Computers Application in Education and Accounting

Outline

In the early ’80s, technological advances in information technology and computer hardware began to take place at a very high rate. Owing to this computers and computer-related technologies began to encroach on most aspects of our lives. It was as a result of this that innovations such as the ATM Machines became a part of our lives. This increased reliance on computers and networking led to significant changes in the professional domain. This paper seeks to review some of the literature that discusses the trend of integration of computers and information technology as it has manifested in education, accounting education, and within the profession of accounting. For each of these categories, the paper describes background information, various methods for integration and gives some examples of the tools used in the modification of tasks. At the end of each section, there is a short discussion on the merits attributable to the trend and a summary of the discussion.

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Introduction

In 1989, the then chancellor of Vanderbilt University, Joe Wyatt challenged EDUCOM to identify 100 examples where computer-aided learning has successfully been applied in institutions of higher learning. EDUCOM is a non-profit organization comprised of universities and colleges founded in 1964 to promote resource sharing and effective utilization of information technology on campus (Leonhardt 1988). The organization provides various benefits to its members in the incorporation of information technologies such as discounts, publications, and invitations to seminars among others. As a result of the challenge, EDUCOM produced a list published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, consisting of 101 successful examples of computer-aided learning tools and techniques in use on campuses across America. The list of applications was gathered from institutions that suggested these could be utilized in institutions with low technology budgets as well as in those with research facilities and larger budgets (Jensen and Sandlin 1992).

Such challenges to the integration of computers in education are common and some reasons that have been sighted by proponents include relative scarcity of research detailing the true value of computer-aided learning. It has been noted that studies on these tools are often indicative of the inherent potential of these approaches. Nevertheless, most of the studies are not conclusive as to the value of the tools and approaches. Such studies judge the results but are unable to quantify the degree to which they surpass conventional techniques (Jensen and Sandlin 1992). Similar sentiments are echoed by other practitioners who are skeptical in deciding whether to stick to the traditional procedure detailing the correct procedure and covering all material or introduce new approaches which introduce alternative learning approaches (Bonk and Smith 1998). However, there has been a gradual shift and information technology concepts are being integrated into accounting courses.

On the other hand, the global economic climate has since the 80’s been rapidly changing creating a need for technologically aware labor (Bonk and Smith 1998). Naturally, it would suggest that the institutions offering instruction need to embrace the changes and incorporate current content in their courses. The accounting profession has not been exempted and reports over the past decade suggest the induction of higher-order thinking skills in undergraduate education (Bonk and Smith 1998). The influence of the corporate world has become so pervasive it is almost the yardstick in university operations (Boyce 2004). With the increased information demands arising from globalization and associated information technologies, accounting education must consider approaches that will produce the highly productive graduates required (Benford and Hunton 2000).

In this review of literature review, the discussions presented will attempt to answer the fundamental question as to why this integration is beneficial to both students and society as a whole.

Computer Application in Education

Background

In this section, the discussion is aimed at presenting some information regarding the integration of computers in education. In practice, traditional teaching techniques focused primarily on the instructor. The role of the instructor was first and foremost to provide the student with the required knowledge through readings and exercises that could help reinforce students understanding of concepts required in the module (Bonk and Smith 1998). However, this also suggests related tasks such as engaging students rely on the instructor’s experience. The greater number of studies that have been carried out on the integration of computers in education give descriptive information and focus on benefits attained through the use of various tools (Togo and McNamee 1995). Because of this, it is difficult to provide conclusive information in support of computer integration. The rest of this section will look into some of the available information and attempt to bring to light concepts in support of the trend.

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One perspective that has been considered is whether instructors achieve more, those using traditional or computer-supported learning techniques? According to Solimeno, Mebane, Tomai and Francescato, through the use of online technology the instructor has access to better access to reliable data describing what transpired in the classroom. The reason behind this is the continued access to shared records from classroom activity (2008). This position was also revealed in a study that involved a group of teachers to evaluate which of the two options i.e. Face to Face and Online learning were most beneficial. The results obtained from this study indicated that almost 90% of the teachers agreed that online experiences present the teacher as a mentor or facilitator and reduces the formality in the experience of learning. Other accounting educators have also cited an improvement in algorithmic and critical thinking skills where computer use had been integrated into education (Togo and McNamee 1995). This integration appears to allow students to become more active participants in learning sessions. It was also indicated that when integration of computers is viewed as a passive addition to the learning process probably due to budget constraints institutions may fail to reap the benefits of such integration of technology in learning (Boyce 2008). This being the case institutions need to invest in the required equipment to attain the maximum potential of both students and instructors. This may pose a serious hurdle for institutions without adequate financial resources and may require the intervention of government authorities to bridge the gap and ensure equity.

On the other hand, it would also be prudent to consider whether the students achieve more through face-to-face or computer-supported learning sessions. Some authors provide specific aspects that will favor the computer-assisted students including; access to technology and multimedia devices, experience in the manipulation of technology, learning techniques, study habits, motivation, and lifestyle aspects e.g. scheduling and individual characteristics. A study to gauge the two learning techniques indicated that students enlisted under computer-assisted learning programs attained higher grades in comparison to those enlisted traditional techniques (Solimeno et al. 2008). Studies have indicated that technology can indeed improve both the learning process and outcomes. However, this should not be taken to mean technology alone is an adequate panacea to our problem. Some practitioners have suggested that the strength lies in the ability to manage these technologies and not the technology itself (Mallick and Chaudhury 2000). The full rewards of these schemes will be feasible if efforts are made to identify both tools and the most crucial areas to apply these tools.

These perceptions and the increased reliance on the Internet and other information technologies are the primary attributes behind technology brought into the classroom (Benford and Hunton 2000). These tools have been very instrumental in enhancing the learning experience and numerous studies have been carried out that attest to the fact that students respond better to a wide variety of learning tools (Tang and Austin 2009). In addition, historical information has reported that technology and successful technology integration have driven the success of firms and influenced economic outcomes of both individuals and countries (Mallick and Chaudhury 2007). This suggests technological advances increase competitive advantage and as such implies it would be retrogressive for learning institutions to ignore integration of current trends in information technology in education. Based on the implications of research reports many higher learning institutions within the accounting profession have taken some action to keep abreast with the times and reaffirm their ability to produce competent accountants able to cope with the increased demands of a globalized economy.

Integration of IT in Education

The integration of computers in education has covered almost all spheres of education which owing to brevity can not be covered in this discussion. For example, in the field of medical education, it has come to the attention of professionals that the content requires a major overhaul. In light of this proponents of the use of computers have argued that the increased usage of the WWW (World Wide Web) or Internet resources may be a vital tool for physicians to gain medical credits (Lee 2006). Similar positions have been echoed among practitioners in engineering education who bear in mind the vast opportunities that the use of multimedia technology can create in engineering technology. Proponents argue that the majority of educators are yet to grasp the similarity between Web-Based and traditional learning models that encompass scheduled lectures, assignments and experiments. In professional circles, it is sometimes assumed that the scope of multimedia applications does not go beyond the ability to combine various modes of presentation (Carter 2002). In part, this stems from the poor incorporation of the needs of both the instructors and students in the chosen product suggesting a need for research to identify the needs of both these categories (Ahmed, Daim and Basoglu 2007).

