How OSU delivers AI-enabled audit training through the MindBridge University Alliance Program
The Spears School of Business at OSU ranks among the world’s top five percent of business schools, offering degrees that are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International. The OSU School of Accounting, in particular, has received supplementary accreditation by the AACSB, fulfilling the strict criteria for six accounting accreditation standards that are pertinent to the profession.
Exploring the rise of tech-focused learning for future accountants
In today’s business world, training the next generation of accountants and auditors requires a tech-focused approach. And no one knows this better than Leah Muriel, Assistant Professor at OSU’s School of Accounting. In her tenure, Muriel teaches undergraduate audit classes and helps advance the school’s audit instruction and class curriculum. Her prior experience as an auditor in public and private accounting for the likes of Grant Thornton gives her a real-world edge that keeps forward-thinking accounting practices in mind.
Following her work in public audit, Leah returned to school to complete a PHD, and began to teach.
“Since I’ve graduated, we have greatly expanded the use of technology for efficiency and effectiveness of the audit process in accounting schooling across the board. And there are new advancements still coming out all the time. With today’s AI auditing technology, you can review 100% of transactions and look for trends in the data. So there are many more things you’re capable of doing today than 20 years ago. But practical knowledge and understanding are important too. You can’t just blindly rely on technology or whatever the software says,” explained Muriel.
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At OSU, audit-focused courses aim to deliver the right balance between teaching fundamental accounting practices and offering technology-based assignments. It’s this type of varied learning experience that students are craving, too. Using new technologies gives them a feel for what’s happening in the real world of accounting and better prepares them for their budding careers.
“I think that students appreciate different learning experiences. I get comments that they value the variety of lessons in my class because I give them several different types of technology assignments, and then we do other things that might be more traditional. I also like to explain to students that this isn’t just a game, that actual practicing auditors use this technology. They must understand that they’re going to have to get familiar with using different programs throughout their career. So, let’s start now.”
Facing the struggles of choosing the right technologies
Introducing technologies in classrooms sounds straightforward, but that’s not always the case. Evolving accreditation standards increasingly speak to the use of technology and data analytics, which is driving changes in university curriculums across the world. Meanwhile, professors are under pressure to find technologies that offer students tangible value and fit within the framework of their curriculum.
“In the last five years, I’ve seen many professors at various universities make a purposeful effort to add standalone data analytics classes or an extra addendum to classes. We have also incorporated data analytics materials into our curriculum in a variety of ways.”
“But there’s a little bit of a struggle between having to discuss a lot of the technical aspects of accounting rules and covering data analytics and other cutting-edge applications that we’d like to incorporate. So that’s the conversation that frequently comes up with leading accounting firms and between peers at conferences—how can we get everything in?” said Muriel.
For OSU, there’s more to choosing the right technologies. One on hand, the university looks to affiliate accounting firms for recommendations on which skill sets and technology proficiencies they’d like to see in future employees. Beyond that, there’s also a need to ensure the technology meets the learning objectives and remains cost-efficient.
“I look for meaningful technologies that also won’t add a ton of extra costs for students. Meaningful means that it must be useful and connected to what we’re doing in class. Plus, I always want the flexibility to tweak applications according to the assignments. Because if you have a large number of students, you want to equip them with clear instructions and offer them a good learning experience. But you also need to efficiently manage the process on the professor-side too,” said Muriel.
Offering a hands-on approach to learning AI audit software
When OSU was contacted in 2018 about joining the MindBridge University Alliance Program, Leah was curious to hear more. Not only is MindBridge University free for qualifying schools, but the program gives students access to leading AI auditing software to develop their data-driven analysis skills.
“I appreciate when businesses like MindBridge offer a hands-on learning experience to students for free. Right away, it sounded like a good opportunity, but I wanted to dive deeper to see what the program was all about and whether it fits our class objectives. What I saw initially was there were a lot of good things about MindBridge University that meshed with an audit or accounting information system class,” said Muriel.
Within the MindBridge University program, material is provided to introduce the concepts of machine learning and artificial intelligence to students. The program also includes practical case study-based exercises using real data, which can be adapted to suit every classroom.
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According to Muriel, figuring out how to work the exercises into the course curriculums didn’t take much time at all. “What’s really nice is having the answer key, because I want to see what direction I’m supposed to be heading in and what the answers are. And I do create my own questions too, based on my own accounting experience, or things that I know we’re covering in the class. But I always like to see some detailed answer keys with explanations, because that’s so helpful for me and what we’re trying to accomplish in class,” she explained.
Making a smooth transition to applied auditing practices
Today, Muriel has successfully integrated the MindBridge University program into her courses at OSU. She walks her students through the applications and speaks to the technology, offering thorough explanations. However, she also knows that allowing students some level of independence in figuring things out can go a long way too.
“I give them pretty detailed instructions about how to navigate the software because I recognize they haven’t used this before. At the same time, I try to encourage independent learning too. Because they are going to leave this university and be tasked with learning new software without much training, so I think there’s value for students to get comfortable figuring out the technology on their own.”
Within the MindBridge University program, there are a few different case studies to choose from. Students can dive into the software and review the risk rankings of each transaction. They can also customize filters to explore the data and use their analytical skills to determine whether flagged items are possible mistakes or fraud.
“I think students enjoy seeing how to upload the client data and start using the software. Then it’s all analysis: How can we search for trends and what might we be able to find? And I like how there are risk rankings for high, medium, and low-risk transactions. It’s so much better than just talking about it. They get to see and experience the data analysis. For example, some of the cases are about reviewing journal entries and looking for trends. That’s something we cover in class, so using MindBridge offers a practical, hands-on experience of that task,” said Muriel.
Professors can also adapt the exercises and questions to suit their class assignments and objectives. The platform can be customized for certain types of clients or industries, so there’s lots of flexibility in how teachers decide to use the AI auditing software.
‘When speaking with my educational peers, there are some basic things that we’d all want to accomplish. But the MindBridge solution offers a lot of opportunities to customize the case studies. Every professor doesn’t provide the exact same assignments. The platform’s flexibility allows people to choose exactly what they’d like to do with it,” explained Muriel.
Preparing OSU students for a bright future in technology-enabled accounting
As Oklahoma State University continues to evolve its undergrad accounting program, the team is keen to keep using MindBridge University within its curriculum. Not only does it help students become better prepared for the future of auditing, but the tech-focused learning ensures OSU can meet AACSB’s accounting accreditation standards every year.
“The MindBridge University Alliance program gives our students the experience of using cutting-edge technology that they’ve never seen before. And that’s a valuable experience because they’re going to leave here using all different kinds of technologies. In fact, I’ve had a couple of former students tell me about some of the technologies that they are using at firms, and how they felt ahead of some of the other auditors or interns because they had one or two learning experiences with the technology. Using MindBridge in our classrooms prepares students for the tech-focused future of auditing and helps them hone those critical analytical skills in looking at client data and understanding the data trends,” concluded Muriel.
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