By David Li
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:
This article was written by David Li, Accounting Training Specialist at Access Business College. Call 426-510-2739 for information.
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When you already have a busy career, finding the time to earn a degree can be a big challenge. The N.O.W. Plus Degree Pathway at York University can help.
Ray Parker joined N.O.W. Plus in 2016 to pursue her Bachelor of Human Resources Management (BHRM) through the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies while working two jobs and squeezing in volunteer work.
Ray has had a long-time passion for HR – she knew coming out of high school that it was what she wanted to do, combining her interests of business and helping people. She says she wanted to put those skills together in a field that fit with her personality and her very customer service-focused work ethic.
On the recommendation from a family friend, Ray looked into the N.O.W. Plus pathway for the Bachelor of Human Resources Management and jumped at the chance to study her passion. She was attracted to the program because of how well-rounded it is, “in the sense that it required basic knowledge of many aspects of business, including accounting principles and labour economics” which she knows will help her to be a better HR professional in the future. The ability to study at night, online and weekends gave her the flexibility to continue working to support herself; and credits from her previous study were applied to her degree at York.
Another key factor in deciding to pursue HR on the N.O.W. Plus pathway was the thorough preparation provided during the application process by Continuing Studies Advisors, “I was very impressed with the help I received when I made an appointment with the School of Continuing Studies, which definitely influenced my decision”. Ray continues to receive support from the Continuing Studies Advisors during her studies.
Having gone through the process of applying and being accepted to the BHRM, Ray has some advice for others considering taking a degree through the N.O.W. Plus Pathway: “Ask questions. Use the resources available to you as a student or even if you’re just thinking about the program. Advisors will take the time to answer your questions and make the transition easier for you to handle. I’m finally starting to learn that it’s okay to ask questions, and using the tools available to me to make university life more manageable. I can vouch that the University is committed to helping you in any way it can”.
Ray has found this support invaluable as she balances the demands of her study schedule with those of her two jobs. She works full time in a collections agency in Toronto, utilizing her knowledge of the financial and banking sectors and employing her bilingual skills dealing with lawyers and other professionals on a daily basis in both English and French. She also works part-time for a cash logistics and supply chain management company maintaining their records.
In addition to her dedication to her studies and her work, Ray says she’s always looking for opportunities to volunteer. Her most recent adventure was to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympics, where she rented an apartment for a whole month during the summer. “It was my first experience travelling by myself, and although people were worried about how I’d fare, I couldn’t have felt safer. I met locals and saw some of the events (even some medals for Canada), and of course enjoyed the wonderful beaches.”
The decision to apply for her Rio adventure came from the fun she had volunteering for the 2015 PanAm Games in Toronto, where she even learned a bit of Portuguese in unbeknownst preparation for Rio. She says the highlight was the amazing experience of being immersed in so many cultures and languages all at once, which galvanized her interest in volunteering for Rio which in turn has motivated her to volunteer at the Olympics regularly from now on – something she highly recommends to everyone.
Another unexpected outcome of her volunteer work is the influence that it has had on her career. Ideally she’d like to couple her love for the Olympics and HR to one day work for the International Olympic Committee (IOC). With her English, French and Spanish languages skills and her Bachelor of Human Resources Management behind her, Ray will be well placed to contribute meaningfully to the global community the Olympics represents and the community outreach and enrichment activities they undertake.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the BHRM or other Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies degree programs available on N.O.W. Plus, have a look at www.nowplusyork.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org
By Wendy Terry
The Spring Term has the most diverse set of start dates as courses start from late April. into May June, July, and even August. So you need to shop around more to make sure you don’t miss a good course for yourself and one offered in a good time frame. Years ago it was common for courses to have similar Fall, Winter or Spring/Summer start dates so by scanning a print calendar with schedules included you felt that you were not missing any course offerings. Any outliers were clearly visible. But today even though educational providers do have common term start dates they have many workshops and intensive courses with mid term starts dates. Then online courses in the college have monthly and continuous intake start dates. What to do?
Similarly, what with work commitments and family commitments, then your spouse’s family and work commitments and then your children’s activities and finally the availability of a babysitter, you often wind up with only one night of the week your could take a class or really only a weekend day. Given all this even the course location may matter, close to home, work or even the babysitter. What to do?