Also among spheres in education that have integrated the use of computers and IT in the field of special needs education. Special needs education caters to learners who by virtue of disability are unable to learn in a conventional environment, for example, poor eyesight, hearing, autism, etc. These individuals have been fortunate to benefit from various computer programs that can allow them to participate in learning that prior to these technologies was out of reach (Vera, Campos, Herrera and Romero 2007).

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Through the use of new computer programs, these individuals can be provided with tools to build social skills, cognitive skills, language skills and numeric skills. Some programs within this category provide virtual environments that may be used for learning. This virtual environment allows the students to gain environmental understanding, with the advantage of experiencing spatial concepts such as height and depth. In addition to this, they can also gain mastery of concepts of quantity and visual concepts (Topaloglu and Topaloglu 2009). This kind of instruction offers a wide range of advantages over the conventional methods used for individuals with special needs. It is also advantageous that people with special needs often show a high affinity for computers and technology and this may be an extremely beneficial avenue in the education of individuals within this category (Vera et al.2007). It has been suggested that the future for special needs education may incorporate a home-based alternative under the guidance of the family of the student (Topaloglu and Topaloglu 2009).

In the instruction of students undertaking language courses e.g. English as a Foreign or Second language the use of computers has been found to play a very significant role. Of the computer-based technologies that are very useful for these courses, the Internet has proven to be very beneficial with material related to language learning featuring as the most popular activity (Jarvis 2004). Proof of this lies in the fact that over 70% of the Higher Education Institutions use the material provided on language learning sites developed by external entities to steer their courses. In line with this is the increased use of word processors to prepare and submit text by the students. This result was also observed in a study for 10th-grade students in Taiwan. In this study the students and their teacher were engaged in group emailing, a web-based course, email writing programs, English homepage design activity, video conference, and discussion in a chat room. These activities were part of a language learning activity that saw students report enjoying learning thus increasing learning possibilities (Yang and Chen 2007). These results are particularly favorable because the subject’s environment, a predominantly Chinese-speaking region, typically does not offer any practice for learners of the English language.

In nursing education, biological sciences play a vital role in undergraduate education. The main purpose is to provide the practitioners with the knowledge that is essential in making crucial decisions in practice. These sciences are traditionally taught through lectures and tutorials which are inappropriate due to increases in student populations and resources available to lecturers (McKinney and Page 2009). A novel solution involves the use of technology such as videoconferencing or podcasting. The increased pressures on students due to today’s living need not affect their attendance of lectures in contexts where such approaches are utilized. The student can view a multimedia presentation that carries both graphic content and voice data that can act as a lesson. This material once uploaded on a website can be viewed at the student’s convenience, therefore, affording them greater flexibility in their daily schedules (McKinney and Page 2009). The introduction of such concepts suggests that these new media may soon become the norm rather than the exception. It is prudent that they become fully integrated to ensure that they are utilized in a manner that makes them beneficial to learning. Proponents of this approach have added that despite the increased use of presentations, webcasts, and podcasts in universities, this does not always reflect enhanced overall student performance. These technologies are most effective when properly used and therefore knowledge on when to apply what technology is very essential (Savoy, Proctor and Salvendy 2009).

IT tools that are used in Education

The main factor behind the integration of IT in education as discussed in this section lies in the advantages that can be gained from the additional tools available for use in the learning process through Information Technology. There are numerous options available on how to integrate IT into learning among them, the concept of using improved tools to teach standard concepts (Leonhardt 1989).

One of the IT tools used in education today is the Blog. The Blog is an online diary that enables the user a variety of features that have proven to be useful in education especially in distance learning. Within the Blog community, the user is able to publish dated web content that could include discussions, comments, pictures, etc. In addition to this, the user need not have any prior knowledge of web creation to be able to use this tool. The ease of use and flexibility has led to the use of Blogs for educational purposes and several types of research have been carried out to prove their viability. Among the proponents of the use of this tool have argued that they have the potential to enhance writing skills, encourage critical thinking, and through collaboration allow for active learning (Usluel and Mazman 2009). Also emerging as a useful tool in education is the concept of Social networks. This software simplifies the process of collaboration, sharing of knowledge, the interaction between users in different places sharing a common goal. Among the popular social networking sites that are in use today is video-based YouTube, photo-based Flickr, etc. Through such websites, the users can form groups and share and publish material across the Internet for all members to access. It is for this reason that they are useful for education as they provide a platform to bring together learners from different locations (Kim 2008).

Among the most popular IT tools used in education today is the software known as PowerPoint. This software has almost become a staple in most learning institutions and its main purpose is to allow the user to develop presentations that may include information from a variety of software packages such as excel, access, etc. Statistics of its widespread use suggest it covers almost 30 million presentations daily and the software is installed almost across the globe (Savoy et al. 2009). Initially, this software was designed to make presentations more structured and also more interesting to audiences. However, the increased use as argued by some does not necessarily point to the effectiveness of the tools in improving the learning process. It is for this reason that proponents suggest that in addition to increased emphasis on the use of such software, equal emphasis should be laid on deciding when and how to use the software to bring the most of a presentation (Togo and McNamee 1995).

Also very commonly used in education today is the word processor to assist with the preparation of various tasks associated with writing. The word processor is software that is often used to help the user manipulate a text document. Just like PowerPoint, these tools allow the users to incorporate data from other software programs into a text document which can be printed out or shared. In education today the use of these tools is very widespread and many tasks in higher learning institutions are submitted in formats that are the product of word processing software. Some educators involved in teaching writing to students have argued that word processors enhance the dynamic, interactive, and social nature that is essential to writing (Zvacek 1988). The many additional features e.g. spell checkers and thesaurus incorporated into these software programs encourages the production of a quality piece of writing. It is argued that this encourages the student to aim for producing higher quality when preparing written material for study (Boyce 1999). Some studies indicate the use of a word processor can be useful in developing critical thinking when undertaking exercises such as wet inking (Bonk and Smith 1998).

Also, in the course of the review of literature on IT tools used in education, one among the popular tools identified was spreadsheet software programs. A spreadsheet software program most often will be used to assist in the manipulation of numeric data that is part of a larger document e.g. a list indicating amounts received and spent days at a retail outlet. These packages allow users to create, organize and extract data from these spreadsheets. For this reason, it is very common to have a task in the course of study that will be entirely accomplished through the use of spreadsheets (Ganesh and Paswan 2010). However, this software can also prove detrimental in that the ease and speed of operation on a computer-based system may discourage the student from attempting simpler less elegant methods that may bear fewer margins for formulaic error (Boyce 1999).

