Offering an online fraud examination course without a textbook

By Bob Hurt, Ph.D., CFE; edited by George R. Young, Ph.D., CFE, CPA

bob-hurt-80x80    george-young-80x70   Fraud EDge: A forum for fraud-fighting faculty in higher ed


In this column, I discuss the content and delivery of a senior-level, undergraduate elective course in fraud examination. While many such courses exist, this course has two unique features: a) It's offered in a completely online environment and b) it doesn't rely on a textbook but uses ACFE videos and related articles. First, we'll look at the structure and content of the course; second, we'll examine some advantages and disadvantages of using this approach.


I developed this course — a senior-level elective in the undergraduate accounting curriculum — in 2009 as a faculty member of the accounting department in the College of Business Administration at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. The prerequisites are one course each in accounting information systems and intermediate accounting. Demand for the course far outstrips the supply of available seats, which is one reason it's offered exclusively in an online format. 

Students are required to become student members of the ACFE and forward confirmation of their membership to the instructor within a few days after the course begins. I use free materials from the ACFE through its Anti-Fraud Education Partnership. (See sidebar at bottom.) I still teach the course at least three times per year.

The course is outcome-based (focusing on empirically measuring student performance), which facilitates multiple types of assessment: exams, a writing assignment and an information technology project. They involve five of the six domains in Bloom's taxonomy of educational outcomes (Bloom, 1984): 


  • Knowledge: Memorizing material "by rote" and recalling memorized data. For example, students might be asked to list the three elements of the fraud triangle.
  • Comprehension: Interpreting instructions and explaining concepts using original language. For example, students might be asked to explain each element of the fraud triangle in their own words.
  • Application: Using learned material in a new situation. For example, students could be given a case and asked to identify specific examples of the elements of the fraud triangle.
  • Analysis: Breaking down a large "chunk" of material into component parts. Students might be presented with another model (such as the M.I.C.E. model discussed by Kranacher et al., p. 205) for explaining what "causes" fraud, then compare and contrast that model with the fraud triangle.
  • Synthesis: Creating a "whole" from disparate parts. Students could be given a short case with multiple opportunities for its characters to commit fraud, which they would use to explain how they would obtain information about each element of the fraud triangle.
  • Evaluation: Making judgments about the value of materials and ideas. This level of Bloom's taxonomy isn't assessed in the course described here because most undergraduates are cognitively unequipped to make such judgments. 

The course comprises five units of material, each lasting two weeks: 

  • Unit 1: Fraud basics.
  • Unit 2: Fraud causation theories and red flags.
  • Unit 3: Fraud examination.
  • Unit 4: Role of information technology.
  • Unit 5: Fraud case. 


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