Talk with Dr. Xiangyun Lu: Bringing AI to the Classroom

November 08, 2023

Dr. Xiangyun Lu, Assistant Professor in the Department of Accounting at International Business School (IBSS) at Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University's (XJTLU), has been awarded the title of "Suzhou Outstanding Teacher" by the Suzhou Education Bureau for the year 2022-2023. She was also awarded the XJTLU 2022-2023 Academic Excellence Award for "Innovation in Teaching".

As a distinguished teacher in the Department of Accounting at the University, Dr. Lu has consistently strived to enhance the quality of education while achieving excellence in both academic research and innovative teaching. Her teaching style is highly regarded by students, as she emphasizes the integration of theory and practical applications to engage students' interest in learning.

Dr. Lu's class goes beyond conventional approaches by incorporating popular technologies like AI, Python, and game experiences, making it both creative and forward-thinking, while maintaining a practical approach.

With the emergence of generative artificial intelligence systems such as ChatGPT, Midjourney, and Wenxin Yiyan, AI and programming have once again taken center stage in our rapidly evolving era. "Coding" is no longer confined to specific professions, and AI has become increasingly indispensable across all industries.Driven by the AIGC, university teaching content and methods are actively evolving to better equip students in keeping pace with the development of the times."What it's like to learn programming in the classes of accounting?

With a comprehensive academic background, holding a bachelor's degree in Computer Science, and advanced degrees in Accounting, Dr. Lu brings a unique and innovative perspective to the field of accounting education. Her ability to integrate computational and analytical approaches allows her to reevaluate the practicality and relevance of accounting content, ensuring it aligns with current industry standards and technological advancements. She adeptly leverages AI to address challenges she encounters in her work. With the benefit of her experience, Dr. Lu has incorporated programming and AI content into her teaching, with Python being the first tool she put into her professional teaching innovation.

"In the era of AI, accounting positions are faced with the requirements for the integration of business and finance. This integration demands not only proficiency in data analysis, but also recognizes that data analysis is often reliant on Python. At first, we only offered Python-related courses exclusively for master’s students. Later, we found that the accounting software students needed to learn during their undergraduate studies could be grasped within one week’s time. Hence, we introduced more difficult Python content to our undergraduate curriculum. This included instruction on data input in Python and data analysis in Excel, equipping students with the required skills to meet the practical demands of working in a company in the future."

Using Kahoot in class.

In response to certain students struggling to keep pace with the course, Dr. Lu is progressively adjusting the level of difficulty in Python. Additionally, she is in the process of creating a series of animated videos for a more intuitive and convenient learning and review experience for students. This not only boosts students' interest and motivation in programming but also hones their proficiency for future professional endeavors.

Furthermore, this year, Dr. Lu developed an automated Q&A program utilizing ChatGPT, employing its official account as an interface to provide students with answers anytime, anywhere. She explains,

"If students have relatively straightforward questions regarding Python or specific courses, or require assistance with code checks, this program can assist."

In order to foster motivation among students, Dr. Lu introduced Kahoot, an interactive platform with a game-like and anonymous setup. Here, students have the freedom to respond to the teacher's questions as they see fit. This engaging classroom interaction has proven to be highly effective in enhancing student participation and involvement in the course.

Using Kahoot in class.

After work, in addition to applying the computer knowledge to help students in class, Dr. Lu is also willing to develop some mini-programmes to help colleagues who are facing difficulties.

Three things to do in college, To be, to do, and to learn.

"To be, to do, and to learn" were the three life topics assigned to Dr. Lu by her university department head. In Dr. Lu's university group work, she is the type of person who tends to do 99% of the work. When teaching in university, Dr. Lu always followed the principle of "Teach to educate". She believes in teaching students to start from small things around them and cultivate a good moral character. She encourages students to help each other and to develop the concept of lifelong learning so that they can contribute good to society.

She also advised students to be persistent in their studies, overcome difficulties, understand knowledge systematically, and develop creative thinking. In addition, she encourages them to become researchers, to accumulate knowledge and develop skills to solve difficulties they might encounter in the future.

During the epidemic, Dr. Lu independently developed and designed a robot capable of handling grading tasks. This robot can automatically upload documents submitted by students into ERP software, generate standardized marking forms, and perform the grading process, significantly enhancing the accuracy and efficiency of the grading process. In collaborative efforts with accounting firms in the industry-academia-research sector, there was notable interest in this robot, and they expressed their intention to implement it in their auditing practice in the near future.

Dr. Lu not only conducts independent research on new software, but last year, she collaborated with a senior accounting student to develop two custom Office-based software packages. These packages were designed to assist teachers and administrative colleagues in streamlining their processes and reducing their workload. Both pieces of software have been granted copyright protection. One of the customized email-sending software packages was utilized for sending out eBook redemption codes for the University. Dr. Lu's ACC102 course, along with others, also employs this software to provide students with sub-scores for each question, aiding them in better understanding their performance in exams and identifying areas for improvement.

"I learned the C# language this summer and am also planning to incorporate some new technology into my course in the latter half of the next semester."

Faced with the ever-changing landscape of contemporary society, Dr. Lu's commitment to lifelong learning and progress is consistently put into action, both in her classes and in her personal development."

November 08, 2023