Accounting education goes online

ACCA recently announced its intention to make all its examinations available online to confirm a growing trend for web-based learning in the professional marketplace.

In June, ACCA signed a contract with Summit Consulting Group for an “eAssessment” programme that will encompass all of the association’s professional exams.

Like most other accountancy bodies, ACCA has been offering computer-based exams (CBE) for more than a decade. The Summit project will start with existing materials in 2012 and continue in a series of phases over successive years.

“The world of work is changing, becoming increasingly online. We are therefore now working towards new ways of developing professional skills which will meet the needs of employers in the online world,” commented ACCA chief executive Helen Brand.

A quick survey of other training providers confirms just how widespread the online accountancy course has become:

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  • The London School of Business and Finance, for example, offers a full range of ACCA and finance courses online, with web-based revision aids for UK residents, at prices ranging from £180 to £430 per paper.
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  • Further distance learning courses are advertised on learn4good.com, an aggregation site that brings together all sorts of providers (from generic business schools to specialist providers such as Airline Courses Online , Online College Education offers finance, shipping bookkeeping, ICB level and MBA.
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  • Kaplan Financial, one of the more familiar names on the learn4good.com site, offers degree and professional qualification courses for ACCA, CIMA, AAT members and the ICAEW-endorsed Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business (CFAB).
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  • BPP, meanwhile, offers CIMA and ACCA qualification courses and materials supported with MyStudy, an online resource that supports the classroom with web materials that you can review at any time.

While ACCA’s recent announcement is worthy of note in the UK, overseas accountants have been taking more adventurous approaches. Tim Burns, a member of the Louisiana state legislature as well as a practising tax lawyer and CPA, has devised an iPad/iPhone accounting education app called The Accounting Whiz Kid. Launched in time for the iPad 2 launch in March, the free app takes the form of an animated video in which the bespectacled hero presents the concepts of accounting in a series of rudimentary videos.

It may not appeal to many qualified UK accountants, but it has certainly captured the knowledge-on-demand zeitgeist.