A new series from GW Today shows how GW is preparing for the fall semester and a high-quality academic experience.
By Briahnna Brown
For Scott Lancaster, professor of accounting in the George Washington University School of Business, teaching is all about building connections with students.
“I tell my students all the time that never a semester goes by that I don't learn something new from something a student says to me, because they have a unique perspective that I may not have encountered before," Mr. Lancaster said.
The challenge for Mr. Lancaster and other GW professors this fall will be translating those connections to an online-only learning environment. He said that during the sudden transition to virtual learning in the spring, it was difficult to get that same interaction that he did in the physical classroom. Over the summer, between staying active and ministering at his church, Mr. Lancaster has been working on a number of ways to engage students virtually.
In the spring, Mr. Lancaster said that even though it was more difficult for him to connect with students, students were more willing to speak up and contribute to the virtual classroom. He plans to utilize this dynamic through Blackboard’s Collaborate Ultra feature and breaking students into small groups to discuss assignments with their peers. He said that engagement could help students take the theoretical aspects of accounting and make them more practical, which is what he aims to do throughout the course.
"Because I've worked in the accounting profession, I can say, 'here's what it says in the textbook, you can read that, but let me tell you how we do it in the field,' because I've done almost everything in this textbook," Mr. Lancaster said. "By doing that, it makes the material come alive; not only can I speak to the theory, but I can also speak to the practice."
Mr. Lancaster will be teaching Intermediate Accounting I this fall, which is the first course students take under the accounting major. This is why it is critical that students are able to grasp technical information, Mr. Lancaster said, such as the accounting standard related to revenue or fixed assets versus intangible assets.
To keep students engaged in the virtual realm, Mr. Lancaster said he plans to implement more case study analyses and Microsoft Excel projects. For example, students will be tasked with determining how to equitably split rent between roommates by examining activity-based costs such as electricity or internet usage. Another project involves using an Excel spreadsheet to develop a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether they should move to Hawaii and open up a milkshake shack. They will need to determine how much they have to make to live in Hawaii and how much they need to sell to be able to do so, which is a more engaging way to approach that lesson than a simple exercise of purchasing an item or not, Mr. Lancaster said.
Finding fun ways to approach accounting concepts is an important part of teaching, Mr. Lancaster said, and will be especially important in helping students stay focused amid the distractions that virtual learning may come with. Mr. Lancaster is looking forward to getting back to campus as soon as it is safe to do so, he said, but in the meantime, he plans to keep virtually engaging with students and building the connections that make his job fulfilling.
“I just want to see their smiling faces,” Mr. Lancaster said.