EDUCATING STUDENTS WITH THEIR OWN LAPTOP COMPUTERS
By Professor Tom Pearson
Instead of waiting for the University of Hawaii or the Shidler College of Business to add a requirement that students must own a laptop computer capable of accessing the internet, last semester I began requiring my graduate students to bring their own laptops with WiFi access to each class session in my “Accounting and Tax Research” course. WiFi access enables the student to access the internet with a wireless connection that is available in many parts of the university.
In order to teach students how to educate themselves through professional research, I need students to access the internet in class to enter various databases available through the University of Hawaii’s library website, as well as some electronic course materials used in class. My computer requirement arose because I was placed in a classroom that did not have computers for each student. However, I also believe that by having students use their own laptop computer for this purpose, they take more ownership in managing an essential tool for their future professional lives.
As the number of accounting and auditing pronouncements continues to increase, increased attention is needed in education to teach students how to conduct the research to find the relevant answer to a problem. Given that most professional research today is electronic, my course has that orientation and uses various important databases for accounting, auditing, and taxation. This cutting edge approach in teaching was recognized by the lead author of “Accounting and Auditing Research,” published by Thomson Learning. I joined the text as a third co-author so that students at other universities may also benefit from a professional research focus in this electronic age.
One consequence of having students use their own computers in class, was a need to bring in a guest speaker who guided students on practical issues in securing their computer and protecting client data from computer viruses, spyware, and potential consequences if software is not up-dated.
Students at the School of Accountancy are now also benefiting from the addition of Roger Debreceny and his leading edge expertise with financial statements using XBRL, as well as the talents of many other faculty and students.
Technology through a course management system, WebCT has now permeated most classes at the University of Hawaii. Webct now provides each student with a individual webpage providing links to each of the classes. Students sometimes hand in their homework by uploading their homework into an electronic box on webct and downloading new assignments to complete. Technology is also evident with the University of Hawaii’s expansion of its electronic database offerings, improved computer facilities in the Accounting Research Center, and the current development of a state of the art computer classroom funded by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
It is my hope that the University of Hawaii can soon overcome the obstacles to requiring students to have laptop computer for class. While on sabbatical this year at New York University, I am seeing how almost every classroom encourages students to bring their computer to class by offering outlets at each desk for plugging in student computers.
Additional cost implications for making a university more technology friendly include strengthening the reliability to the internet access through Wireless, and back-up systems through roaming via Ethernet cable and dial-up methods, providing additional staff to help students resolve any technological challenges, as well as supporting strengthening the faculty’s own capabilities for using the technology for the students benefit and innovating new methods to enhance the education of students.
While technology has tremendously strengthened education, the accounting profession, and society, I recognize that requiring students to have their own laptop computer is a financial burden for some students. Fortunately, however, many alumni and friends of the SOA, CBA, and UH have contributed generously to provide scholarships to meet financial needs and support for this type of education.