In the second part of this series, we continue our exploration of the profound impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on accounting educators and students throughout the country. The Vishal team engaged in discussions with faculty partners from various colleges and universities to gain further insights into the hurdles faced with the shift to remote and hybrid learning. Our esteemed panelists include:
Tara Blasor, Assistant Department Head at Texas A&M University
Dr. Susan Henderson, Professor & Program Coordinator at California State University Fresno
Dr. Tracey Riley, Director of Graduate Programs in Accounting at Suffolk University
Let's delve into the challenges posed by COVID-19 and how these educators have navigated them both in the classroom and beyond.
Addressing the Emotional Toll of COVID-19
Panelist: Dr. Tracey Riley
Dr. Tracey Riley emphasizes the importance of recognizing the emotional toll of COVID-19 on students, faculty, staff, and administrators. The virtual nature of classes makes it challenging to discern signs of stress and anxiety. Students often keep their cameras off, making it even harder to assess their well-being. Dr. Riley advocates for educators to create an approachable environment, fostering a sense of community, and being considerate of everyone's emotional needs during these stressful times.
To alleviate stress, faculty members at Suffolk University reduced requirements for students and actively sought internship opportunities. The university has been proactive in providing resources and establishing employee support groups, contributing to a heightened awareness of mental health concerns—a positive shift that is expected to endure.
Adapting to Different Teaching Modalities
Panelist: Tara Blasor
Tara Blasor, representing Texas A&M University, sheds light on the adaptability demonstrated by universities in response to the challenges posed by COVID-19. The institution introduced a variety of learning modes, including fully online courses, asynchronous (on-demand, self-paced) and synchronous (live with an instructor) options, as well as hybrid courses combining in-person and virtual elements. Instructors had to ensure that classrooms were technologically equipped to engage virtual students seamlessly.
Virtual learning brought about unexpected benefits, such as the ability to bring in guest speakers from around the world, enhancing the overall learning experience. Blasor anticipates a continued integration of virtual and hybrid programs, especially for postgraduate degrees, now that the successful implementation of these modes has been demonstrated. The increased confidence in utilizing technology is a notable outcome of the pandemic.
Diversity & Inclusion Initiatives
Panelist: Tara Blasor
Texas A&M University, with its diverse student body, is actively working on improving the climate for underrepresented students. While the university has a large Hispanic population, initiatives are underway to enhance the experience for African American students. Highlighting success stories and building a NABA (National Association of Black Accountants) chapter, along with a mentorship program, are part of the university's strategy.
To boost recruitment efforts, Texas A&M plans to offer full-ride three-year scholarships for accounting and finance students. Recognizing the potential disparities in math or STEM backgrounds among underrepresented students, support programs are being designed to ensure their success in lower-level accounting classes.
Ensuring Digital Equity
Panelist: Dr. Susan Henderson
Dr. Susan Henderson from California State University Fresno addresses the unique challenges faced by their diverse student population. With 70% of students being first-time college attendees, many financially support themselves and their families. The pandemic required students to merge their academic and home lives, posing challenges for those lacking necessary resources like webcams.
The university took proactive steps by providing resources such as hot spots and cameras, ensuring accessibility for all students. Dr. Henderson emphasizes the importance of educators making students aware of available resources and being flexible in response to students' individual situations. Regular surveys help gather information on students' circumstances, allowing educators to adapt and provide necessary support in the digital learning environment.
The resilience and adaptability demonstrated by accounting instructors during this challenging year have proven beneficial for both educators and students. While acknowledging the difficulties, the commitment to learning from the pandemic and rising to the challenge has fostered a sense of community and growth within the educational landscape.
Continue reading the Vishal Educator blog for the latest updates on accounting and CPA information, essential for all accounting instructors. The evolving landscape of education requires ongoing awareness and adaptability, and platforms like Vishal strive to keep educators informed and equipped for the road ahead.