Fun training provides accountants with fun whodunits to solve


Continuing education courses can sometimes put accountants and tax professionals to sleep, but a new kind of online learning is making the process more enjoyable and engaging.

Surgent, an accounting and tax training provider, recently added a course called Red Flag Mania to its Surgent IQ online learning center. The gameplay experience uses real crime stories to teach fraud detection and problem solving skills using real actors and some of the participants.

During the pandemic, most of the last year’s CPE courses must have relied on e-learning as most accounting conferences shifted to Zoom and other virtual environments. But accountants and tax professionals may find it difficult to focus their attention on the computer screen, as can young students trying to continue their education with so many classrooms still closed across the country. Making CPE and non-CPE classes more enjoyable by turning them into whodunits like a ripped episode from the headlines of “Law and Order” can help teach new content and skills, even to the most jaded accountants who have learned to lower their expectations. for any CPE session excitement.

“One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is that CPE and learning for accountants tends to be very static and flat,” said Kelly Richmond Pope, associate professor of accounting at the University. DePaul of Chicago and Surgent Faculty Fellow who co-developed Red Flag Mania. “We only provide information, but we don’t engage in content. Taking a fun approach allows a learner to engage in a way that leads to a better experience and more retention. Red Flag Mania is a combination of movies, game mechanics, investigation, and good old-fashioned entertainment to have a fresh take on what a CPE experience or a learning experience can be.

During the training, users watch a video segment, listen to various characters, and discuss issues related to fraud, auditing, taxes, data analytics, and more. “It’s almost like watching ‘Law and Order’, but then you try to solve a case through evidence and interviews and questions and all kinds of things that go into an investigation,” Pope said. “The story is really the setting, and when you have a good story you can teach any subject. Fraud can occur because of a poor audit, fraud can occur because a person has a tax problem, fraud can occur because a person faces an ethical dilemma, or fraud can be solved using data analysis. So you can use a fraud story as a way to teach all of these other topics. “

The stories are based on real cases, but the names are usually changed. “We are changing the names to protect everyone, but we base all the evidence we create off the real record, so we try to keep between 90% and 95% of real situations,” Pope said. “What we like to do is have a segment of the real victim or someone from the real case come in and sum up at the end, so we try to stay true to the case. We don’t fictionalize too much. We might be changing the names, but we’re sticking to the real crime case. “

The videos show a combination of real people and actors, not animated characters or avatars. “I find in my research that when people interact with real people, the emotional side kicks in,” Pope said. “Our prejudices enter into our decision making because we feel the scenario is more real. You are more likely to take this seriously when you see real people. “

In addition to the CPE credit courses, some of the training is non-CPE. “Some things are just right for accountants to advance a skill set,” Pope said. “The Surgent IQ platform is where we fit outside of the CPE model if we want to take it without needing CPE.”

Pope has hosted Red Flag Mania workshops with a number of accounting organizations, state CPA corporations, and CPA firms including the Institute of Management Accountants, Virginia Society of CPA, Indiana CPA Society, KPMG, Ernst & Young and Frazier & Deeter.

Gamification can go beyond training. ConnectRship, a Springfield, New Jersey company that offers virtual tournaments around trivia contests, word matching, charades, scavenger hunts, memory games and other activities, is another group that works with accounting firms to create fun environments to bring teams together. He has worked with companies such as Marks Paneth, Deloitte Advisory Group, Untracht Early, Thompson Greenspon and Louis Plung & Company, and is hosting an event in June with PKF O’Connor Davies.

For Red Flag Mania, the feedback has been mostly positive so far. “The kind of feedback we’ve had is, ‘this is the best online experience I’ve ever had,” Pope said. “We integrate so many different elements. There is a movie. There are actors who can introduce themselves and speak. There are voice messages that you can listen to. There is evidence that you are examining. There are websites that you review. He’s a very interactive guy. experience, and I think it’s a really disruptive approach to CPE training that people aren’t used to seeing.

So far, she has co-developed around 20 courses for Red Flag Mania and hopes to add 20 more by the end of the year. “We just keep creating, looking at great stories, and thinking about the right learning outcomes or learning goals that can be linked to those stories,” Pope said. “What makes the approach unique is that we do story-based learning and training, and we use that as a basis for teaching topics. What we’ve done historically in the learning model for accountants is we’ve taught subjects. Now what we do is tie the stories around topics so that the retention is higher. “

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