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Keep It Simple

By ADMIN - August 8 2015

By David Lee

David  Li has found the secret of teaching the complicated and rigorous practice of accounting by breaking it down to a simple and elegant format that is easy to understand. His instincts told him to discard superfluous facts and figures which overly complicate the fundamentals of accounting practice. David Li uses logical progressions supported by real-life examples with lots of step-by-step practice. This method has resulted in an approach to the fundamentals of accounting that is interesting and motivating. This article, “Keep It Simple” illustrates David’s passion, not only for accounting, but his profession as a teacher.

As an accounting professional, I need to help clients file corporate tax returns every year. As we all know, the first-hand data accuracy of accounting systems is extremely important in order to file tax returns successfully without causing any potential of a future audit by CRA. In order to achieve this accuracy, I often have to educate my clients about how to set up their accounting data systems properly. Generally speaking, most of my clients are business men and women, with different backgrounds, who are very busy with little time to spend on complicated and tedious data entry procedures. It happens all the time – they forget what I told them and bungle the data again. I found a solution by simplifying the process. I created a lot of short-cuts and set up an easy-to-understand and easy-to-use format that worked out very well for all my clients. They were all very happy to save their valuable time and I was also very excited about it. That was the moment when I came up the slogan “Keep it Simple”. 

I started teaching accounting courses for college students in 2010. Accounting is not only a sophisticated course full of terms and principles, but also a strict working system integrated with specially customized accounting logic (often seemingly against common sense) which is used widely by people in their daily life. Students all have different learning curves and learning habits depending on their previous educational background and work experience. A student’s previous education or work experience can sometimes help, but it can also bring incorrect perceptions which can create a learning barrier to the success of accounting studies. When this happens, the frustration grows and sometimes students will give up on this profession. Generally speaking, I face many different kinds of students. I will focus on adult students here since they are the readers of this journal.

Adult students normally come to school for career change or updating current skills. Most of them have kids at home to take care of and need to work hard to make a living. Study time for them is very limited and too many distractions make it hard for them to focus. They are often under a lot pressure from life and work already. It is really a challenge for me to keep them away from distraction and anxiety. But, looking at the bright side, these students are more mature, serious about their goals and really willing to study new knowledge to pursue their career, which is extremely important to the success of their study. To achieve the best results, I summarized the key concepts and formulas for every chapter and re-organized everything into a simple step-by-step process. I translated accounting terms into very easy-to-understand concepts. With the help of my practical accounting experiences, I have more than enough real-life examples to be used. So, I picked them out, customized them and precisely illustrated them to support the chapter key points. It turned out to be very useful. After teaching for so many years, I found most of the accounting textbooks are not very ideal for beginners. The writers put too many things into the book and use difficult terms even in the first chapter. It is always too much information for new learners and it simply scares them away. This kind of topic design make a difficult-to-learn subject even more complicated. That’s why all students always say Accounting is a very difficult subject. 

Simply put, I put myself in the students’ shoes and re-organized learning materials and key concepts into a step-by-step learning process supported by a lot of interesting real life examples. I also realize “keep it simple” is not to sacrifice the other learning objectives and topics. I need to ensure all the topics are covered on a timely basis. To prevent boring lectures during the class, I also use jokes to get students’ attention to keep them focused. Moreover, I know accounting is always about practice. Sometimes, I found that students can follow you all the time and understand every topic you taught them, but when they do the exercises and independently analyze questions, they may have trouble. Therefore, I always give them enough time to practice and explain the solutions to them in detail. For computerized accounting courses, I use a different method. As most of us are aware, the most popular accounting software on the market is Sage 50, Sage300 and Quickbooks. Almost every business uses one of them. Students always want to know how to use them proficiently so they can add these skills as a plus on their resume. However, when it comes to learning the software, some students are not very familiar with the computer since they only use MS Office to some degree or simply use computer as an internet browser. To make their life easier, I use a flowchart to help them fully understand the software interface and explain to them why every step we are doing is the most practical and efficient way to get the job done. Then, I let them do every step again from scratch by themselves. During this process, students may still have lots of questions, and I answer them in detail. It is very important to be patient! Remember, “There is no such thing as a stupid student but a teacher who failed to teach.” 

I always question myself if it is possible to do better to keep the students away from experiencing confusion, disappointment, stress and frustration. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to provide students with a constructive learning experience. In that way, students would always stay in a positive cycle with satisfaction, curiosity, confidence and self-motivation. I believe that when students feel happy, relaxed and excited, they can reach their maximum learning potential. Tagore says ” it is very simple to be happy, but it is very difficult to be simple.” I have tried very hard to keep everything simple for my students and I will continue to try to improve my teaching skills. The most touching words I received from a student after taking my class were: “David, I was wrong about accounting, it is not difficult at all, actually it is really interesting”. At that moment, I was the happiest teacher in the world. I would like to thank my students here and wish them “Enjoy life and Happy Learning!”

From the students’ perspectives, how to apply the “Keep it Simple” method

  1. Calm down. Getting nervous is a big enemy for learning anything. Preview the Chapter list and read the topic completely.
  2. Summarize the key topic points and questions
  3. Come to class, take notes, discuss with students and ask questions directly to the professor.
  4. Time management. No matter how busy you are, you have to make sure you have at least two or three uninterrupted hours of study time every day without any distractions since the study is progressive process. If you don’t practice enough, it won’t work eventually.
  5. Keep passionate about your subject. Always do research on line or get more knowledge from other learning resources. 
  6. For Accounting study or Computerized Accounting, practical experience would be an asset. If possible, students can start to look for a related job opportunity as a volunteer. Once having real life work experience, it can lead to a real potential job. 

This article was written by David Li, Accounting Training Specialist at Access Business College. Call 426-510-2739 for information.

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