An Investigation of the Preparation of e-Commerce Professionals

An Investigation of the Preparation of e-Commerce Professionals

MARCELLINE FUSILIER and CHARLIE PENROD College of Business, Northwestern State University of Louisiana,

Natchitoches, Louisiana, USA

As e-commerce revenues have mounted in recent years, so have losses from security breaches and legal problems. The present study conceptualized e-commerce activities focused on gains versus loss prevention in terms of regulatory focus theory. Professional preparation provided in 163 e-commerce master’s programs worldwide was investigated using propositions derived from the theory. Data were collected using extensive Web searches of master’s program curricula. Results suggested that a majority of the programs lacked courses in the prevention-focused topics of law, security, or ethics. As e-businesses increasingly face the threat of costly legal and security incidents, it appears necessary for e-commerce education programs to place greater emphasis on prevention-focused topics.

KEYWORDS business law, e-commerce, e-commerce education, e-crime, regulatory focus theory, security


E-crime has immense financial impact on e-commerce (2008 Information Security Breaches Survey; Silver-Greenberg 2009). The e-commerce Times reported that the cost of customer data breaches increased 5.3 percent from 2007 to 2008. Now, the average total cost per incident is $6.65 million (Meisner 2009). Despite the cost and pervasiveness of e-crime, a survey of over 7,000 business and technology executives indicated that 42 percent of the respondents could not identify the sources of their security incidents

Address correspondence to Marcelline Fusilier, PhD, College of Business, Northwestern State University of Louisiana, 125 Central Ave., Natchitoches, LA 71497, USA. E-mail:

Journal of Internet Commerce, 8:2–22, 2009 Copyright # Taylor & Francis Group, LLC ISSN: 1533-2861 print=1553-287X online DOI: 10.1080/15332860903341281


(Nash 2008). Indeed, 35 percent of the executives did not even know whether they had experienced a security incident. The rapid growth of e-crime and apparent lack of security awareness suggest that education programs for e-commerce professionals do not provide sufficient preparation for preventing e-commerce legal and security problems. Research has documented inadequate coverage of security (Kim et al. 2005; Morrison and Oladunjoye 2002) and legal (Mykytyn, Mykytyn, and Harrison 2005) issues in e-commerce education programs. The present study addresses the apparent gap between the seriousness of e-commerce risks and the prepara- tion provided to those planning careers in the field. Theory from cognitive and motivational psychology is used to explain why the gap has developed and to identify potential remedies from an educational standpoint.

Regulatory Focus Theory and e-Commerce

Regulatory focus theory suggests that situational and individual factors can engender motivation to pursue gain or avoid loss (Crowe and Higgins 1997). Concern with gains is called a promotion focus. Concentration on avoiding loss is called a prevention focus. Promotion focus concerns achieve- ment while prevention focus emphasizes security. Situational characteristics can prime individuals or groups to collectively take a promotion or preven- tion focus (Brazy and Shah 2006).

The field of e-commerce began with stories of wildly successful startups and overnight millionaires. Those attracted to e-commerce and its associated educational programs are likely to be concerned with achieving financial and career gains. Results of a survey of almost 2,000 MBA students suggested that they deemed maximization of shareholders’ value as the primary business responsibility (Aspen Institute 2008). It seems plausible to describe the field of e-commerce as having a collective regulatory focus on promotion. If this is the case, one would expect to find fewer courses in e-commerce programs that are oriented toward preventing loss and more courses that emphasize skills associated with achieving gains.

