Online MSA programs allow students flexibility to earn degree

The flexibility of taking classes remotely - whether at home or in a hotel room - has both prospective accountants and CPAs turning to the Internet to complete their master of science degree in accounting (MSA). AccountingWEB's Jason Bramwell spoke with Dr. Andrew Rosman at the University of Connecticut about the online MSA program.

"The nature of an asynchronous online environment - which allows students to work in different time zones and when traveling for business or pleasure without having to log in at a set time to interact with faculty and students - provides a flexible and high-quality learning environment," said Dr. Andrew Rosman, CPA, director of master of science and internship programs in accounting at the University of Connecticut, which has a completion rate of approximately 93 percent for its 30-credit online MSA program that began in 2003.

Courses in the University of Connecticut online MSA program focus on student-centered learning, which is the active engagement of students in the learning process, and information literacy, which is a series of processes beginning with identifying an information need and, ultimately, producing and communicating a decision, according to Rosman.

"Students often work in simulations - solve cases while role-playing as an employee in a forensic accounting practice while the faculty member role-plays as the employer - to learn by doing," Rosman told AccountingWEB. "It is this active engagement of the learning process that makes the asynchronous online environment different from a typical classroom experience, including face-to-face and distance learning."

Students need to have completed the traditional courses required of most undergraduate accounting programs before enrolling in the University of Connecticut MSA program because it builds on the undergraduate course content, Rosman said.

"[Students] then take 10 courses in the MSA, beginning with a mandatory week-in-residence course that creates a sense of community among the students and faculty, covers important content, introduces students to courses in the curriculum, and ensures that students are comfortable working in the online environment," he added. "There is one additional required course, leaving eight elective courses to complete the degree. The reason we provide so many electives rather than having set required courses is to enable students to tailor their plans of study to better suit their career needs."

While almost all of the students who completed the university's traditional on-site MSA program were Connecticut residents, a little more than half of the students who enroll in the online MSA program reside in the state.

"It allows us to attract students from throughout the country and some from overseas," said Rosman, who added that the type of student seeking out the university's online program has also changed in recent years. "Between 30 percent and 40 percent of our students are MBAs and CPAs who are looking beyond the program's ability to fulfill the 150-hour education requirement to become licensed in most states. Many of these nontraditional students find our curriculum to be unique in terms of pedagogy (student-centered learning), content (courses that cut across disciplines, such as a course on deferred taxes that incorporates internal control, financial reporting, and auditing issues), flexibility, and involvement with faculty. In turn, the diversity of our student population increases opportunities for students to network with professionals from different stages of their career and in different locations."

Rosman said enrollment in the University of Connecticut online MSA program continues to exceed expectations.

"Enrollments have long been at or beyond our capacity, and we continue to turn away qualified students because of space limitations. Average GMAT and GPA scores for our incoming class increase each year and exceed our targets," he said. "We only currently offer online courses [in the MSA program], but did not price them differently when we transitioned to online from face-to-face delivery."

For more information on the University of Connecticut online MSA program, visit http://msaccounting.business.uconn.edu.
 

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