Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Professor in a Box

How many times have you wished you could find an expert to teach your high school level student? Wouldn't it be great if UPS could drop off a Professor in a box along with the curriculum for challenging courses? Financial Accounting by Michael P. Licata, Ph.D. is figuratively and literally a Professor in a Box. The course is taught by Licata, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Accountancy in the Villanova School of Business at Villanova University in Villanova, Pennsylvania, and is described as a first accounting course for homeschool high school students. The course promises to introduce students to the study of accounting described as "the language of business" .

Licata has taught the content of Financial Accounting dozens of times during his 24 years as a professor at Villanova University. He presently specializes in teaching distance learning courses at the graduate and undergraduate levels. According to Licata's bio he is consistently rated by his students as one of the best teachers in his department and in his college. Licata's connection to the homeschool community is a natural one as he and his wife Jeannie home school their two children in South Jersey.

Financial Accounting is designed for the independent learner and busy homeschool parent. According to the company website, "This course is taught in a non-traditional format. There is no textbook and no 40 page chapters to read. All necessary course content is included in the Flash lecture slides and a brief key concepts and terms file for each chapter. "It retails for only $134.99, a true bargain for any college level course.

According to literature accompanying the program Financial Accounting promises to be ".... similar in content to the first accounting course taken by all students in university and college schools of business across the country. Any high school level student with basic math skills can handle this course". Professor in a Box, Financial Accounting covers the following topics:

Chapter One: Introduction to Accounting

Chapter Two: The Financial Statements

Chapter Three: The Accounting Cycle- Recording Transactions

Chapter Four: The Accounting Cycle

Chapter Five: Accounting for a Merchandising Company

Chapter Six: Short-Term Financial Assets

Chapter Seven: Inventories

Chapter Eight: Long-term assets-Property, Plant & Equipment and Intangible Assets

Chapter Nine: Liabilities- Current & Long Term

Chapter Ten: Stockholders' Equity: Contributed Capital

Chapter Eleven: The Statement of Cash Flow

Chapter Twelve: Financial Statement Analysis

I received Professor in a Box, Financial Accounting free of charge in exchange for this review. My son Jonah, a 15 year old high school sophomore, assisted me by using the course over a five week period and educating me in regards to its assets and liabilities. Jonah has recently completed an Algebra 2 course and was ready to begin a new math elective.

Financial Accounting arrived with a supplementary calculator and pencil plus the entire curriculum and accompanying Instructor's guide on CD. For traditionalists preferring less screen time pages can be printed from your home computer including a terms file pdf , lecture slides, and even homework problems. Having the ability to print makes life easier for the student and teacher on the go without the benefit of a laptop.

Jonah began Financial Accounting at the beginning of November and worked consistently daily for 1-2 hours a day. The accompanying syllabus recommends completing 2 lessons per week with the course consisting of a total of 28 lessons over the 12 chapters including exam days. If a student held to that schedule they could complete the course in one semester or 14 weeks. Jonah has completed 8 lessons and one exam over about a five week period which included a short week for Thanksgiving break. When asked if he thought this schedule was a bit ambitious he said, " No, it is a nice alloted amount of time. I usually spend at least this much time on my math lessons".

Beginning the course is as easy as slipping the CD into the computer and clicking on the first lecture for chapter one. Each of the course's twelve chapters are sub-divided into 2-3 parts. Lectures are audio with power point slide visuals to aid in comprehension. Lecture time spans 2-4 hours per chapter (15-40 slides), and concludes with homework practice problems.

According to Jonah homework took an average of "about an hour to an hour and a half" to complete. When I looked for an example I discovered Chapter 1-part two lecture concludes with asking the student to record various described transactions for a one month period on a balance sheet, record the effects of transactions on a a balance sheet for a company's one month period of business, interpret the effects of business transactions on a balance sheet, prepare a balance sheet for various transaction scenarios for two different days of the company's history and match 17 vocabulary terms with definitions listed.

Topics included in Chapter One part two were:

* Distinguish financial accounting v. managerial accounting
* Discuss the need for integrity in the field of accouting
* Define and discuss GAAP (the rules of accounting)
* Define the roles of the FASB and the SEC
*Discuss the accounting profession, career opportunities in accounting and the requirements to become a CPA

Jonah had a few constructive comments in regards to the lectures of each chapter. " I thought Professor Licata was easy to listen to, but he sometimes repeated stuff a lot which kind of got annoying. I didn't really have any trouble completing the homework based on what I had learned in the lecture. There is a solution section that you can click on to check your answers so if I got something wrong I knew about it right away and saw what I did wrong so I could correct it".

Students are graded by three exams, one after chapter 4, one after chapter 8, and one after chapter 12. Each exam is worth 150 points. A suggested grading scale 0f 90-100, etc., is listed in the product literature as well.

I did not use the instructor's CD at all. I found this to be a HUGE plus as my high school student prefers to work independently for long hours. Financial accounting allowed me to simply act as doting mentor Mom and helped Jonah to continue developing his strong independent study skills.

Customers can purchase Financial Accounting at the company website, www.professorinabox.com. The informative site provides curriculum samples, excel spreadsheets and access to a forum for curriculum users.

I have seen a great deal of curriculum in the past 14 years of homeschooling. I am not often impressed with new finds, but Professor in a Box, Financial Accounting is by far one of the best elective courses I have ever seen for high school students. It is written by an expert in the field, designed for independent learning, responsibly scheduled and planned to fit a high school kid's life, and affordable. I am VERY, VERY impressed. The true test of any curriculum, however, lies in its effectiveness with students. I asked Jonah for his final comments regarding Financial Accounting and he easily obliged my request.

"I like it. It's confusing if you don't know how to do it, but once you learn how it's easy. It presents information in a good way. I liked how Dr. Licata went over problems in the lessons for examples. I found it easier to understand the information he gave this way. I would definitely reccomend this course to other homeschool families"


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