but the way in which computers organize data and make recordings is different from the manual method.

Double entry accounting is based on the Debit = Credit equation.
To simplify and speed up calculations, accounting software use the same equation, but formulated in a different way, where Debit -Credit = 0. This difference has very important logical and practical consequences. In manual accounting, Debit and Credit use different columns and are always positive. Computers use a single column instead, and the values of Debit are positive, while those in Credit are negative.

All accounting books refer to the manual way of keeping accounts and explain how an account card works and calculate the balance and profit with the "T" (Debit on the left and Credit on the right). Computers manage account cards and calculate the balance and profit with a different approach. The theoretical explanations applicable to manual accounting are not in line with the computerized one.
Recording operations with a computer and using accounting books, based on the manual method, makes understanding more difficult. If you use accounting software, you should also change the accounting books and the theoretical approach to teaching accounting mechanisms. You will not change more than 500 years of tradition of how accounting is explained to students in an instant.

Lack of IT infrastructure

Not many schools have classrooms equipped with computers and when there are, they are used for various other subjects, making availability difficult.
Managing computer rooms and making accounting software available is not easy. Staff is needed to take care of the updates and maintenance. There are aspects related to safety and abuse by students, as well. Accounting teachers have the additional task to make sure that correct use is taking place.

Making computers available during school hours is not sufficient. Students must also be able to exercise at home, so as to catch up on a missed lesson or practice in anticipation of the exams.

The best solution for students would be to use the software on their computer. The problem that arises here is that not all students have a computer and must also be knowledgeable about installing software.

A management system to be made available to students, both at school and at home, via an internet connection would offer a pertinent alternative. But even if the school manages to make software available, the problem of network connections that are stable and of good quality arises. Not all schools have a WiFi connection available for students. Students should be able to connect via their telephone, but even when this should be possible and financially sustainable, it often happens that in many classrooms the reception of a signal is problematic.

Study programs that do not involve the use of the software

Schools themselves do not always define the study programs to be used in their accounting teaching. There may be standards or requirements to be adhered to that do not involve the use of management software. There may also be situations, when standard tests are required to be carried out by hand.
In those instances, teachers may hold lessons that involve the use of technology, but they must still train students to use a manual system, in order to prepare them  for passing their exams. 

Changing study curricula proves to be a complex issue. Very often programs are not changed until all students have the opportunity of access to computerized accounting training, therefore ascertaining equal treatment. As a result, the programs are not adjusted until all schools have the appropriate IT structure. An overall change from one system to another is very complicated, both logistically and in terms of timing, because it is necessary that all teachers are trained to switch over to the new system.

Ideally, the respective departments would start introducing the possibility of providing accounting training and conducting computer-based exams, while setting the relevant parameters as well. This will lead to a progressive adoption.

Lack of economic stimulus for software producers

In certain areas, software companies have a vested interest in making students use their solutions. Software producers will try to retain pupils' loyalty, so that when they will enter the labour market as independents,  or employees of companies, their "bring your own device or software to use" approach will prevail, and will thus remain faithful to the solution they have used at school.

The situation is different for accounting, as most companies already have a software solution. When an accounting student starts in his new work, he will not bring along his individual solution, but will have to adapt to the one used by the company. Additionally it needs to be mentioned that accounting training requires individualized and flexible solutions, while companies require integrated and multi-user solutions. In many cases the solution used by a company will not be the same as that which will suit a school.

There will certainly always exist an interest for software producers to have students using their software, but teaching, as such, is not an instrument to gain loyalty as it is in other areas. Management software companies do not have a great interest in investing in the education sector, nor to adapt their solutions to support and encourage educational use by making them available to schools and students for free.


An Examination and Analysis of Technologies Employed by Accounting Educators, Alan I. Blankley, David S. Kerr, Casper E. Wiggins, The Accounting Educators’ Journal, Volume XXVIII, 2018 pp. 75-98


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