Integrating Data Analytics into Your Intro Accounting Course

Kristen Quinn, Associate Professor, Assumption University
Data analytics is the current buzzword in Accounting. Any teacher in an Accounting program knows the changes that are coming to the CPA exam and how they will impact the courses.
Data analytics has become a part of the new CPA exam due to the increased demand in the professional sector. The break between semesters was a chance for me to review the industry’s changes and revamp my courses. If you’re anything like me, you have been studying the potential impact of data analysis and the rest of CPA Exam evolution on the courses.
The New Challenge in Accounting Classroom
It can be overwhelming to think about “data analytics” when you first hear the term. I teach Principles of Accounting, and my first thought was “I don’t have the time to teach students the basics of data analytics in my course.”
You know how difficult it is to get students, many of whom have never had any accounting experience, to understand complex concepts such as debits and credits and financial statements. It seemed impossible to add anything to this already full plate.
My second thought was, “I’m not an expert in data analytics. How do I start with creating appropriate data analysis assignments?” I began to explore this topic over the past few month and realized that my students already do data analytics in my courses. There are many resources available to help me seamlessly integrate data analytic software into existing courses.
Information for Students Introducing Data Analytics
Resource 1: The Right Textbook
Finding the right textbook for your course objectives is the first step in introducing students to data analysis and critical thinking. A textbook that covers data analytics topics in an Introductory Accounting course, for example, is essential for a course that blends business decision-making and analytics throughout the semester.
Financial & Managerial Accounting, 16th Edition (Warren/Jones/Taylor) uses a combination of business examples, end-of-chapter questions and unique Take It Further exercises to build data analytics coverage throughout the narrative.
Resource 2: Microsoft Excel
Excel is a very important program that almost all students know and can easily access. This was my favorite step in the students’ journey to learn data analytics. While most students are familiar with Excel, not many have the skills to create formulas and pivot tables. Excel’s ability to quickly analyze data and aid in decision-making is something many students don’t know.
Resource 3: CNOWv2
I don’t have the time to teach Excel in class so I searched for resources that would help my students learn these key skills. This would allow them to approach the concepts in my course from an analytics-focused perspective.
CNOWv2 is my favorite program. They have Excel Online assignments. The Show Me How videos are my favorite part. They show students how to complete an Excel assignment. These videos include information on topics such as cell references and formulas.
This allowed me to take the stress out of Excel teaching while still giving my students exposure to the basics of data analytics. I was able spend my class time teaching the basics. I can now focus on the components of a calculation and why they are important. I can then show students how Excel can quickly and easily do those calculations.
Resource 4: Case Studies
I also use a few data analytics-focused case study in my course, which I found on the website Accounting in the Headlines. These case studies are short in length and offer detailed instructions and videos that will help students put Excel to use. Students can also choose to complete some of these case studies in Power BI or Tableau.
Next steps
The new school year is underway and I am optimistic that data analytics will continue to grow in my courses over the next few years. These concepts will be less intimidating for students and faculty if they are introduced early in introductory courses.
Learn more about how to incorporate Data Analytics topics, Microsoft Excel, and the CPA Exam Evolution into your Principles of Accounting courses. I host a