The above-listed tools are just a few of the many tools that owing IT increasingly play an essential role in our daily lives. However, it was noted that though there were many tools for various tasks, there was a relative paucity of data on how effective the tools have been in improving education standards (Jensen and Sandlin 1992). There appears to be the assumption that the improvements in the process of accomplishing tasks have or should ultimately produce increased results. It would be prudent to look into ways of ensuring the productivity of individuals does in fact increase through the use of these tools.

Benefits of the integration of IT in Education

The integration of IT in education has presented practitioners with a dilemma due to the merits and demerits that come about from the procedures involved in the shift. One of the advantages of the integration of IT in education is the use of technology to attain a significant positive effect on the learning process. This point is evident when considering the use of digital game-based learning to improve learning among adolescents. This concept came into being after it was found that computer games form an essential aspect of most children and adolescents’ computer-related activity. Statistics of a study in the UK showed that most children between 7 and 16 years of age were regular game players. Similar data was found when a study was carried out on students in Greece between the ages of 12 and 16 years old (– 2009). The students were mainly engaged in the practice of gaming owing to factors from gaming environments such as challenge and curiosity (Chitaro and Ranon 2007). This suggests that if a learning model were developed around the popular gaming concepts it was likely that such a model would be effective among this age group. Following this idea, some researchers developed relatively simple games to make a comparison between traditional and gamed-based learning models. The results indicated that the game-based model proved to be effective in gaining the students’ attention and interest in the learning process. This provides proof in support of the claim that integration of IT in education is beneficial.

One of the most evident advantages resulting from the integration of computers in education is in the context of distance learning. Distance learning has been practiced for many years before the integration of computers in education. Traditional distance learning centers included the relevant study material e.g. books and tests to be taken and a remote location where students could visit to make any inquiries. The student-teacher experience was limited to the occasional visit to this location and as such learning was cumbersome. With the introduction of computers in education, this trend changed and now distance learning is offered by learning institutions all over the world (Lightner and Houston 2001). The main difference is the material can now be uploaded on a website and updated very easily. Student-Teacher interaction has also increased due to the use of email and bulletin boards that are used to facilitate speedier response time.

(Beyth-Marom et al. 2003) This fact was proven in a study that was carried out involving students pursuing courses through Internet-assisted versus traditional distance learning programs. The results indicated that the group that used the Internet-assisted program excelled when compared to the group using the traditional distance learning concept. Thus the integration of computers in education has brought education to more people and improved the quality of the output of the students within the education system. One point that should not be ignored is the fact that the study indicated the group in the Internet assisted program appeared to be better equipped with computer skills and therefore, it may be difficult to assume the performance increase was entirely due to the nature of the program (Beyth-Marom et al. 2003).

One benefit of the integration of computers in education presented in this section was the result of a study in Brazil (Castro and Alves 2007). The education policy in Brazil was adopted and among its main objectives was the provision of an integral system of education to its population. It is apparent that the world is changing at a fast pace and to keep abreast with these changes governments need to keep their populations educated in a manner that allows them to be competitive in the global arena. This approach has led to a policy requiring all primary schools to include a computer laboratory where students can utilize the facilities for learning. However, in striving to attain this noble objective many governments face unforeseen stumbling blocks. One of these is the fact that teachers are not confident about using the tool due to inadequate training. Evidence from other studies in China also produced a similar outcome and there is a need to train teachers to effectively use computers as a tool in education (Lin, Xiong and Liu 2005).

Alongside the many benefits that can be attributed to the integration of computers in education, the cost of these devices and associated costs have proven to be a hurdle for many learning institutions. According to Hokanson and Hooper, this is one of the demerits of the integration of computers in education (2000). The papers reveal that the introduction of computers has placed considerable financial strain on already cash-strapped institutions. This trend has led to a situation in which funds need to be channeled from other important activities to purchase new computers. To prove the point the paper provides an example of the reduction of art classes due to the inability to provide adequate computers (Hokanson and Hooper 2000). This is accompanied by further demerits such as the need for instructors to carry out some research on prospective tools prior to use (Jensen and Sandlin 1992).

Summary

The increased improvement in technology in the development of computer technology in recent years has led to a situation where computers are rapidly finding a place within educational institutions. This promise of higher standards continues to be harbored by many though, in many quarters criticism and doubts have been allayed with regards to whether the trend is indeed beneficial. Initial predictions indicated a likelihood that students would learn faster and tests scores would improve; in addition to this, it was also expected that teachers would benefit through improved methods of instruction. These aspirations largely seem to appear untrue based on the literature that has been examined (Hokanson and Hooper 2000).

However, in this section, the discussion presented the reader with a brief history of the path that has characterized the integration of computers in education. In brief paragraphs, the data described how computers were deemed a reasonable option in education. The main reason behind this as has been briefly discussed is the numerous benefits associated with computers. For example, in the case of engineering and medical studies, it goes without saying that the use of graphic models for instruction has provided a huge relief to practitioners. Similarly, the tools associated with computers provide equal benefits that merit their introduction in education. Taking from the example earlier discussed on distance learning, it is apparent even today that computers have taken education to places it would otherwise have taken many years to reach.

Therefore, based on the discussions presented thus far, one would be at loss in deciding the fate of computers in education. The benefits are vast and evident yet the results are yet to be realized or at least not on the scale that was envisioned. The reality presented in this review of the literature would posit the way forward is unclear. However, it would be prudent to keep in mind that throughout the review of literature in this chapter, one common thread has been the relative paucity of data on how to make this innovation work. It is time to reassess the education system and look into precise areas where computer applications can be useful with a view to making the most of the breakthrough.

Computer Application in Accounting Education

Background

In the previous section, the discussion presented focused on the integration of computers in education in general. In this section, the presented material will attempt to provide some of the available literature on the integration of computers in accounting education. In practice, accounting or accountancy is a profession that entails the recording, reporting, and analysis of business transactions. This information when presented in a meaningful format can be of great benefit to stakeholders in planning, forecasting or even acquiring collateral from external sources. It is for this reason that the accounting profession is very important to business and is even on occasion referred to as the language of business (Minbiole 1998).

In the recent past institutions providing accounting, education has been the subject of criticism with opponents holding the opinion that the quality of practitioners they produced has declined and needs improvement. It has been noted that accountants require skills in information technology for varied reasons and with due consideration being given to the perspective of the account (Shaoul 1990). The past 10 -15 years have been marked by a rapid increase in technology and market globalization that in turn has led to a need for the accountants to adapt and instead of being number crunchers, prepare and present relevant and sometimes crucial financial information (Lin et al. 2005). These changes in the business environment would suggest a serious need to redefine the knowledge and skills that are relevant for accounting professionals pursuing courses in accounting. This fact was corroborated by the results of a study involving accounting students, practitioners, executives, and instructors in China. According to the results of the study, all parties agreed on a need to expand the existing accounting education curriculum to accommodate subjects or areas that will produce more efficient accounts professionals (Lin et al.2005). Some areas that practitioners would like modified to meet today’s business needs include expansion of knowledge and skill components in accounting curriculum, increasing training for students abilities, communication proficiency, technology literacy, and analytical thinking and problem-solving skills (Lin et al.2005).

