Development of an integrated information and Communications Technology competency framework for prospective Accountancy professionals
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With the rapid change in the workplace due to 4IR technological advancements, literature outlines that the accountancy curriculum is not keeping up with this change. This remains an ongoing debate by academics, employers and SAICA. In order to ensure that well-rounded prospective accountancy professionals enter the workplace with the expected and required basic ICT competencies, the resounding cry from employers and SAICA, as the professional body referred to in particular for this study, is that the accountancy curriculum needs to adapt to take into consideration the changing ICT competencies. This study concludes that this could be achieved through the integration of specific ICT competencies into the core accountancy modules: Financial Accounting, Audit; Financial Management, Management Accounting and Taxation, linked to the learning outcomes already developed in the curriculum. This is achieved through the development of an integrated communications and technology competency framework (ICTM) for prospective accountancy professionals. The development of the ICTM took place in four steps. Step 1 was the preparation of the development of the ICTM. This resulted in the development of the research problem and the subsequent objective to answer that question. This entailed the identification of the existing ICT competency gap between what is included in the accountancy curriculum and what is expected from employers and required by SAICA and what specific ICT competencies should be included in the accountancy curriculum. Step 2 entails the collection of information. This took the form of an exploratory mixed research method, including both qualitative and quantitative research. The collection of qualitative data was performed in an unstructured manner. Relevant literature, pertaining to ICT and ICT in the accountancy curricula, the current South African conditions that will affect prospective accountancy graduates, exposure to ICT at school and university level was selected. Also selected and investigated was, employer ICT competency expectations, educational and needs theories that had an impact on this study (Bloom’s taxonomy, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and the technology acceptance module (TAM)), and SAICA ICT requirements. These theories propose that knowledge should be linked to learning outcomes and assessed in a scaffolding approach. The starting point being basic, moving to intermediate and ending with advanced knowledge. Applying this to the development of the ICTM, basic ICT competencies are integrated in the 1st year of study, with intermediate ICT competencies in the 2nd year of study and finally expert ICT competencies in the final year of study. Since the availability of ICT does not necessarily lead to the acceptance of ICT, TAM was also considered to establish and consider the different factors to take into consideration in the development of the ICTM for the successful integration of ICT in the accountancy curriculum by prospective accountancy professionals and lecturers. SAICA outlines in their competency framework (CF), previous versions and more recently in the CA 2025 proposed CF, the specific technical and other competencies prospective accountancy professionals should possess when they enter the accountancy workplace. The latest proposed CF takes into consideration the 4IR ICT competencies necessary in the accountancy environment. Even with the latest published CF and the proposed CF, the specific ICT competencies to be mastered by prospective accountancy professionals are not outlined in detail. This study will thus assist educators in the preparation of their modules in such a manner to adhere to SAICA’s ICT competency requirements but with more guidance on the specific competencies to be included in the accountancy curriculum. This study focusses on those ICT competencies included in the CF and required by employers. As a result, the inclusion of MS Word, MS Excel, and MS PowerPoint were researched in detail to establish and outline the basic, intermediate and expert competencies that were included in the ICTM. This is in line with the scaffolding approach as outlined by RBT and linked to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs adapted to the accountancy education levels. Subsequently, a detailed outline of the specific competencies included under the three competency levels is provided. These specific competencies are linked to the learning outcomes of the four core accountancy levels of the two universities, one traditional and one comprehensive university, who partook in the answering of the self-developed questionnaire. The learning outcomes of the two universities were matched to further streamline the ICT competencies to be integrated into the accountancy curriculum. The data collected through literature were analysed and summarised in corresponding themes. These themes were instrumental in the development of the quantitative data collection tool, a self-developed questionnaire. Several guidelines were followed in the appropriate development of the questionnaire. The structured qualitative data were obtained from the analysis and interpretation of responses collected from a self-developed questionnaire. The quantitative data collection followed a non-probability sampling method. The questionnaire was sent to the students and lecturers of two SAICA-accredited universities, one traditional and one conventional university. The responses were downloaded in MS Excel and coded accordingly. The qualitative statistical data analysis was performed through the identification and analysis of frequencies and correlations between different questions. The qualitative statistical data were performed in a structured method through the use of SPSS. Cronbach’s alpha coefficient, Pearson’s correlation, and cross-tabs were performed to determine the reliability of questions, identify correlations between different variables, and to identify elements with a significant association with one another. Step 3 of the ICTM development is where the framework was developed. This took into consideration the specific elements as identified through literature and the outcomes of the qualitative and quantitative statistical data analysis. The conclusion is drawn from all of these elements, and as applied in the ICTM is that ICT competencies should be integrated from the first year (1st year) of study at a basic competency level and only for accounting, as it is the only core module presented in the 1st year. At a second-year (2nd year) level, intermediate competencies can be integrated for all four core modules and similarly at an expert level for the third (3rd year) and final year of study. The honours year level was identified as a year of study where no additional ICT competencies should be included in the accountancy curriculum, but rather just the implementation of those competencies acquired from the 1st year to the 3rd and final year of study. The integration of the specific ICT competencies is suggested by means of assignments to the core modules. Also, the integration of ICT should be limited to between 7─10 hours per module per semester. This benchmark was considered appropriate for the ICTM since the findings from the self-developed questionnaire outlined that students spend on average between 7─10 hours on assignments within a semester. Step 4, and the final step in the development of the ICTM, were the development of ICT module-specific assignment questions. In doing so, TAM 2 was also considered to determine the acceptance of the ICTM by students and lecturers within the accountancy curriculum. In conclusion, this study addressed the research question through the implementation of the theoretical and empirical objectives. A contribution to the accountancy field is made to identify the specific ICT competencies of MS Word, MS Excel and MS PowerPoint that can be integrated at the different year levels within the accountancy curriculum without adding to the workload. Also, due to the limited research on this topic, this research added to the scholarly outputs.