Accounting Education in an Open Distance Learning Environment: Case Studies for Pervasive Skills Enhancement

Christina Cornelia SHUTTLEWORTH

Distance learning institutions allow access to many students who do not enjoy the luxury of studying fulltime at contact-based universities by providing flexibility in terms of time, space and finances. Globally, accountants are vital for the economy and it is important that higher education institutions empower them with the necessary skills to face the volatile working environment. Equipping accounting students with only discipline-specific knowledge, does not result in practice-ready accountants, which cause great concern for professional accounting bodies as well as employers. Certain professional accounting bodies in South Africa have recently incorporated case study-based examinations to test students’ discipline-specific knowledge and pervasive skills. Pervasive skills are soft skills, also sometimes referred to as personal attributes that allow for effective interaction between people. Using case studies to develop pervasive skills in accounting education, specifically in Open Distance Learning (ODL) institutions, is regarded as a fairly unexplored area. This article reports on how semistructured interviews gave insight into how ODL accounting educators in a developing country perceived the need to introduce a case study-based module to develop pervasive skills. It is recommended that the training of distance education accounting students should be adapted to include case studies for pervasive skills development.

KEYWORDS: Distance learning, accounting education, case studies.