In another review of literature, Celik and Ecer, in an attempt to evaluate the state of accounting education in Turkish universities, reiterate the arguments of the accounting fraternity in China (2009). However, in this review, the authors present an angle that sheds light on possible causes of the trend. The primary causes presented are increased globalization, technological advancements, and increased institutional investment (2009). It is reported that technology innovation has reduced information costs and it is now possible to present relevant information to a wide audience at relatively cheap costs. This situation suggests that globalization has increased the competitiveness of business and as such rapid access to information may provide an important much needed competitive advantage (Ettredge, Richardson and Scholz 2001). By extension, accounting professionals need to be able to interpret and distribute such information quickly to sustain the organization. The skills to carry out this task must be obtained from institutions of higher learning where remodeling of curricula will accommodate these additional requirements (Celik and Ecer 2009). The information presented above sheds some light on the situation facing accounting education presently. In the pages that follow various aspects will be discussed to elaborate further on this issue.

Integration of IT in Accounting Education

After briefly highlighting the issues facing accounting education on a global scale the discussion follows will highlight the integration of IT in accounting education. The importance of improving the quality of accounting education has been supported by researchers who state, “… it is self-evident that effective transfer of research-based knowledge to accounting students is a non-trivial matter worth serious intellectual inquiry” (Ravenscroft, Rebele, Pierre and Wilson 2008). The researchers further suggest that being the language of business the standards within this noble profession play a significant role both within and without the learning institutions.

The availability of low-cost strategies implemented through computers provides a dynamic tool that can be used in accounting education (Solimeno et al. 2008). The adoption of these technologies may require a change in instruction techniques used by accounting instructors.

One methodology that has been implemented to integrate the use of computers in accounting education is the use of drill and practice software (Boyce 1999). Software of this kind in practice may require students to respond to various stimuli by providing an appropriate response to the question. The response may be in the form of an answer to a question, making of entries into journals, classification of accounts, etc. When applied appropriately, drill and practice software can facilitate ease of learning in areas that can be automated thus making understanding basic procedural skills less tedious for students. The use of this learning technique requires practice, repetition, and devotion of adequate time to the resource. The successful use of this resource requires the student to be effective in managing their study time and in instances where students are poor at time management overall effectiveness will not be apparent. Both drill and practice and test banks reinforce traditional principle-oriented learning with little regard given to developing critical thinking and analytical skills (Boyce 1999). Some drill and practice software is located on web servers and students can visit these servers to perform regular individual assessments (Baker and White 1999).

Also utilized in the integration of computers into the study of accounting is the IT concept of modeling and simulation. The software used for instruction in this category attempts to provide learners with “real life” scenarios and learning is through “participation” (Chitarro and Ranon 2007). This technique favors a modular approach to concepts as opposed to a linear approach. This modular approach can be useful in understanding relationships existing between accounting data, accounting procedures, and accounting reports bringing a realistic aspect to the classroom that is not accessible through traditional learning techniques. Some proponents of the use of this software argue that the explorative aspect encourages thinking, speculation and judgment therefore can be used to reinforce critical thinking and analytical skills (Boyce 1999).

Just as in primary and secondary education the use of the Internet and WWW tools are another means used to integrate computers and accounting education (Baker and White 2007). For instance, through a single web-based document a student can have access to lecture notes, test banks, modeling, or simulation software thereby suggesting the increased resources availed could simplify learning. Increased reliance on the Internet as an option for instruction is not without associated difficulty. For example, the process of providing real-time learning on the web requires a high level of technical capability and reliable support. Such costs may place unexpected difficulties on institutions interested in implementing web-based learning technology (Lightner and Houston 2001).

Another aspect considered during the review of literature on the integration of computers in accounting education is that of including fundamental computer science subjects in the accounting education curriculum. Because of the pervasiveness of computers, it appears worth consideration to training the accounting professionals with basic skills that will enable them to develop the most suitable solutions (Er and Ng 1988). In addition to these results from studies have indicated that most accounting firms are interested in the incorporation of specific computer concepts in the accounting education curriculum. The areas identified include databases, fourth-generation languages (4GL), word processors, spreadsheets and computer networks (Er and Ng 1988). A brief glance at the proposed curriculum changes identified through research into the accounting profession versus contemporary trends will indicate the proposed additional material. The suggestions include an introduction to computer programming with a 4GL, microcomputer applications e.g. word processors, spreadsheets, etc., computer systems and systems architecture, computer-based accounting information systems, computer auditing, and expert/decision support systems (Er and Ng 1988). Proponents of this approach feel it should provide the necessary respite to the profession (Watson, Apostolou, Hassell and Webber 2001). However, in light of the increased workload, it has been suggested that a year is added to the duration of an accounting program. This has not been widely accepted in light of the increase in financial burden on students. Another option is the provision of an additional diploma covering these topics. Both options would require the unanimous agreement of the international accounting bodies. In summary, this approach seeks to awaken the accounting fraternity to the reality that computers are best used as intelligent assistants as opposed to a computational tool. This perspective requires that the user be able to program the device to best suit his/her needs (Er and Ng 1988).

IT tools that are used in Accounting Education

Having stated the importance of reassessing accounting education this section will present data on the use of multimedia in accounting education. This concept is described in a review of literature highlighting the use of multimedia in teaching accounting concepts and the importance of “real life” experiences in student learning (Stanley and Edwards 2005). This program was initiated in an attempt to provide students enrolled in accounting courses the benefit of real-world experiences which have become hard to come by due to increased numbers of enrollment. An attachment in a real-world setting often proves very beneficial to the accounting student but current enrollment numbers often mean very few students will get the actual experience due to limited openings. The use of this software solution allows the entire class to learn to implement what was taught in an interactive environment. This situation alleviates the problem faced by accounting students when faced with real situations where an application of principles to solve problems arises. Through the use of multimedia, device learning is accomplished in three different ways; students experience essential processes relevant to cycles of a recognized organization while watching video clips, students can compare and contrast the flows and thus gain an understanding of the relationships between concepts and cycles used in most organizations and finally students can relate these concepts to the greater role of the organizational accounting information system (Stanley and Edwards 2005). Of the students enlisted to use the system over 5 years, the users have continually given an above 70% rating on the usefulness of the program (Stanley and Edwards 2005). Such projects demonstrate the efficacy of Information technology in providing solutions applicable in large learning environments. A similar stance has been reported by Howard and Johnson, who states that the use of graphics software in teaching accounting concepts can have a great impact on accounting education. This is because graphic material and images are processed by the right brain whereas speech is processed by the left brain and the left brain operates in a serial mode whereas the right brain can operate in a parallel mode. It has been noted that many managers have a dislike for reading financial material and this could be a result of language learning disability which may have been present in the individual from birth. Such disabilities may cause this individual to perform poorly in arithmetic because since childhood of their inability to deal with numerals as abstract symbols Owing to such causes it has been considered wise to approach teaching with concepts that utilize both spheres of the brain thus providing avenues to fully exploit the potential of the students and allow them to attain maximum potential (Howard and Johnson 1983).

