Kari Smoker, assistant professor of accounting and business law, is ready to teach three synchronous online courses this fall. After pivoting unexpectedly to remote learning during the spring 2020 semester, Smoker wasted no time in finding creative ways to engage students, and plans to expand on those successes this semester.
Smoker ran the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program last spring, a service-learning opportunity that Ithaca College students have participated in for several decades. Students are certified by the IRS each year to meet with clients and prepare accurate income tax returns, free of cost.
“The pandemic threatened to throw a serious wrench in the process, because we are normally required to meet face-to-face with clients to confirm their identity and deter fraud,” said Smoker. “This became impossible halfway through tax season, but we submitted a virtual work plan that was approved by the IRS. We were one of fewer than 100 virtual tax clinics nationwide to participate in the virtual pilot program, giving our students an incredible learning opportunity. And they were committed – they stuck with the program through the extended tax deadline of July 15, well beyond the end of the academic year.”