Compared to residential universities, the pass rate for learners who study their B.Compt Honours (CTA) through UNISA is very low. There are numerous reasons that CA Connect believes this to be the case, the two primary reasons being that:
CA Connect has developed at teaching model that is designed to solving these problems and increasing the UNISA CTA pass rate.
The teaching model is rigorous and demands a high level of commitment from learners in order to develop their technical knowledge to the level required to become a Chartered Accountant.
Learners are able to leverage their academic commitment through direct access to full-time, learner-centred, outgoing and experienced Chartered Accountants.
The timing of the contact sessions are geared towards learners who are studying part time although the programme is open to learners who do study full-time.
Lectures, tutorials and concept tests are integral to CA Connect’s approach to teaching. For the education process to be effective, it is extremely important that tutorials trail the related lecture topics by a week. For example, if the topic for week one of lectures is revenue, the tutorial on revenue would occur in the week after the lecture. This teaching structure has a number of important fundamental benefits including the following:
CA Connect prefers this ‘trailing’ structure over the ‘block’ structure and believes it makes a big difference to the chances of students’ succeeding in the UNISA CTA and QE1.
Learners are expected to attend four lectures per week on Saturday mornings. Group lectures are a very important part of the learning process. This time is used principly to ensure all participants in the class are at the same basic starting point. We work on the principle of no assumed knowledge and the goal of the lecture environment is to create a common platform from which students can attempt tutorial questions and feel confident in interacting in the tutorial sessions which follow.
Lectures are designed to cover the theory of the topic in order to ensure that all the students are on the same page and have a similar base-level of understanding. As a result, when in the tutorial, we would all have a common viewpoint, both lecturers and the students. This can be used as a reference point to increase the ability to benefit from the tutorial. In addition to theory, lectures place a large focus on practical application. This application is generally not at the level that would be required in a test or exam, but is aimed at imparting a sense of the role and the relevance of the relationship between theory and application.
Learners are also expected to attend four tutorial classes per week. Tutorials are focussed groups, attended by a maximum of 30 learners. They are designed to provide an opportunity to build on the concepts covered in group lectures in a more practical and engaging manner. The tutorial will involve practical application of the theory of the topics covered in lectures.
Past test and exam questions are discussed in these sessions, giving learners an opportunity to interact directly with teachers in a hands-on learning environment in which interaction and debate is encouraged. These questions are primarily sourced from the UNISA material. Where there are gaps relative to what is expected in QE1, material is supplemented using UCT and CA Connect tutorial material. Students are expected to prepare these questions subsequent to lectures but before attending the tutorials. The programme has specifically been designed to accomodate this with the Monday evening preceding the Tuesday tutorials and the Wednesday evening preceding the Thursday tutorials intentionally kept free.
In tutorials, students’ approaches to questions would be discussed, with the lecturer leading the discussion and focusing on:
Tutorials begin with a short objective test that requires students to apply the key learning points that were covered in lectures to a basic practical scenario. Learners therefore write a total of four short tests per week. The objective tests are designed to open students up to the discussion and interactive learning that will follow in the tutorial.
The tests are submitted to be marked by the teacher and through this, learners are able to closely monitor their own progress in the course and these objective tests will highlight to students their general level of understanding and areas in which they do not sufficiently understand how the theory is applied.
These are also valuable feedback tools for lecturers as they can be used as a means of determining the effectiveness of the teaching process and also provide a mechanism through which teaching can be adapted and missed concepts can be revised and retaught in different ways. Teachers also use this information to issue weekly bulletins addressing common issues and misconceptions.
CA Connect aims to support learners in a number of other important ways:
Technical competence can be undermined by poor exam technique. We integrate teaching this skill into tutorial sessions and conducts ad hoc workshops during the year to assist learners in this area. CA Connect’s philosophy is that qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, despite being technically demanding, is a personal growth process and involves far more than simply academic excellence. In this respect, we take a holistic view on learning and teachers are role models as much as they are educators.
The programme goes further than CTA programme. It also endeavours to assist students in passing part 1 of SAICA’s qualifying exam. It is CA Connect’s ultimate goal for learners is not that they pass CTA only, but that they pass the qualifying exam as this is one of the most significant hurdles in qualifying as a Chartered Account.
Attending a programme of this nature is very demanding for any student, not to mention students who also have work commitments. In light of the low UNISA CTA pass rates, however, it is CA Connect’s belief that this level of commitment is the only way for students to succeed in such a demanding course. That being said, despite the heavy time demand, during the 2010 CA Connect support programme the average student attended 80% of the contact sessions implying that if a student feels that they are getting a benefit, they make a plan to attend no matter how difficult.
If learners are able to make time commitment, CA Connect believes that its teachers can substantially assist in increasing learners chances of passing both the UNISA CTA course and part one of SAICA’s qualifying exam. CA Connect’s teachers are all employed on a full-time basis to be dedicated to the CA Connect programme. To this end, teachers are able to constantly assist learners at contacts sessions as well as over email or during booked appointments.
This provides learners with continuity in teaching removing the disadvantages inherent in teachers having other priorities during the day. CA Connect has also developed an ongoing relationship with lecturers at the University of Cape Town giving learners indirect access to some of the top accounting academics and teaching material in the country.
In addition to UNISA CTA material, notes are supplemented with CA Connect material, some of which is drawn from the University of Cape Town. Additional practice questions are also provided to learners in tutorials and in preparation for tests and exams. CA Connect ensures that all material given to learners has specific learning objectives to ensure that time is spent productively.
Lectures are based on slides that are made available to learners prior to lectures to ensure only necessary additional notes need be taken.