In an attempt to improve standards of accounting education, a change in the mode of teaching instruction pronounced students would be required to be active participants in learning. This requirement from the Accounting Education Change Commission (AECC) prompted the introduction of the identification of unstructured cases requiring solutions from varied information sources (qtd. in Weinstein 2005). The implementation of this directive required that faculty possess a repository of the data on accounting cases to be used by students. This project led to the creation of a database tool developed using Microsoft Access and contains data on almost 400 cases that can be traced back to 1983 (2005). Through the use of a website, this database is currently freely available to any university faculty via a website. The files can be accessed and downloaded to the user’s computer upon request. The database consists of data from general-purpose accounting education journals, journals specifically publishing accounting cases, association journals specifically publishing accounting cases in various disciplines, general-purpose accounting practitioner journals, commercial providers and textbooks. Because of the wide scope used in compilation, the database is considered reasonably comprehensive and can provide users all over the world with realistic and up-to-date cases for practice. Similar efforts have reported successful outcomes in other institutions and have proven useful in improving the quality of education (Lont 1999). Studies must be carried out to ascertain the relevance and degree of use of such tool to conclude on its effectiveness.

In the course of integrating computers in accounting education, several tools have been developed such as electronic tutoring systems supported by principles of artificial intelligence (AI)(Johnson, Phillips and Chase 2009). This tool is used to teach students accounting cycles and the system unlike other systems provides tailored feedback. The feedback is specific to the user and as such it addresses problem-solving outcomes and the processes in solving a problem. This product is the result of almost a decade of research in education, chemistry, physics, and mathematics to develop an electronic tutor based on AI principles. These efforts now allow students to participate in learning and receive instruction that is specifically suited to the student’s level of understanding (Johnson, Phillips and Chase 2009). It may be surprising to note though that few AI-based instructors have been developed for accounting education. This is surprising given that accounting education is especially well suited for intelligent expert systems (Chase and Shim 1991). This may be compounded by the fact that there are even less data from research in accounting education on the effectiveness of such programs in comparison to traditional forms of instruction (Jensen and Sandlin 1992). This state-led a group of researchers to write a paper on the efficacy of these tools in accounting education and received favorable results. The assessment involved 55 students, registered into two groups of second-semester managerial accounting students. Of the two groups, the group receiving textbook instruction increased performance by 8% while the group tutored using an AI-based system improved by 27% (Johnson, Phillips and Chase 2009). The results of this study posit that AI tutoring is a concept that can significantly improve the accounting performance of students in higher learning institutions.

Still, on the discussion on the integration of computers in accounting education, it has been reported that several computer software applications have been developed to enhance accounting and learning accounting (Leonhardt 1988). An example within this category is the software known as FACT or Financial Accounting Computerized Tutorial (Roufaiel 1995). This software was developed to act as a useful learning aid for students interested in learning financial accounting. This tutorial provides learners with a common set of transactions that are included in a typical introduction to a financial accounting course. The main objectives this software sets out to achieve include enhancement of computer use in financial accounting, building an understanding of concepts of accounting, and reinforce the understanding of the integrative feature of the accounting cycle. The software achieves this through simulation of automated accounting system, electronic tutoring, online help, electronic grading, and effective use of Graphic User Interface (GUI) (Roufaiel 1995). Testing of the software has confirmed its efficiency in assisting in learning financial accounting and general accounting concepts.

Almost a decade ago accounting education began to make use of accounting information systems to teach planning and control decisions (Shaoul 1990). The process requires that students learn how to design spreadsheets, write and report on an inventory recording system, review available control features and make an enquiry using a database enquiry language (Shaoul 1990). This approach which incorporates several IT tools was developed due to the need to create case materials that taught students of accounting both accounting and management problem solving and computer skills. The evidence of a need to equip students with these skills is the result of numerous researches on the relevance of information systems and business data processing (Er and Ng 1988). Spreadsheets are included among the tools used in the course and they are used in teaching basic data entry techniques to accounting students. Computerized spreadsheets provide the additional advantage of being easy to share through links and advanced features of the software. Examples include Lotus 1-2-3 and Microsoft Excel. In addition to 4GL programming which is useful in designing software, the course also provides instruction on Decision support systems (DSS). The DSS is a software tool that can be used to assist in deciding a quick and appropriate course of action based on data provided from other sources such as spreadsheets, inventory, etc. These are just a few of the tools that have been integrated into accounting education to provide a higher-quality curriculum to accounting students. These tools and innovations bear several advantages and disadvantages which will be discussed in the next section.

Another development that can be attributed to the increased use of computers in education in the recent past is the concept of computer-based testing (Mariot and Lau 2008). Following an increase in the use of technology testing and certification are today offered through computers. A case of this practice is the Certificate of Financial Management (CFM) offered by the Institute of Management Accountants that is offered entirely via computer. Candidates, practitioners, and educators surveyed to perceive opinions the use of new technology provided a generally favorable opinion of the trend. However, despite this approval of the new concept, candidates generally felt the test had a weak perception because it did not include writing or other problem-solving skills (Peterson and Reider 2002). Other institutions in many parts of the world such as Turkey have also opted to provide testing facilities via computer. Turkey, a developing country, in keeping with current global trends has developed an interest in the integration of computers in education. However, like in most developing nations budget constraints are often limiting. In response, a group of practitioners set out to measure the performance of computer-based versus a traditional pencil and paper testing perhaps to provide documentary evidence of the efficacy of this trend. The resulting experiment indicated that there was no significant change in performance when computer-based testing was used on a group of undergraduate candidates (Akdemir and Oguz 2008). The evidence presented from these studies provides proof of the efficiency that can be attained through computer-based tests as an optional tool in the assessment of students at various levels.

Another area of accounting education that has been influenced by the use of computerized tools is auditing. This concept was discussed in a paper detailing the use of an electronic filing system known as EDGAR (Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval) used) used by the Securities and Exchange Commission (Oxner and Hawkins 1996). In the paper, the authors highlight the need for accounting students to learn more analytical, resource, and technology management and communication skills as opposed to technical skills. It is argued that globalization has led to increasing demand on the profession of accounting and as such areas such as auditing require consideration of secondary sources such as the Internet In line with this an auditing course was remodeled to include EDGAR as a source of material for completion of assignments. The students were required to access the filing system over the Internet to locate specific files and prepare reports. The results indicated students found the experience interesting and gained the ability to use their computers as information tools. This trend has also been reported in similar research that introduces electronic auditing techniques with the support of various information technologies. The Information technologies namely object-oriented distributed middleware’s, Internet security technologies, and intelligent agents can be used in collaboration to perform successful electronic audits (Liang, Lin and Wu 2001). The middleware is useful in interpreting data from a network that may be in varied formats. Internet security technologies provide for data security while intelligent agents are useful in gathering information. In collaboration, these tools provide an effective framework for accomplishing an electronic audit (Liang et al. 2001).

