An Active, Reflective Learning Cycle for E-Commerce Classes: Learning about E-Commerce by Doing and Teaching

Article excerpt

1. INTRODUCTION

With the increasing popularity of e-commerce courses (Gunasekaran, Ngai, and Harris, 2005; Moshkovich, Mechitov, and Olson, 2006), information systems educators have been challenged to find course delivery mechanisms that are successful in providing a solid theoretical and practical e-business foundation to students (Changchit, Cutshall, and Gonsalves, 2006). A popular mechanism for teaching information students about the commercial applications of the web has been to engage students in active, experiential projects with real industrial clients or not-for-profit institutions. Typically, students are organized into teams, and each team undertakes a single system development project for the external client. In this paper, we discuss a somewhat different course formulation, where the students were organized into functional teams, and the class together built a real, standalone, not-for-profit organization. The organization, named The Online Business Guidebook, produces a free step-by-step tutorial guide on how to start and grow an online business (Singh, 2009; Lovett, 2010). It is hoped that this guide, produced "by students for students", will be useful in providing a comprehensive and up-to-date e-commerce curriculum, and will be widely adopted by information systems educators.

In the remainder of this paper, we describe how the Online Business Guidebook organization was created by successive classes of information systems students, and the les sons learned. We begin with a discussion of related work on experiential learning, e-commerce, and entrepreneurship in the information systems classroom. We then describe the structure of our course, learning objectives set, and evaluations. We adapt a conventional experiential learning model from another education discipline, and propose a replicable experiential learning model specifically for the information systems classroom. Finally, we suggest some future work.

2. RELATED WORK

The information systems education literature is replete with examples of practical experiential learning, service learning, e-commerce education, and teaching entrepreneurship to information systems students.

Active, experiential learning, where students work on projects for real clients, has long been popular in information systems classes (Song, 1996; de Brock, 2001; Gabbert and Treu, 2001; Fox, 2002; Tan and Phillips, 2003; Scott, 2006; Klappholz, 2008; Tan and Jones, 2008), particularly in general systems analysis, design, and development classes (Chen, 2006; Mitra and Bullinger, 2007; Martincic, 2009; Tadayon, 2004) and capstone MIS classes (Janicki, Fischetti, and Burns, 2007; McGann and Cahill, 2005). In some cases, experiential learning is elevated to such importance that university support centers outside the individual classroom are provided, to facilitate interaction of students with live clients across multiple semesters (Chase, Oakes, and Ramsey, 2007). Kolb (1984, p.21), provides an illustration of a seminal experiential learning model--see Figure 1. In this model, students obtain real, concrete experience, observe and reflect on their experience, generalize what they learned, and actively experiment in new situations.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

In Anderson and Kratwohl's (2001) adaptation of Benjamin Bloom's Taxonomy of levels of learning attainment, student's learning achievement is gauged from basic learning (Remembering) to more advanced levels of learning (Understanding, Applying, Analyzing, Evaluating, and, finally, Creating). This is illustrated in Figure 2 below. The approach we describe in this paper is tailored to helping information technology students to proceed upwards through all of Bloom's learning levels.

Service learning is also popular in undergraduate information systems courses. In service learning projects, the client organization is a community-based not-for-profit organization, rather than a for-profit corporation. …