The Leventhal School of Accounting announced this week that it would be introducing a new online Master of Business Taxation for Working Professionals program.
Shirley Maxey, the associate dean and director of the Leventhal master’s programs, said the program will aim to increase flexibility for students without compromising quality.
“We feel very strongly that this program has to be great,” Maxey said. “It can’t be just canned lectures. It has to be as great as our current reputation. We were very careful in going forward with not just putting the professor in front of the camera and having students watch [the video].”
Leventhal’s program shows a growing focus at USC for online education. In 2011, USC introduced nearly 50 online graduate degree programs that span nine schools. In August 2012, President C. L. Max Nikias announced that he expected to expand online programs to all 18 schools and double online enrollment within five years.
The program is slated to debut in fall 2013, pending approval by the Western Association of Schools and College, which accredits all educational programs in California and Hawaii. It will seek to ensure a high level of interaction by capping its first class at 24 students.
The leaders will use live video discussion forums in place of a physical classroom and online video chats with professors as a substitute for in-person office hours. In this virtual classroom, the program will present many of the features of traditional courses, including lectures and guest speakers, while expanding the experience by including interactive activities and allowing students to proceed through the material each week at their own pace.
Maxey noted that professors could select not to participate in the online program, while participating professors would be assisted in the transition to an online class.
“We are offering to have an instructional design specialist work with [the professors] to help them convert existing classes to this format and incorporate all kinds of new techniques and technologies,” Maxey said.
The online MBT-Working Professional program will have the same degree requirements and faculty as its on-campus counterpart, which offers 30 units of coursework on taxation. Maxey said she was confident there is a strong market for the program.
“Before it was even on the website, we started to get some calls,” Maxey said. “We do think there’s a pretty good-sized market. Most firms ask [employees] to go back and get some graduate education because the field of taxation is so complex.”
The existing MBT-Working Professionals program is not intended to be exclusively online. For example there is a video conferencing arrangement with a school in Orange County.
For some students, a traditional class could be inconvenient or difficult to attend.
“There’s just a tremendous workload for [accountants], particularly for tax people during tax season,” Maxey said. “These folks are working full-time and jumping in their cars and driving to campus for a three-hour class.”
Marshall and Leventhal undergraduates said an online class in accounting would accomodate their schedules.
David Choi, a junior double majoring in accounting and business administration, agreed with the convenience of the online program.
“As working can be very time consuming, an online class would be beneficial to working professionals,” Choi said.
Still, some students have concerns over the ability of Internet education to replace a traditional in-class experience.
Bryan Kim, another junior double majoring in accounting and business administration, said the classroom environment is vital to understanding.
“It’s always better to have someone next to you who can physically show you and teach you,” Kim said.
However, Troy Patipanavat, a junior majoring in accounting, offered an optimistic perspective.
“With a great and charismatic instructor who is willing to be responsive, this online class could definitely replicate an in-class experience,” Patipanavat said. “I think this online program is a fantastic idea.”