Benefits of the integration of IT in Accounting Education

The integration of computers in accounting provides several benefits, for example through the use of computers students improved in analytic, algorithmic, and acquisition of an understanding of accounting skills (Togo and McNamee 1995). In line with this argument, Bonk and Smith contend that the reason behind this lies in the fact that computers and associated technology move to learn away from a teacher-centered activity and allow student participation (1998). This increased control over the activities to be undertaken in learning help the student to develop greater analytical skills which are especially essential when faced with scenarios that are common to the workplace.

The integration of computers in accounting education has also led to the provision of Internet courses to accounting students in remote locations. Evidence of this was presented in a survey conducted by Baker and White, which conclude that the proliferation of this phenomenon will continue (2000). This trend is being fueled further by the intent of many university faculties making efforts to appear in sync with the times (Lightner and Houston 2001). The main uses of the Internet in accounting classrooms include e-mail for communication between students and lecturers, chat rooms and discussion boards for the exchange of ideas, and web servers for posting syllabus, assignments, tutorials and quizzes.

Computers as earlier mentioned have been utilized in accounting education to accomplish many tasks. One task that has been successfully been simplified using IT is appraisal or assessment of students. Assessment is crucial to both students and staff and therefore successful use of computers for this task that is approved by both students and lecturers is commendable. This mode of assessment is also beneficial because it engages the students and increases their motivation to learn. These findings were the results of a study that introduced online-summative assessment in the first year of a financial accounting course (Mariot and Lau 2008). Based on their performance over the duration over 70% of the students enrolled felt a preference for online summative assessment. At the same time, over 80% of the enlisted choose a phased online assessment with over 90% indicating that this mode of assessment improved their learning (Mariot and Lau 2008). Similar results were generated after a study on the Certificate of Financial Management offered by the Institute of Management Accountants. This credential is the first certificate related to accounts to be offered solely via computer (Peterson and Reider 2002).

Another advantage of the integration of computers in accounting education is increased access to information over the Internet This evidence was produced following a study that used Google scholar to calculate the g-index for accounting journals (Rosenstrich and Wooliscroft 2009). This site provides advantages such as free coverage and wide access. It is possible to suggest that these advantages are also a reason for accounting practitioners to list their publications at this location seeing that they stand to benefit from the wide audience. The use of the g index in this study may also suggest the quality of material available is fairly high and thus appropriate for use as reference material. Another source of essential online learning material is the quarterly journal known as the Internet and Higher Education. This journal aims at advancing theory and practice in online learning schemes as well as and the utilization of the Internet for the delivery of instruction. In the journal, more than 200 sources of information are published in categories such as websites, publications and books (Dringus 2006).

Summary

In this chapter of the review of literature on the subject of integration of computers in accounting education, the discussions presented began with brief background information on this trend. There is an introductory note providing the reader with a little amount of information on the profession of accounting or bookkeeping. This noble profession is among the oldest professions that have been in practice in society with its origins dating many years back in time. The practice has changed over time and is currently governed by generally accepted accounting principles of the region in question.

As a result of increased globalization and huge leaps in technological advancement, it has been argued that the time is ripe for the profession to change with the times. Globalization has led to situations where massive multi-national corporations have sprouted with branches in almost every region of the world. This calls for internal structures within the organization that can adapt to the needs of various entities in an organization in each region. Also due to changes in technology, the rate of data transfer and means of access to data has been increased enormously with the advent of the Internet This vast global network requires vigilance in order to maintain a competitive edge.

These demands have led accounting practitioners to reconsider the state of accounting as a profession and have seen efforts to incorporate as much of the information technological know-how as possible into the profession. The employment market of the past did not require much more from accountants than to keep the organizational financial data in order and provide occasional financial reports. However, today’s globalized economies require much more precise and relevant data in less time. This suggests a need to redefine the criteria to keep the profession and practitioners marketable. In the next section, the discussions presented will focus on the integration of accounting in professional circles.

Computer Application in Professional Accounting

Background

In this chapter, the literature reviewed will be focused on providing some insight into trends related to computers and IT that have become evident within the profession of accounting, specifically in the workplace. To begin with, it is necessary to bring the reader with the term profession. A profession is a vocation founded upon some specialized training that is aimed at providing some non-profit-oriented service to the public. Traditional vocations that were classified as professions include law and medicine (Velayutham and Perera 1996). By nature, a profession may ascend or descend depending on the practitioners at the time. It is within the interest of the profession to project an image of confidence and respectability and offer challenges, rewards, and prospects to attract and retain talented practitioners (Carnegie and Napier 2010). Similarly, it is essential to maintain public trust to ensure respectability and also to ensure the survival of the status of accounting as a profession. Following the collapse of Enron and the subsequent scandals related to poor practices within large accounting firms the profession has been under scrutiny and the public perception was seriously eroded. This unfortunate turn of events has left accounting practitioners looking for new ways to revamp the image and status of the profession (Sikka and Hampton 2005).

In the efforts to secure web auditing and provide appropriate mechanisms to monitor financial transactions on the web several key points were identified and after the discussion on the topic (Cohen 2009). It is hoped that a prototype will soon be developed that embraces these concepts. Other researchers have already developed prototypes based on metering schemes that monitor web traffic without significant changes on clients and servers (Naor and Pinkas 1998). It is hoped that soon there will be effective and secure auditing mechanisms on the web.

Just as was the case in accounting education one of the more prevalent trends of computers that have been integrated into professional accounting is the use of websites to present financial information (Ettredge et al. 2001). The Internet has opened up new avenues and currently, several reputable firms have sought its use to publish financial information. In addition to the dissemination of this information, the WWW can be used to give the organization a boost by controlling the context in which this information is presented. It is predicted that organizations will increase their use of this media as a means and will incorporate other technological advancements to ensure the timeliness of reports posted on websites (Ettredge et al. 2001). This suggests accounting professionals need to consider the use and presentation modes for financial information on the web. This position is supported by Cohen, in a paper detailing opportunities in reporting financial information on the web via XBRL and other Computer-aided technologies (2004).

Integration of IT in Professional Accounting

Efforts that led to the integration of computers in professional accounting appear to be traceable to the increased usage of computers in the workplace. According to Waller and Gallun, by the early eighties, several publications discussing the level of computer usage in accounting organizations and industry, in general, were reported at between 60%. Of this category, it was also reported that over 80% used spreadsheet applications with total time spent on the computer reaching 20-40 hours (Waller and Gallun 1985). These statistics present serious implications even in the eighties especially since a working week is 40 hours we can assume more than half the work done in accounting firms and industry, in general, was already been carried out using a computer. Further results from the study indicated that the most favorable software package for spreadsheets based on usage was Lotus 1-2-3 (Waller and Gallun 1985). The main players in the industry also indicated in the course of the survey their primary preference for employing graduates with knowledge of a spreadsheet package and secondary preference for candidates with word processing, database, and journal entry package knowledge (Gallagher et al. 1989). As a result of information such as that presented in this survey, the accounting fraternity has gradually been shifting to the integration of computers and other information technology concepts into the mainstream of the profession due to the increases in usage.

