Electronic Commerce Curricula: An Overview of Current Electronic Commerce Courses and Implications for Marketing Education

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Electronic commerce (EC) is defined by Zwass (1998) as a way of "sharing business information, maintaining business relationships, and conducting business transactions by means of telecommunications networks". EC has experienced phenomenal growth in recent years. Forrester Research Inc. projects that Internet business will grow to $1.3 trillion in 2003, compared to $43 billion in 1998 (Frook and Karpinski, 1999). As the concept of EC and e-business increasingly influences the form of organizations' business strategies, business schools around the world react to the market demand for quality graduates with an EC background by creating electronic commerce and e-business mainstream courses and degree programs within business schools. However due to the dynamic nature of the field, most colleges lack a standardized curriculum for EC. Educators are struggling to keep up with the technological and business rate of change, hence EC courses are often planned in an ad hoc fashion. As the result, many EC courses and programs lack the rigor and comprehensiveness sought in higher education due to their offering a piecemeal coverage on EC issues. Competing programs and various approaches to EC education are making it even more difficult to choose the program that is right for students' and job market's needs.

EC is an interdisciplinary field that is composed of a wide range of business and technical issues. In the 11th annual Electronic Commerce Conference in 1998, researchers in this field identified 174 issues pertinent to EC that were clustered into 22 categories (Electronic Commerce Conference, 1998). As an interdisciplinary field, the education of EC must include the discussion on a variety of topics including information technology (IT) and other managerial areas, most notably marketing. EC courses involve topics that do not have any of the traditions that underlie most business school courses. As such, typically no individual discipline area is ready to provide a comprehensive coverage on these topics. Therefore, a successful EC curriculum requires cross-functional integration and a change in pedagogy. Information Systems (IS) and Marketing are the two fields that have the most intrinsic connections to EC. The current practice of most schools of business can be divided into the following two categories: 1. IS and Marketing departments offer separate EC courses that focus on topics most related to each discipline. 2. Joint teaching effort by instructors from different academic disciplines to provide a more comprehensive coverage of EC. One recurring question is how effective each approach is.

Despite its importance, little research effort has been devoted to the EC curriculum development. To partially fill this void, this study attempts to provide a snapshot of the current EC curriculum programs and recommendations to EC-related educators (e.g., Marketing educators). This study is designed to render insights to the following questions:

1 Is joint teaching by instructors from different academic disciplines (e.g., IS and marketing) a viable solution for the education of interdisciplinary fields like EC?

2 What improvements need to be made to the current EC curricula?

3 What are the preferred teaching approaches for EC?

4 What are the viable strategies for EC program design?

By discussing the finding of this study, the authors investigate means of improving future EC curriculum development.

RESEARCH DESIGN

The primary research methodology of this study is syllabus analysis. By analyzing the syllabus of a sufficient number of EC courses, the authors expect to identify the trends in current EC curricula. The further analysis of these trends will generate valuable insights about the pros and cons of the EC curricula today. Data regarding course topics, course focuses, and teaching methods are collected via the analysis of syllabuses. …