Fred Jacobs

ACC 230: Survey of Accounting

ACC 230

ACC 230, Survey of Accounting Concepts, is a required course in more than 20 undergraduate major programs outside the College of Business, including such diverse areas as packaging, advertising, and construction management. Every semester, at least one traditional and one online section are offered. In 2007, 426 students enrolled in the fully online section, 47% of the total course enrollment. Professor Jacobs teaches and grades all sections without employing graduate or undergraduate assistants.

The online section of this course is not glitzy. But it has been thoughtfully designed and uses appropriate technology to accomplish specific learning goals and objectives. Both MSU course management systems, ANGEL and Lon-Capa, are used to:

  • deliver content
  • provide opportunities for students to apply concepts
  • facilitate student collaboration
  • enhance faculty-to-student communication, and
  • assess performance.

Camtasia is an outstanding tool for recording the lectures, capturing not only the audio and the original PowerPoint slides but the annotations that the instructor makes on the slides with his tablet laptop. The instructor records classroom lectures from previous semesters and then carefully edits and refines them. The final products are 15-20 minute lectures on new material and then shorter lectures on individual study problem solutions. Students can watch them and/or download them to a computer or iPod. The lectures are produced as Windows Media files so that the audio speed can be adjusted by the viewer.

The goals for the course are that students understand the accounting concepts well enough to be able to apply them to real-world problems. These goals are achieved by first presenting clear and comprehensive lectures that introduce the important concepts, and then by working through solutions to a set of study problems. The opportunity to view these lectures repeatedly on Angel is a key element in the online learning experience and a significant improvement over the single-lecture paradigm in traditional classes.

Lon-Capa Problems

Practice in applying the accounting concepts to a variety of business problems is another critical course component. Students can practice on the study problems that are used extensively to illustrate content. However, the greatest opportunity for individual practice comes from the Lon-Capa problems.

Lon-Capa is used to post problems throughout the semester. For each problem, many of the numbers and words are randomized, resulting in a unique version for each student. Students are permitted several submissions and there is immediate feedback. An easily accessible electronic bulletin board helps to create a learning community among students who very rarely see one another and also allows the instructor to communicate with many students on an individual basis the result is an extremely effective, popular, and well-attended virtual help room.

Lon-Capa Exams and Second Chance Exams

One of the most useful applications of Lon-Capa for testing and learning is the concept of a Second Chance Exam. For 48 hours after each of the in-class exams, students have an opportunity to take the exam again, online. Because of randomization, the questions that students see on their Second Chance Exam are slightly different from the ones they saw on their in-class exams. The Second Chance Exam provides several benefits:

  • Since they don t know their in-class score, students who guessed right on a question the first time around actually have to learn the material the second time around to get credit.
  • Students who knew how to do a question the first time around must still work on the question again, reinforcing their mastery of the material.
  • Students discover, on their own, that the questions were fair; the instructor no longer has to make that argument.
  • Students get an opportunity to earn more points in a more relaxed setting.
  • Although not on the bulletin board, students can still learn from collaboration.

A very large percentage of students take the Second Chance Exams, making Lon-Capa not only an excellent performance assessment tool but an effective mechanism to encourage students to spend more time learning the exam content.

Student performance on Lon-Capa problems and exams are essentially identical to performance in the traditional sections. Student course evaluation comments glowingly compliment the online course structure, organization, and instructor presentations and helpfulness.


Fred Jacobs, Professor, Accounting and Information Systems

Honorable Mention Course

“…the evolution to online was relatively simple…I’m always looking to improve”

– Fred Jacobs –