In addition to this increased reliance on the computer and various technologies to carry out daily duties, there has been increased pressure to integrate Computerized Auditing and XBRL (extensible business reporting language) owing to the globalization phenomenon (Cohen 2004). As a result of this new environment, experts have indicated that the future business community will all be interconnected and organizations will be required to react to changes instantaneously. Unfortunately, the current standards used in XML (extensible markup language) cannot support financial data adequately for this reason efforts are being made to develop an alternative framework i.e. XBRL to allow for financial reporting on the web (Cohen 2004). Among the reasons why it will be prudent to pay attention to this new concept is the ability to reduce inventory costs, speed up supply chains, allow cross-company process re-engineering, and seriously redefine the concept of resource management. This environment begs for changes within the accounting profession to avert a crisis like those faced by AIG, Lehman Brothers, etc. all of whom appeared in the clear as little as a month to their failure (Vasarhelyi and Alles 2008). Owing to such incidences the accounting institutions have already instigated slight changes such as section 409 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act calling for more timely reporting, the evolution of continuous assurance, and progress with XBRL (Vasarhelyi and Alles 2008).

It has been reported that a number of major corporations in and around the US are reporting financial information on their websites. Despite this web increase presence stakeholders are often not satisfied with the credibility of this web data. The existing methods to deal with this all fall short due to resource discovery issues attribute recognition issues and a lack of consistency in reporting by corporations (Debreceny and Gray 2001). The extensible Markup language (XML) is widely in use as a method of providing tags to the financial information that could provide a degree of relief and partially solve the problem. Owing to this dilemma the accounting fraternity led by the American Institute of CPA’s (AICPA) developed XBRL (Extended Business Reporting Language) as an extension of XML. This effort should alleviate the problems currently being experienced especially since; until there is a standardized and consistently used schema available the power of the web as a financial tool can not be fully realized (Debreceny and Gray 2001). Studies have shown that developing meta standards for business reporting on the web has been challenging and the move has been lauded in many quarters (Williams, Scifleet and Hardy 2009). This markup language will also not be limited to any specific industry, a form of business, or document but is aimed at satisfying documentary requirements for financial reporting across all industries.

Another innovation in professional accounting utilizing computers and Information Technology is the concept of continuous auditing. The pace of the global economy of today had begun to indicate the need to revise auditing practices to complement the times. This case was so especially because the traditional auditing techniques were too slow at uncovering both intentional and unintentional errors and often did so long after the harm was done. To alleviate the corporations from this malady it was deemed essential to provide clientèle with real-time assurances which in turn suggest a continuous audit procedure (Flowerday, Blundell and Von Solms 2005). This concept is possible through the use of several tools that accomplish diverse tasks essential to an audit process. For example, some tools are used to analyze transactions verifying their accuracy, other tools test the transactions and balances quoted for accuracy, and yet others test internal controls and perform a risk assessment (Flowerday, Blundell and Von Solms 2005). Several models have been developed over time and the results have been favorable. However, a comprehensive continuous audit model is yet to be realized owing to inconsistencies in data and it is hoped that technologies such as XBRL will solve the problem (Flowerday, Blundell and Von Solms 2005).

In a review of literature on the use of computerized auditing in electronic data Processing, it was reported that increased dependence on EDP systems has raised concerns among auditing practitioners and other professional organizations. This trend has resulted from increased use of the Internet and has led to the emergence of various tools such as object-oriented distributed middlewares, intelligent agents, and Internet security technologies (Liang et al. 2001). Resulting from this reliance on the Internet some crucial forms of data are no longer available or are mostly accessible in forms readable only on the computer. Examples of this include instances where transaction data and account information is stored in electronic form on the computer. Another issue arising from EDP systems that are of concern to auditors is the fact that audit trails exist for limited periods of time or in some cases do not exist at all because transactions have been automatically processed by EDP systems. In such a situation it becomes difficult to trace unauthorized transactions or other expectations unless the data is monitored constantly. In light of this several solutions have emerged such as generalized audit software (GAS) which is capable of providing auditors access to live account data that is stored in various file formats that are only machine-readable. There are also concurrent schemes such as embedded audit modules and system control audit review files (SCARF) which upon installation can be used to examine transaction flows, and detect online exceptions such as suspicious transactions (Liang, Lin and Wu 2001). The emergence of these technologies appears to be capable to provide an effective method to carry out auditing tasks within the new business environment. However, they are limited due to the fact that they rely on distributed middlewares and standards. Since these middlewares and standards are still undergoing evolution it may be expected that these technologies will attain maximum potential when the standards are matured and comprehensive.

Other prominent applications of computers in professional accounting include computerized payroll software. Such software is used to automate the process of preparing payroll and accounting for money spent on labor. Some of these packages are prepared using 4GL’s such as Basic. In addition to computational enhancement, these programs are normally accompanied by help files and manuals that have handy information to be used in this and other tasks e.g. tax regimes used, etc. (Poole and Borchers 1978).

IT tools used in Professional Accounting

In light of the changes in the business environment professional accounting has incorporated a number of IT tools to simplify accounting processes. An example of these tools is the use of computerized tax decision aids. Among the commonly used tax decision aids, this review of the literature identified Fasttax and TurboTax (Rose and Wolfe 2000). The utilization of these decisions aids professionals in the accounting profession can learn how to calculate tax liabilities and the various regimes used quickly and provide very accurate responses to queries. In addition to this advantage, the computerized decision aid is accompanied by the inherent advantages of other computer software. For example, they allow the user to perform several tasks at the same time and maintain accuracy throughout. The software also has useful shortcuts and menus that make the task of completing work much easier. However, it is interesting to note that the process of learning to use these aids is quite difficult and as such many users fail to use them to their actual potential. By contrast, it was reported that learning tax calculation by hand was easier albeit slower. This suggests that a step-by-step process with instructions such as the ones used in calculation by hand may be essential to bring the users to a point where they appreciate the use of computerized decision aids (Rose and Wolfe 2000). This would be a good direction to focus on especially since the same studies support these tools for their speed, accuracy, and overall efficacy.

