Investigation of a Strategy for Integrating Computers into the Accounting Curriculum

by Walter W. Austin and Mary Jo Vaughan

Much of the research on integrating computers into the accounting curriculum concludes that: (1) there is no difference in performance on examinations between students who have used computers in their accounting courses and those who did not use them, (2) students do not think that using computers aids their performance, and (3) student enthusiasm for using computers declines with computer use. Most prior integration efforts have focused on using computers to solve traditional textbook accounting problems and have been centered in the accounting course. This paper presents the results of a study that attempted to integrate computers into the accounting curriculum by jointly enrolling students in an accounting and a computer course. The study found that students who were jointly enrolled voluntarily used computers on a major case study in the accounting course at a much higher rate than students only enrolled in the accounting course. It also found that the jointly enrolled students reported that joint enrollment was useful in learning accounting.Accounting professors, in choosing instructional materials, are confronted with a bewildering array of computer supplements to virtually every introductory accounting textbook. Existing research provides little help to faculty in choosing from the myriad of supplements. For over twenty years, accounting researchers have been studying the cognitive effects of a variety of techniques for integrating computers into the accounting curriculum; however, the results are frequently contradictory. After a comprehensive review of the studies concerning computer use in accounting instruction, Ng and Er (1989) opined that based on existing evidence "computing is irrelevant to the learning of accounting concepts" (pg 322) .

Research outside the accounting discipline is also inconsistent and thus largely inconclusive. Kulik and Kulik (1986) in a meta-analysis of 101 studies across disciplines found a significant overall positive learning effect attributed to computer use. On the other hand, Norris (1987) reported that studies in various disciplines at six universities had failed to establish a correlation between learning and computer use. An extensive study at Dartmouth conducted in 24 introductory courses found no difference in grades between computer owners and non-owners in 21 of the 24 courses (Norris 1987).

While the cognitive effects of computer use have been studied extensively, little research has been directed to the behavioral and attitudinal effects of integrating computers into the accounting curriculum. The few studies that have been conducted have yielded inconsistent results similar to the cognitive studies. This study investigates the behavioral and attitudinal effects of a technique for integrating computers into the introductory accounting courses.

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