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It Makes a Difference: Reflections from a Decade of Teaching IDEA

Typically when you ask a college student why they are there, they’ll tell you it’s to get an education. The truth is they are there to get a degree so they can find a job once they graduate. So why not help students do both…and maybe even get a little further ahead than the competition?

After attending a training session at the 2002 AIS Educators Conference, Associate Professor Dr. Constance Lehmann returned to the University of Houston – Clear Lake determined to help her students get ahead by giving them exposure to tools used by professionals. She started by obtaining the IDEA Workbook, and began working CaseWare IDEA® into the technology-related courses she was teaching the following fall.

Lehmann integrates IDEA into her IT Audit and Accounting Information Systems courses, using data files she obtained through her participation in the IDEA Academic Partnership. She has graciously shared the class assignments she developed for these courses on the Online Resource Center. The positive reaction she gets from her students motivates her to continue teaching IDEA.

“There are a few schools teaching IDEA, and having that experience is a true differentiator,” said Lehmann. “Even if they go to a company or firm using another type of data analytics software, they retain their knowledge of how and why it should be used to save time and perform better audits. The data extraction and data mining skills they gain in the classroom stay with them, and in some cases, can be the difference between getting hired or not.”

She recalled one former student who joined top Texas CPA firm Mir Fox & Rodriquez (now Doeren Mayhew) following his graduation from the University of Houston. He was asked by senior partners to provide a recommendation for data analysis software.

“They looked to him for direction in selecting a data analysis tool for their firm, even though he was a recent graduate,” said Lehmann. “His exposure to IDEA in the classroom made him an instant resource within the firm. He became the go-to person for IDEA, and that was a valuable position for him. He later joined one of the largest oilfield services companies in the world, Halliburton – you guessed it, another company that uses IDEA. The experience translates very easy from CPA firms to corporations.”

Lehmann admits that use of IDEA should go beyond step-by-step instruction for how to use its functionality. She teaches students how to interpret their IDEA results and demonstrate conclusions by writing audit reports. She uses the IDEA materials she’s developed to help students apply knowledge needed to prepare for the CISA and CPA exams, and the fraud detection approach to analytics helps encourage students thinking about pursuing their CFE certification. After 10 years of teaching IDEA, Lehmann offers some straightforward advice to new professors joining the Partnership:

“Start with the IDEA Workbook and once you’re comfortable with it yourself, and then take advantage of the resources available on the Audimation Services Web site – especially the Online Resource Center. If you get stuck along the way, contact the IDEA Help Desk. They are an endless resource for both professors and students. Also encourage students to ask questions of other professionals – people are willing to offer guidance, advice and even mentor up-and-coming professionals. It’s a very inexpensive way to get data mining software into your classroom. The Partnership offers lots of options for licenses, low-cost workbooks and free resources. There are also opportunities to attend hands-on training from Audimation Services at reduced prices for educators. For example, attending their Fraud Detection seminar was instrumental in helping me gain the skills and confidence to integrate IDEA throughout my entire IT Audit course.”


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