With the emergence of the WWW doing business on the Internet has emerged to be a necessity and not an option for most companies. Despite this, most consumers still lack confidence in transactions over the Internet due to security issues. This has not deterred some companies and the success of web-based organizations such as eBay with more than 40 million users registered in the US alone has led other companies to consider the potential of business on the Internet (Runyan, Smith and Smith 2008). This fact was corroborated in studies that indicated over 40% of manufacturers and over 70% of retailers make sales over the Internet For most of these companies the only means to build trust with their clientèle has been through enlisting the services of web assurance companies. If a business entity features any of the common seals on its website then it guarantees some degree of assurance by that business being a member of the organization and abiding by its rules and regulations. Of the contemporary web assurance services, the Trust seal is offered by the US and Canadian Chartered Public Accountants (CPA) and indicates the firm has been evaluated by a public accounting firm (Runyan, Smith and Smith 2008). It should be noted that the seal signifies specific aspects about the firm but does not say anything about the product which may be considered a slight setback for consumers who may prefer a seal that guarantees both security and quality of the product.

Another of the tools used in professional accounting today that has its roots in computerization is the use of billing and accounting software packages in organizations. These software solutions are used to automate the accounting procedures within organizations. However, many buyers of these systems find that choosing an appropriate option is at times difficult owing to limited knowledge of the technical requirements of such systems or inadequate information on the product capabilities (Rushnik and Rushnik 1985). In a survey to assess important factors, the results rated the following; ease of operation being most important, computer reliability, ease of programming, installation, and maintenance as essential aspects to consider when purchasing an accounting or billing software application (Rushnik and Rushnik 1985). The concept of billing using computers appears to be growing as reported due to the convergence of Internet and mobile networks (Koutsopolou, Kaloxylos, Alonisitioti and Merakos 2007). This practice is caused by the mass content being offered by mobile network providers and the presence of Wi-Fi networks widely in use today. In a mobile network, a user must be connected to a network provider to be granted access to services such as voice calls and Internet connectivity, and other value-added services supported on these networks. This increased connectivity and services available suggest a need to monitor resources for effective accounting (Koutsopolou et al. 2007). As such an appropriate model for accounting on mobile networks has been developed to cater to this new but very large sector.

Also, in use, today from the integration of computers are various inventory management systems that automate the collection, analysis, and reporting of tasks associated with inventory in organizations (Bruggerman and Vandendaele 1983). This trend has increased with the reduced costs associated with the purchase of computers thus allowing organizations to implement efficient inventory record management systems. This trend is particularly evident in small companies, employing 50 people or less and earning maximum annual revenue of 4 million dollars. These organizations have benefited from the introduction of computers and continue to reap benefits through ease of use, interactive features, easily inter-connected, and low initial cost (Bruggerman and Vandendaele 1983). The concept of inventory management has also been integrated into networks as reported in a paper discussing a client-server approach to organizational resource management (Lyu 1995). The approach to consider inventory management in this environment is timely given that in 1995, the number of locations hosting mainframe and client/server architecture was expected to increase five times (Lyu 1995). With increases such as this being experienced 5 years ago it is possible to imagine the degree of interconnectivity is even higher now. If we were to consider that this may not include the mobile networks which possess an almost equal if not greater growth potential (Koutsopolou et al. 2007). The present situation may in reality been seriously in need of increased efforts in this line of integration.

Another trend that is fast gaining popularity that can be attributed to globalization and the integration of computers in professional accounting is the practice of implementing international standards. Proof of this has been observed by the rapid acceptance of international standards such as International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) by various nations. These standards are issued by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) to overcome the complications of reconciling Accounting Principles in trade across borders thus increasing global trade. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in support of these standards decided to permit foreign registrants reporting under IFRS exemption from mandatory reconciliation with US GAAP. This decision is likely to add even more speed to the adoption of the standards (Chua and Taylor 2008). In 1993, Daimler Benz AG was preparing to list on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and lack of standardization required the company to reconcile accounts in accordance with US GAAP. In 1992 the company reported net income amounting to 615 million DM (Deutsch marks) after reconciliation with US GAAP, translated to a net loss of 1,839 million DM. This is an example of how crucial these standards are in an environment with commerce taking place across borders. The main trait of IFRS is they are a principles-based standard as opposed to conventional rules-based standards that vary from one region to the next. The standards are currently in use in more than 100 countries (Carmona and Trombetta 2008). The underlying flexibility of these standards allows them to be used in countries with major variations in accounting principles thus promoting global trade.

Benefits of the integration of IT in Professional Accounting

The provision of online learning and integration of international accounting material in the curricula offered in learning institutions today is a big step towards meeting the challenges offered by globalization (Lont 1999). It is for this reason that it becomes advantageous to the accounting profession when a study on an international accounting course provided in real-time produced successful results. This concept is however difficult to implement and unless the school is located in a large center it becomes difficult to invite speakers with international expertise. For this reason, international accounting is often taught using a combination of textbooks and comparative studies such as those carried out by major accounting firms such as Delloite and Touche, KPMG, etc. These courses do broaden student perspectives but are burdened by US dominance. It is for this reason that a 13-week course that elicited positive feedback from the students should be considered a step in the right direction by the entire accounting fraternity (Lightner and Houston 2001).

Another benefit brought about through the integration of computers in professional accounting is the increased decision-making capability. As stated earlier in this literature review, the globalized economy that companies operate in today requires large amounts of financial information (Ettredge et al. 2001). This process of collecting and reporting to stakeholders and investors if done manually would require more time and thus the dissemination of such information in good time may be impossible. However, owing integration of computers in accounting tools such as computerized information systems have been developed which speed up these processes and allow greater efficiency overall in the business. Such tools often incorporate a number of components such as spreadsheets and databases that are essential for this task thus making the performance of this analysis easier through the application of one tool (Benford and Hunton 2000).

Also advantageous to the business community is the progress that has been made in the area of online business reporting. The trend of online business reporting which entails the presentation of financial information by the business on the web through websites is gaining attention due to increased reliance on the web (Ettredge et al. 2001). This concept has also gained ground because of the high-profile collapses of recent years which were attributable to poor records management and a lack of trustworthiness in business reporting. Owing to this has been suggested that web-based business reporting may provide a solution by allowing greater accuracy, accessibility, and timeliness of financial information disseminated (Williams, Scifleet and Hardy 2009).

Summary

In this section of the review of literature on the integration of computers in professional accounting, the discussions presented began with a brief background on the current state of professional accounting. It presents a brief definition of the term profession to shed light on why accounting may be losing some of its lusters as a profession. It continues to mention possible reasons for this and mentions in passing the effect scandals such as the Enron scandal in the recent past and its impact n accounting. In addition to this, there is also the mention in passing of the poor practices such as tax avoidance that have been identified within the profession and the motives for their emergence. It was noted that the increased competitiveness of the industry was the main agent.

Having discussed the main problems being faced within the profession the discussion presents some details into the beneficial and commendable practices that have emerged in the profession. Among these is the concept of web trust which involves the provision of security for consumers and businesses who want to exploit the web as an avenue for business. Also presented in the discussion is the concept of using computers to support decision-making and financial reporting. Finally, there is a brief discussion on various tools used in professional accounting such as taxation tools. The section ends with some of the benefits of the integration of computers in financial accounting.

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