Improving the CA student experience
Cat Devaney CA, Director of Professional Qualifications, heralds ICAS’ new student experience – a digital-first model allowing for continuous improvement
My CA qualification was achieved through ICAS. I trained with a medium-sized firm, before spending some time in the Big Four. Then I became an ICAS lecturer in financial accounting, taxation and audit, before moving into the strategic case study. And in February 2021 I took up the role of Director of Professional Qualifications with ICAS. So you could say I’ve worked on both sides of the fence. Hopefully, that means I’m well placed to look at how we can continue to improve our student experience, from both the producer and consumer viewpoint.
What we have been rolling out in phases over the summer, and will continue to roll out into next year, is the biggest and most significant change that I’ve experienced during my 17 years with ICAS.
As Gail Boag previously wrote in these pages, this is the product of listening to feedback from students through surveys, along with speaking to employers. We’re now putting that into practice through this new student experience, underpinned by our “digital first” strategy. Of course, digital first does not mean digital only; the student experience is looking at the end-to-end journey with ICAS and removing any barriers which get in the way of focusing on the learning and gaining the qualification.
So, what have we been doing over the summer to turn the strategy into reality? In June, we launched our new student registration process, in which those firms recruiting their new intake for the year let us know who will be joining us on the CA journey. We’ve automated and simplified that process – which used to take a few emails and a lot more admin – so it just takes a click for the employer to bulk upload the required information. They can then see at a glance who’s moved from uploaded to registered, making it easier to monitor and manage registration.
Once registered, students can then access our new Advantage platform and start their Fundamentals onboarding course, where they can learn more about ICAS and what to expect when they start in September. Advantage will be their one-stop shop. It will provide them with all the tools and information they need throughout their time as an ICAS student.
We rolled out the new platform in July, and the current students, who have been smoothly transitioned over, have reacted positively to the enhanced user experience.
In August, we launched our new logbook. One of the biggest issues for students, as shown by our surveys, was around the ease of use of our logbooks. With the new version, students can see through their dashboard view what they need to action and monitor their progress. At a recent demo for the new logbook, one of those in the group said: “This feels very intuitive and easy to work through. I had to fill out the old manual version – I wish it had looked like this back when I did that.” We have also improved the logbook experience for employers, making it easier to review and approve their students’ logbook evidence.
From August, students can also now get their results for their final assessments in Advantage, along with all their past results and academic transcripts at the push of a button.
The next big milestone, scheduled for April 2024, is the implementation of our refreshed syllabus. By 2025, and into 2026, we will be fully up and running with our term schedule, which is targeted at both students and employers to let them know in advance when assessments are taking place. Students will know ahead of time when they are going to be out of class, and employers will have plenty of notice of when they need to give them study leave.
We have never done that before – we always aimed to work a year ahead. Now, we’re looking at three years. The employers are very enthusiastic about this because they want to plan ahead as far as they can. But it will also help the students to do likewise.
It has been stressed, both in these pages and to members and employers, that we have not compromised on our standards when implementing any of these changes. Becoming a CA should be challenging – qualification means joining a very distinguished network. What we have done is to make the process relevant for the world we live in, now and for the foreseeable future. We have taken the feedback we’ve received from students and employers and acted on it. We can say, in all honesty, that we have listened.
At no point, however, will we sit back and think “that’s job done”. As new tech changes the way CAs work, so we will adapt. Much as CAs never stop learning during their career, with the launch of this new student experience we are entering a cycle of continuous improvement. There are still more student experience developments to come, not just in relation to what they will learn, but also new and improved ways of learning.
Visit icas.com/students for more on the student offering