Accounting, YouTube and the National Stage

Popularity, awards and worldwide recognition: these are not terms usually associated with accounting, but Susan Crosson is changing the way we work with numbers.

The dedicated Santa Fe College accounting professor recently received the Outstanding Service Award of the American Accounting Association, an 8,000-member international association of accounting faculty. She was caught completely by surprise and was quite humble when she received the recognition at the AAA’s Aug. 3 ceremony in San Francisco.

“My work is about giving back to the profession,” Susan said. “It’s about making accounting come alive to the world.”

The award, which is not bestowed on a regular basis, was given to honor her contributions to accounting in leadership roles as well as for advancements in education. Susan has been instrumental in creating and implementing teaching-oriented conferences and master classes for accounting faculty, along with national workshops for accounting professionals interested in teaching.

Susan’s YouTube success

Another factor that played a part is her popular online video series. Susan may be the first person to have gone viral on YouTube with accounting videos. She started posting 2- to 5-minute videos on YouTube in October 2007 as a way to help students with specific concepts in accounting. She now has over 200 videos on the video website and is edging up on the three-million hit mark.

The postings cover basic concepts in financial and managerial accounting, and are broken down by chapters. Many of the videos parallel the accounting book she wrote and uses in class. Most of the videos are low tech.

Susan does not receive outside funding other than revenue that comes in from YouTube advertisers who target the mini-seminars. Among the regular advertisers are Forbes Magazine, the University of Phoenix, and the University of Notre Dame.

Susan began making videos more than a decade ago. She started producing VHS tapes to help ESL students struggling with the language as much as the concepts. She reworks her collection of accounting snippets every three years and put the most recent series revamp on YouTube. While WebCT could host the videos, there is the hurdle of log-ons and passwords; YouTube is wide open.

“If we are all about removing barriers from learning, why not go to where the students live?” said Susan. YouTube seems to be that home.

Her students may be there, but they have lots of diverse company. A large portion of her followers are in the 35- to 44-year-old range. These are often middle managers trying to make sense of their financial statements, said Crosson. On the flip side, Susan has been contacted by 12 year olds in India who are trying to learn accounting.

The channel has followers around the world. She is popular in Saudi Arabia, Europe and elsewhere. Nigeria, India, and Afghanistan are the latest hotspots.

“Business in English is the way out of poverty,” said Susan.

In one case, a Japanese student let her know that she wanted to attend SF because she “liked the way we teach.” Back in the states, the Florida professor has more viewers in California than anywhere else. She is aware of at least one case where a professor at another college assigned her videos as homework.

The number of hits for the videos track along with the college semesters. When school is out she is getting 4,000 hits a day. As the semester ramps up, so do the numbers. By the middle of the term she gets more than 5,000 hits a day.

The comments on the channel are universally favorable with praise for her and the videos. Thanks to the YouTube commentary, “I never have a bad teaching day,” said Susan.

When she crossed the two-million-hit threshold several months ago, Susan started getting noticed in the regular media as well. Local ABC affiliate, TV20, did a four-minute interview to talk about her growing popularity. Watch that video here.