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Using Cases To Teach Accounting Concepts For Engineering Managers

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Trends in Engineering Economy

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.1241.1 - 8.1241.6



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Paper Authors

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Dennis Kulonda

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1139

Using Cases to Teach Accounting Concepts for Engineering Managers

Dennis J. Kulonda University of Central Florida


Basic financial accounting literacy is becoming essential in the professional life of engineers and engineering managers. Finding a way to include it in a meaningful way is a challenge in most curricula. Most texts in engineering economics offer little coverage. What is offered tends to focus on the mechanics of accounting transactions and financial ratio computations. Conceptual foundations are mostly omitted. As a richer alternative, accounting courses themselves usually consume a whole semester and spend a great deal of the course time and effort on fine points potentially of interest to budding accountants. A middle ground that emphasizes essential concepts and their logical underpinnings is needed. These concepts include accrual accounting, cash flow, value, capitalizing and expensing costs among others. A thorough list is developed in a prior ASEE paper, Graduate Engineering Economics for Engineering Managers1

That paper provides a list of topics that should be included and makes suggestions for embedding them in a graduate course. The purpose of this paper is to develop specific learning objectives and describe a set of teaching materials and cases which have been successfully used to accomplish them. The presentation will emphasize the use of these cases and provide guidance in maximizing their learning effectiveness for an engineering management audience.


Teaching financial accounting to engineering managers is a contentious proposition. Those who argue for this content view the material as important and essential in providing a business perspective for engineering students. Those who argue against including accounting courses in the curriculum usually are reluctant to sacrifice the space in the curriculum because of the rapid expansion of technical material in the engineering disciplines. Both arguments have merits and some compromise is needed. Certainly it is difficult to justify the usual two-course sequence of financial and managerial accounting usually required in the business school curricula. Even the single combined course offered in some business schools seems too a large price to pay according to many engineering faculty. Since the students usually find the accounting material uninteresting and in their view, unimportant, they tend to side with the latter faculty group creating even more impetus for the technology driven argument to avoid the topic altogether.

Of course, this is a narrow argument, which, if followed, graduates engineering students bereft of any financial literacy and unable to understand the accounting scorecard in their eventual work organizations. One possible solution is to identify the most critical learning objectives and deliver them as a portion of a business-flavored course in engineering. One such opportunity lies in the engineering economics course. The purpose of this paper is to suggest an approach to an instructional module in accounting that meets critical knowledge needs, generates engineering

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ©, 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Kulonda, D. (2003, June), Using Cases To Teach Accounting Concepts For Engineering Managers Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12033

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