Curriculum Change and the Evolution of Postgraduate E-Business Subjects

Article excerpt

Introduction

About ten years ago many universities in Australia, and also around the world, began introducing new e-business subject matter and materials at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. In some cases this represented complete courses in e-business, while in others cases individual subjects were added to existing courses. (In this paper we will use the term 'subject' in the Australian context to refer to an individual semester-length unit of study, and 'course' to mean a collection of subjects that make up the award of a degree.) While undergraduate e-business courses need to provide a discipline base in computing and business on which the e-business content can be built, postgraduate e-business courses typically aim to provide additional 'top-up' material to information systems, general business or engineering graduates on how information and communication technologies (ICT) or e-business processes might affect their work (Tatnall, 2002).

In common with the technology itself, and in contrast with many other established disciplines, however, these courses have not remained static and have evolved considerably and at a fast rate over this period. Perhaps the first thing to occur was a re-consideration of the name: e-Commerce versus e-Business. On a literal interpretation the term e-commerce is quite limited and could be used to refer only to financial transactions on the Internet. The term e-business, on the other hand, can be interpreted much more widely. Having said this though, many people also use the term e-commerce in a very wide sense and the same way that others use the term e-business. In this paper we will use the term e-business without meaning to preclude courses referred to as e-commerce.

At around the turn of the century, many e-business courses were developed in a short period of time and soon became very popular. Some people at the time, however, suggested that these courses would 'probably disappear in five years' (Melymuka, 2000). This supposition was based on two premises:

1. Firstly, that many of the concepts being taught specifically in e-business subjects would eventually be taught as part of common business subjects (for instance, e-Marketing concepts would become part of normal Marketing) and so there would be less need for specific e-business related skills (Wahl, 1999).

2. Secondly, that e-business represented the latest 'fad' and may disappear in time.

This did not happen, and this paper will begin with case studies examining the e-business subjects and courses at Victoria University and RMIT University, Australia. We will look at this material as it was first developed and at how it has changed over the years. We will then consider some theory relating to curriculum change and see how this fits with what we have observed in our courses.

The E-Business Specialisation at Victoria University

The postgraduate Electronic Business specialisation at Victoria University (VU) was introduced in 2002 as part of both an MBA and a Master of Business in e-Commerce and Marketing. (This postgraduate offering followed the earlier introduction of a Bachelor of Business in e-Commerce.) It was designed to prepare students for the management, application and use of e-business and related technologies. This was not a complete course, but a series of individual subjects that could be taken as part of one of these two courses. The specialisation covered issues relating to the Internet, intranets and extranets as well as use of the Internet as a business research and communications tool (Tatnall, Groom, & Burgess, 2002). Initially, it consisted of three subjects: Internet Commerce, Internet Technologies in Business and Building Internet Commerce Systems.

Internet Commerce

This introductory e-business subject was designed to provide an overview of how business is conducted over the Internet, along with the technological and infrastructure requirements and business and management issues relating to electronic business. …