New approach to e-learning in accountancy

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AAT won the prestigious E-Learning Age award for ‘best use of rapid e-learning’ last week. Suzie Webb, AAT Director of Education, talks about AAT’s approach to e-learning and how it’s changing the AAT Accounting Qualification for the better. 

Like it or not, the education landscape is changing.

There are more types of learner than ever before – part-time, full-time, distance and online. What this highlights is that people learn in different ways. In response to this the education system has introduced more options for learners, offering them the chance to gain a qualification in a way that suits them and their lifestyle.

Over the past two years, AAT has begun to adopt and implement e-learning materials to support students through their studies and training providers in their delivery of the qualification. With a large part of our qualification already computer based – particularly assessments – it made sense to develop what we offer in e-learning at the same time.

A demand for e-learning support

Last year we consulted with students to find out exactly what type of products our students would benefit from while they studied. Through this feedback it became clear that there was an appetite for more online study tools.

Students, on the whole, said they required:

  • Bite-sized e-learning modules (10-15 screens) on areas of the curriculum that they found difficult.
  • Diagnostic tests which would show them where they had gone wrong and give targeted feedback on areas they found difficult.

We also consulted with students and college tutors, via surveys and social media, to determine which curriculum areas were causing problems for students. As a result of this work, we decided to develop a series of e-learning modules across levels 2 to 4, as well as a quiz engine which we called ‘Green light’.

Giving AAT students and tutors what they asked for

Some areas of accountancy are subject to yearly changes and government policy amendments, so it’s crucial that we reflect these in the modules when they happen.

We sent out a call for subject matter experts to write the e-learning content and were overwhelmed by the response. Of the 325 tutors that showed an interest in working with us, ten were chosen to produce 30 modules. Earlier this year we embarked on a second round of development of 29 new e-learning modules, 1,100 new Green light questions and 30 interactive PDFs.

Of course, it’s one thing to create these materials, but it’s another to ensure they serve a purpose and tackle ‘problem’ areas experienced by our students. AAT assessments take place all year round, so we constantly monitor areas that are causing issues and react to them as quickly as possible; it’s no point having e-learning tools that aren’t up to date or relevant.

Unlike traditional textbooks, the main advantage of e-learning is the ability to update content quickly. For example, the production of 10 modules takes just two months, which means we can gather feedback and produce a new resource to support the needs of students and tutors faster than ever before.

On the path to success with rapid e-learning

Since launching the first phase of e-learning in December 2011 we’ve had remarkable uptake in the e-learning courses and Green light tests.

At any time, we have more than 62,000 students studying at Levels 2, 3 and 4 and a significant percentage engage with our e-learning resources. In February 2012, 24% of students said they had worked on a module in a lesson – an indication that it has added a new element to their classroom learning and overall AAT experience. The below table shows the dramatic increases we’ve seen in uptake this year alone.

 April 2012June 2012Increase
e-learning module course completions (UK based)24,21042,52976%
e-learning module course completions (non-UK based)2,7388,014 (May 2012)192%

The success story globally has been particularly noteworthy. Distance is no longer a potential barrier for our overseas training providers and students who now have access to the same e-learning tools as those within the UK.

Here’s what you had to say:

  • “Every minute spent on these e-learning modules is productive. I would recommend them to anyone who is studying for their exams. They helped me every step of the way in passing Level 3.”- Mark (student)
  • “AAT students have never had such a rich supply of resources in all the time I have been teaching AAT.” Vanessa – College (East Anglia)
  • “The college really likes using e-learning materials in their classes and feel it really benefits the students.” Barry – College (Cardiff)

Our decision to embrace rapid e-learning means that we are in a strong position to deliver courses quickly, make amends in-house rather than going back to suppliers and, most importantly, react quickly to the changing needs of our students, training providers and members.

Due to our success both in the uptake and quality of our e-learning, we’re investing in a rolling programme of development next year and beyond.

Want to sample some of AAT’s award-winning e-learning? You can try free modules on solvency or invoice discounting now.

Suzie Webb is AAT's Director of Education & Development.

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