When educational providers moved to websites from print calendars that had included schedules, looking for courses that fit your schedule became more time consuming. With a print calendar you could scan across the text looking for start dates, days that suited your schedule, location circling the ones that fit. On a website you have to drill down from program to course to schedule only to find the course you want is not offered this term or on a day you could go or in a feasible location. Then you would go back up and drill down again. No. Then backup and drill down again.
Now educational providers have redesigned their search engines so you can customize your course search, by start date, by days of the week, even location. Thank You for this.
Searches by start date and days of the week
The following is a listing of new customized search features which have been added to some educational providers’ websites.
On the George Brown College Continuing Education website on every Courses page, if you put “Courses starting in (say) February” in the search bar, you get a listing, similarly if you put “Courses offered on (say) Tuesdays” you get a listing.
Staff at George Brown told me you need only put in Feb. or Writing Feb to get a listing. You need only put in Tu to get ones offered on tht day.
Similarly with Seneca College Faculty of Continuing Education and Training website in the courses search section if you put courses staring in February in the search bar you get a listing. This page also gives a bar to click on so you can search by day of the week and by location.
Centennial College Part-time Learning does not seem to have a search by start date function. Ask–sometimes staff has access to different search functions than students. Or we just don’t know how to use their search engines, we have an outsider’s view, ask an insider.
Durham College Continuing Education still prints a detailed course listing calendar with schedules, and this calendar is online. So you don’t have to go pick it up. The online version is interactive so you can post a note on a course that interests you just as you would circle one in a print calendar. I could not find a way to search by start date or by day of the week so ask.
Humber College Continuing Education, Course search page in the top right corner has a search bar where if you put courses starting in February you get a listing. It is not clear that you can get a similar listing of courses offered on a day of the week. Ask.a program officer.
Sheridan College Faculty of Continuing and Professional studies, Course Search page, has a Course Filter page to the right which allows you to search by the day of the week, delivery method, term, and campus. Many courses start throughout the term.
Ryerson University Continuing Education home page search bar will list courses which start in a certain month and you can also get a listing of courses running a certain day of the week.
The University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies home page gives a bar that leads to a listing for their U of T Mississauga offerings and the U of T Scarborough offerings.
See the York University story on page 2 about the their N.O. W. Plus Degree Pathway program. It is specifically designed to help adults look at their previous education and make new plans to work their schedule with those of York courses to get your degree in the most expeditious way possible.
Look at start times
Seneca College makes it clear on their Faculty of Continuing Education and Training home page that they offer early morning classes. You could take a class before work if you find you are not tired out after a day’s work.
We often don’t pay attention to start times but we should. If the courses are at the same location you could do two in one night as some have early starts and others late starts. Or you could do two on a Saturday or Sunday.
Get Inside information
You can never be sure form an outsider’s view that you have not missed a good course or one running on a better schedule for you. So get inside information. Take the time to talk to a Program Officer or a Career Counselor or attend an Information Session or do all three for that matter.
The web pages noted above will also lead you to these contacts and sessions.
George Brown Continuing Education puts a link to their program contacts right on their page for Courses and Programs and when you google George Brown on the Google page to the left you can click on Information Sessions which gets you right into a sessions list.
Seneca gives you an email route to contacts, you tell them your question, the right person gets back to you. If you put “Information Sessions” in the Search Bar you will get a listing.
Centennial Part-time Learning. gives you a general contact number and you should ask them about information sessions.
Durham College Continuing Education holds an Open House Day March 25th see calendar page 6 for details. They have a chat mode to ask questions on the front page of their website. On page 2 of the calendar program contacts are listed.
Humber has a general contact number. I could not see a listing on information sessions. Ask.
Sheridan's Faculty of Continuing and Professional Studies has an announcement on the home page to Book your free career consultation. This is a free 30 minutes session. Educational institutions are always talking to employers through their program advisory committee so they have good information to pass on.
Although most colleges list a general information number or list program officers you can talk to, it is not widely known that as a part-time student you can also talk to the colleges Career Counseling Office. Ask, a good session with a career counselor may change your course plans for the better.
On this same page for Sheridan there was a Student Guide Bar which leads to an Information Sessions listing. There is one listed for a General Con Ed info session on March 25th, 2017. Check that page for regular updates.
Ryerson Continuing Education, the U of T School of Continuing Studies and York U’s School of Continuing Studies all have general information numbers. Ask.