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Austin Peay State University revamps accounting technology class for APSU students with state-of-the-art industry tools

Austin Peay State University - APSUClarksville, TN – Austin Peay State University (APSU) assistant professor of accounting Dr. Brandon Di Paolo Harrison tries to keep a straight face when he gives the students in his advanced technology for accounting class their first assignment.

Dr. Brandon Di Paolo Harrison
Dr. Brandon Di Paolo Harrison

It seems simple enough – plug the data he provides into an Excel spreadsheet – but Di Paolo Harrison doesn’t let them know just how big the data set is.

“It’s too large for Excel,” he said, breaking into a smile. “So, I give it to them, and when it crashes Excel they all freak out.”

Later, when he introduces the students to Microsoft’s business analytics tool Power BI, he gives them the same massive data set that crashed Excel. The students are always hesitant to upload the data.

“I give them the exact same data set, and it loads in less than five seconds in Power BI,” Di Paolo Harrison said.

Three years ago, the APSU College of Business redesigned its advanced technology for accounting course to better align with the industry’s growing need to interpret and analyze big data. Now, thanks to this course, the college is graduating more students who are familiar with the innovative new tools being used by working professionals. Under the new curriculum, students learn about Advanced Excel, Big Data Analytics and Microsoft Power BI.

“We’re taking some of our technology-based accounting courses and moving them to the next level so students aren’t surprised when they graduate,” Di Paolo Harrison said. “We go through big data, where they have to clean data, find anomalies, and we get into Microsoft Power BI and they create dashboards analyzing data from an accounting business perspective.”

For one assignment, the students examined the data for birds striking airplanes. Using these new tools, they were able to dig deeper into the numbers and look at the different types of birds that strike airplanes and the altitude where a bird strike doesn’t cause serious damage.

“They had to see from a business and accounting perspective where the risk point was,” Di Paolo Harrison said. “Above 10,000 feet, is it safer? We can look at what factors – altitude, different types of plane, even type of bird – led to increased damage.”

The redesigned class, which is offered only in the fall, is proving to be so popular that outside agencies are asking the Austin Peay State University business professor for potential interns who can teach them how to use this new technology.          

“The students, they got it and loved it,” Di Paolo Harrison said. “I had a couple of them that instead of playing Candy Crush at home, they’re playing in Power BI.”

For information on the class, contact Di Paolo Harrison at .


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