The national Association of Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) in Education (nACPAE) scheduled its 28th Accounting Teachers’ Conference (ATC) for this summer. Had there been no COVID-19, the ATC working committee would have been at its busiest right now attending to both logistical and non-logistical matters in time for the opening ceremony on April 27. But until this quarantine is lifted and the situation approximates what it was before the pandemic, eager accounting teachers will have to wait until June or even longer.
I am certain that other professional organizations are experiencing the same predicament as most annual conferences are scheduled during the summer break. Similarly, examinees who have been preparing to hurdle their respective licensure examinations have to wait as dates are postponed until further notice. Likewise, athletes who have long been training for their respective sport events need to stay in their dugouts for at least a year longer as the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics has been postponed.
Inasmuch as we hope that this pandemic will end soon, the facts, figures, and analyses by experts tell us otherwise. Until scientists come up with a vaccine, which usually takes months or years to develop, we are left with boosting our immune systems, embracing hygienic lifestyles, staying at home, and practicing physical distancing as precautionary measures against this virus.
However, just because there is a pandemic does not mean that we cannot continue organizing conferences. I am a believer of the cliché: when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Online learning, either synchronous or asynchronous, can be an effective alternative at this time. We can use social media and webinars to bring conferences online. Although the experience will not be exactly the same as face-to-face sessions, experiencing something new online to achieve the same objectives can be equally exciting.
This year’s ATC would have bannered the theme “Living the Role of Learned Accounting Teachers in Shaping a Learned Accounting Profession,” which sums up the projects and initiatives of the nACPAE board for fiscal year 2019-20. Just as timely and aptly related to the theme, leveraging on technology to move forward can enable a profession to be “learned.” However, issues and concerns need to be addressed such as the level of technology readiness and the availability of equipment and accessibility of the internet.
As to the level of technology readiness, I think it is high time for accounting teachers to embrace technology to perform a number of tasks not only at work but also in home life. Mindful that physical distancing may be the new normal, we are already preparing ourselves for the huge probability of an upcoming academic year in which classes will be delivered in either online or hybrid mode. Although discomfort and insecurities will surface during the transition, let us be calmed by being intentional in getting used to it if we want to stay relevant. As Alvin Toffler puts it, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
As to equipment and internet access, we can acquire them, let our employers provide them for us, or do both. Let us not consider them as expenses, but as assets, as tools of our trade that will benefit us for more than a year, and invest in them substantially. And to ensure that no one is left behind, let us financially support others who do not have enough resources, and provide technical assistance to those who are not yet proficient in using online learning platforms.
The chances of our emerging as victors in this pandemic are increased by support being accorded by government. Government should incentivize businesses and service providers that cater to technology-related needs by relaxing their cost of doing business and decreasing their taxes, among others. It should also appropriate more funds to the Department of Information and Communication Technology for infrastructure projects that will improve the country’s overall internet connectivity.
As we think of how we can move forward, let us not forget to ask God for wisdom and discernment. Pressing on, let us remind ourselves that this is more than an individual battle. This is, rather, a community battle that can be won only if we commit ourselves to becoming part of the solution and not the problem. And a good start, I believe, is to embrace technology more tightly today.
Dr. Florenz C. Tugas is a full-time faculty member of the Accountancy Department of the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University. He specializes in Basic Accounting, Auditing and Assurance, and Management of Information Technology courses.