Delivering ACCA in a digital world

Tom Clendon reflects on the recent ACCA webinar series.

During lockdown I worked with ACCA in putting together a series of webinars to help tutors deliver ACCA in a digital world.

These five webinars provided an opportunity for ACCA tutors who had delivered online teaching to share and reflect on those experiences, and to discuss the challenges of delivering online learning. These webinars are now available to watch on demand in the Education Hub.

The webinar series

The opening webinar demonstrated a variety of online lecture styles, from recordings in the classroom through to live Zoom lectures. Nothing was perfect though! The theme of this session was to encourage lecturers to launch and learn. To be prepared to try something some new.

The second webinar saw Dr Constantine 'Dino' Kiritsis share his experiences on the importance of adapting to teaching online. In a wide-ranging webinar, he explained that for live classes it is so important to have interaction with the students to create and maintain engagement.

My big takeaway from that session, ironically, was the importance of remembering to still do the basic things that make us good lecturers. Just because the medium has changed, we still must deliver clear explanations; recap, teach through questions and answer student queries.

The penultimate webinar saw various tutors showcase their own online teaching tips and tricks and the final webinar in the series was a question and answer session with a panel of ACCA online tutors.

However, I want to share with you a little bit more about what was, in my opinion, the most powerful webinar – the one where we heard the student voices recounting their experiences of online learning.

The student experience of online learning

This was a unique opportunity to hear direct from five ACCA students about their experiences of online learning. Between them these students had studied with all the major ACCA online learning providers. They were generous enough to share their personal experiences, having been prompted with the following questions.

'Why did you study online?'

Our panel of students all chose to study online well before there was any lockdown or social distancing. ‘Jax’ summed up her reasons as follows.

'The flexibility of being online and being able to work at the same time, it’s more cost effective than actually going to a classroom and being able to pick and choose what times of day I study and how I learn it. It is much more beneficial to me because I have family, I have work. So, I can still earn a living, get experience at the same time and still manage family.'

These comments were echoed by the rest of the panel. Flexibility really is a key benefit for online learners.

'Do you prefer your online classes to be recorded or live?'

Now there was no unanimous view on this. Synchronous learning (live classes) has the benefit for the student of being potentially more interactive through live exchanges with the tutor. But Dhara explained that she was an active learner – even when she was watching a recording (asynchronous learning).

'I could fast forward if I felt I knew about it and start it from where I needed it to be. When I used to watch the videos, I could pause the button, write what I wanted to write, go back to it and play it.'

Sandeep articulated the flexibility of asynchronous learning with an amusing anecdote.

'There was once I watched a lecture at two in the morning because I thought I can’t sleep, I’m too active, actually let’s watch this, right let’s try this question, right let’s try this homework. Probably not the best approach, but it’s the fact that you have the ability to do that. If that was a face-to-face class you couldn’t think “right, I’m going to go to a class.”'

'What challenges have you faced studying online?'

Of course, studying ACCA exams online is not all plain sailing.

Lise had some technical issues to overcome.

'Because it was new to me, I hadn’t used Web Ex before. I never used the online platform, the technological skills I was not really familiar with. But it's about habits you know, and I got used to it.'

Favour was clear that her challenge was around motivation.

'Negative side of it is motivation. You really have to motivate yourself. Set targets for yourself and set a timeline. So that it is clear what I want to achieve from this period to the next period.'

'How did you find engaging with your tutor?'

There is a concern that online students will find it difficult to engage with their tutors. However, contrary to the expectations of many, our student panel of online learners felt very connected and engaged with their online tutors – even though they had never met them in person! The use of WhatsApp stood out as a means of creating that connection.

Favour explained that she appreciated WhatsApp communications.

'The WhatsApp interaction it was very, very good because the lecturer could leave voice notes and explain every question in detail and that’s very, very supportive. At any time if you send a message, any time he picks it up, he can respond back regardless of the time.'

Lise echoed that sentiment and she expressed her appreciation about feeling part of an online community of students.

'The tutor had a WhatsApp group which I joined and definitely the support was great. Here in Lebanon I was not in an ACCA bubble. My colleagues don’t know what SBL and SBR, so when I talked to the other students on the WhatsApp group it felt like I belonged somewhere, like I was in class with them.'

It seems that use of technology combined with the individual commitment of the tutor has been successful in enabling the students to engage with their tutor.

Tom Clendon FCCA is an SBR online lecturer