These are exciting times…
As an ex-tutor of bookkeeping, accounting and finance for business owners, I have the right knowledge and experience when I say the following:
“What is taught hasn’t changed much. For quite a while...”
We also know that the roles, responsibilities and tasks within bookkeeping, accounting and financial management are shifting, sometimes enabled by technology and sometimes by customer expectations (internal and external).
Whilst it’s clear that there are millions out of the 5.5m UK Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) who use a shoebox of receipts and - if we are lucky - a spreadsheet, then it’s also clear that the wave of technology solutions has already caused a divide between what we teach and the real-world.
So... yes, you know there is a Xero solution spiel coming next, but this is XU magazine after all! But it’s a very important spiel; far more important than any single software vendor, and it’s about the growing divide between the curriculum and the real-world.
The workflow relating to keying in transactions in to any desktop software has all been about batching things up.
So, all of the “computerised accounting” modules & qualifications do the same. That’s if it’s covered at all, of course. And that’s because the frameworks that dictate the content were based on technology solutions from 1995.
These frameworks are what haven’t changed for over 20 years, certainly at least when it comes to impact of tech.
1. When you take the chart (fig. 1) and create the capability to do this online, anytime, anyplace, anywhere.
2. With direct bank feeds, a lot of transactions are already there to be reconciled, and the ability to take pictures of receipts that come through as transactions automatically.
3. With machine learning leading to code-free accounting.
4. With a range of 600 third party apps as an ecosystem of business solutions that the consumer will often think of first, before they think of the accounting.
5. With an assurance dashboard of proactive indicators that things aren’t what they perhaps should be, changing the concept of the word audit.
Life looks somewhat different.
And where such a cloud accounting system is in place, the student is simply being taught the wrong stuff when faced with “computerised accounting”. And that is doing absolutely nothing for their employability either.
We also know how learning takes place now. Small bite sized chunks. Show me, I do. On any device. Anytime. And I will probably be multitasking on different devices just for good measure… While Netflix is on.
I am pleased to say that with the launch of Xero Learn there will soon be another way. This is effectively our student platform:
Xero Learn is a lesson development tool that allows for any order of learning. Customers then suppliers or suppliers then cash, etc. Using Xero. That’s live Xero, not screen scrapes, not assimilated, live. Teaching Xero using the real thing.
Xero Learn is a lesson development tool that allows the creation of interactive guidance inside Xero. So I might choose to give lots of guidance on something hairy or no guidance on areas that warrant some playing. After all, show, I do and all that.
Xero Learn is a solution that allows for the development of lessons within Xero but also the tracking of progress against those lessons. From within the Xero application itself.
Xero Learn allows for the Xero subscription to be provided to the student in a nice contained and controlled way. You choose when to turn it on and when to turn it off. Blank subscriptions can be provided or there can be a range of scenarios for different purposes, e.g. preloaded with starting customers, suppliers and transactions. Or how about pre-loaded with a failing business? And the lesson becomes “why”?
So, we have at last reached that stage where we can consider how to teach bookkeeping, accounting and financial management in a way where it’s not the theory followed by “computerised accounting” as a module. We all know life moved on from that a long time ago. We can create lessons with context, interweaving the doing, relating that doing to the real-world.
We can teach the wider principles of bookkeeping and accounting as the core to a new solution set. If students work in Industry or in Practice then we must start to teach them a digital skills agenda that takes on board this fact. A farmer will think Figured first and then accounting. (Figured is a business app that caters for online crop & livestock tracking).
Or at least they will think “take care of my farming business processes first and then I might be interested in that bookkeeping malarkey”. The vital fact is that they regard their financial adviser as their most trusted adviser. Same goes for a retail business; Vend before accounting. So we must teach this skill set.
When I talk to people (who might listen) about this stuff then sometimes there is a hesitation...”Won’t this mean that we won’t be teaching bookkeeping at all, Mike?”
The answer is that it is absolutely imperative that we teach what is going on under the bonnet. The debits and credits light bulb moment is as needed today as ever. That’s one of the reasons why I love the fact that with all of the machine learning magic inside Xero, a Dr/Cr journal is always posted by Xero. I can always see what’s gone on under the bonnet.
Bookkeeping / accounting flows are different in this new world. Where compliance tasks diminish, there is equal need to teach the next generation of students how powerful these systems are, how much information can be used to question and to advise. How bookkeeping / accounting can be the heart of wider business process management and how insightful these solutions allow us to be.
We can therefore create financial skills content with high relevance to the world in which students live today. And anyone with any business / entrepreneurial inclinations needs to know the difference between profitability and cash flow.
And I want access to this learning to be always on. Anytime, anyplace, anywhere. Martini. (You are showing your age).
OK, so what next?
Well, we are so far working with a range of Content Creator / Providers: Avado, Kaplan, First Intuition, Mindful Education and Blackbullion.
These all specialise in the creation and delivery of bookkeeping, accounting and financial skills education. Including the likes of AAT, ACCA, ICAEW, ICB, IAB qualifications as well as provision of content and services to Colleges and Universities.
Xero Learn is a solution. A platform. Because we are a platform business. It provides the platform for the above providers and others to issue and control the Xero licence. To load it with relevant data (imagine the power of ‘a failing business” or a “rock-star business” in teaching). To integrate with the main learning management systems so that e.g. Tresham College knows student progress. And the Big One, a lesson development tool.
I realise that you may need to know far more detail that I can’t yet give you. But it’s hopefully whetted the appetite and I am sure you will agree that these are indeed exciting times...
I am really looking forward to participating in a highly relevant digital skills agenda for UK students.