Online accounting training for one

I wrote previously about the work I do for Ibba Girls Boarding School in South Sudan and the trip I made to the school in February 2015 to recruit a new finance manager. The school is (almost entirely) funded by a UK charity, the Friends of Ibba Girls School (FIGS), and it is important to FIGS that the school has high standards of probity and governance to go with the high quality education. That’s why the school is willing to employ a finance manager whose primary job is to manage the school’s cash on a day to day basis.

Last year the school’s finances were managed by an experience teacher from Australia, Jamie, who was working at the school for the year alongside his wife, who was the co-head. Jamie had no financial training but was experienced with IT so he taught himself how to use the cloud version of QuickBooks to maintain accounts during the year. At the end of the year I made the sorts of adjustments that accountants make when they pull together the annual report and accounts.

Jamie’s replacement is Santino, a locally-raised young man with a business degree from Uganda. His degree included the fundamentals of double-entry bookkeeping but he was not experienced in maintaining a set of accounts in a dedicated accounting software package. This meant he would need some help from me to develop his accounting knowledge and skills (and that's fine because Ibba Girls Boarding School aims to do more than educate girls).

After my visit to South Sudan I decided to change the accounting system used by the school to Xero because (a) the user interface looks better and easier to use for a novice and (b) we could get a better deal if both FIGS and the school used it than if we stuck with QuickBooks.

Since taking up his post in March, the most pressing things for Santino to do have been to make sure staff are paid at the end of each month, that food and other supplies are bought regularly so that the girls are safe and secure, and that the (modest) school fees payable by the girls’ parents are collected. All of these transactions need to be captured in the school’s accounts, though, so that reports can be presented to the governors in South Sudan and the FIGS trustees in the UK.

Ibba Girls School finance manager
Ibba Girls School finance manager

I was faced with the problem of how to train Santino to do some fairly complicated accounting tasks from 6,000km away. At first I thought I would have to write a procedure manual, a prospect I did not relish since technical writing is very difficult to do well. After a while I realised I could use my presentation skills and technology instead. I decided I would create screencasts and share them with Santino so that he could learn by watching me using Xero.

It is a relatively simple set up. I set up Xero for Ibba Girls Boarding School so I have access to the live accounting information and can create some demo transactions to show Santino what he needs to do. I record my screen, with an audio commentary when I am doing these transactions using Quick Time Player (which is a standard app on all Apple computers). I keep each video to two or three minutes in length and I record each in a single take. I know I could edit clips together using iMovie but I just have a rehearsal before I press record and then go for a take. Mostly they work out fine as first takes but sometimes I stumble over my words or something and I simply scrap that take and start over.

Once recorded I check each video for clarity before uploading to the internet using Droplr. I then email to Santino the short URLs that Droplr creates for each video and he can then watch them inside a web browser (as many times as he likes) or download the videos (in .mov format) to his computer.

So far I’ve done 12 videos covering accounting for payroll and income. I'm pleased with them and I can tell they are effective because I can see the transactions Santino has been entering into Xero. There’s still plenty more videos for me to create and share but I hope that by the time I visit the school in the late summer/autumn Santino will have brought the accounts fully up-to-date and be able to generate reports for the governors directly in Xero.