The apparent emphasis of e-commerce education on gain contrasts with evidence suggesting that for e-commerce consumers, risk perceptions are a main barrier for online shopping (van Noort, Kerkhof, and Fennis 2007). In terms of regulatory focus theory, consumers tend to take a prevention focus when shopping online (van Noort et al. 2007) while the providers of e-commerce likely take a promotion focus. Van Noort, Kerkof, and Fennis (2008) suggested that ‘‘Although the natural tendency of a marketer might be to advertise positive features of products and services . . . individuals [consumers] are more easily persuaded by safety-oriented online informa- tion’’ (p. 70). Safety and protective features tend to fit with the prevention focus of consumers but may be overlooked by e-commerce providers because they appear to take a promotion focus. It is therefore essential that

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e-commerce education includes emphasis on prevention topics. The present study builds on the literature to identify prevention topics concerning e-commerce: law (Gueldenzoph 2006; Mykytyn et al. 2005); ethics (Adam, Aderet, and Sadeh 2007; Bruce and Edgington 2008), and security (Gunasekaran and Ngai 2004; Kim et al. 2005; Ragothaman, Lavin, and Davies 2007). Certainly, other activities in e-commerce may contribute to loss preven- tion. However, many specific topics associated with loss prevention are sub- sumed in one of the larger prevention subjects addressed in the present study. For example, risk analysis is typically considered to be a security issue.

The remainder of this article’s Introduction section proceeds as follows: (1) arguments are presented concerning the importance of law, security, and ethics for successful e-commerce; (2) literature is reviewed on coverage of law, security topics, and ethics in e-commerce education programs; and (3) research questions are specified.

Law, Security, Ethics, and e-Commerce

Law has recently gained attention as a critical driver of world e-commerce diffusion (United Nations 2003). In its 2007 e-readiness country rankings, the Economist Intelligence Unit added a new ‘‘Legal Environment’’ aspect to recognize the importance of the role of law in encouraging technology adoption. With regard to e-commerce, the report contends that a legal envir- onment can support e-readiness effectively by (1) protecting consumer and intellectual property rights, (2) fostering digital security enablers such as authentication of online transactions, and (3) allowing new businesses to register quickly and easily. On the basis of an analysis of e-commerce in 30 countries, Shih, Dedrick, and Kraemer (2005) found that various business enablers promoted e-commerce activity only when laws were supportive.

A large body of literature suggests that e-commerce security is an impor- tant component of customer trust (e.g., Angriawan and Thakur, 2008; van Noort et al. 2007). Kraemer, Dedrick, and Melville (2006) reported that con- cern about privacy=security and inadequate legal protection for Internet pur- chases were the biggest firm barriers worldwide to e-commerce use. These authors noted that such protections were believed at one time to restrict e-commerce activity, but this has not been the case. The law appears to create a more secure environment for e-commerce.

Maury and Kleiner (2002) indicated that there is an overwhelming need to build ethical values into e-commerce in order to improve consumer confidence. Likewise, Creed, Zutshi, and Ross (2009) argued that ethics is central to the success of e-commerce due to its global and anonymous nat- ure. The specific moral recommendations for e-commerce practitioners developed by Kracher and Corritore (2004) include the topics of security and intellectual property. Of various ethical factors investigated by Adam and colleagues (2007), privacy and security had the greatest impact on

4 M. Fusilier and C. Penrod

e-commerce customers’ intention to purchase. Bruce and Edgington (2008) reported that ethics education in MBA programs can influence students’ beliefs and behaviors toward the ethical culture of prospective employers. This suggests that ethics education may be basic to achieving the goals of improved security practices, legal compliance, and customer trust.

Law, Security, and Ethics Topics in e-Commerce Education Programs

Given the importance of law, security, and ethics for enabling e-commerce, it seems reasonable to ask (1) to what extent are they covered in e-commerce degree programs? And (2) to what extent should they be covered? The litera- ture that addresses each question is reviewed in the following sections.


Results of studies that investigated the types of courses in e-commerce master’s programs are presented in Table 1. Of these studies, Novitzki (2002) coded law and ethics courses into the same category. The other stu- dies did not report on ethics courses. In addition to the results summarized in Table 1, Kim and colleagues (2005) found that only 54 percent of the sampled graduate and undergraduate programs included courses related to e-commerce security. Dunning and colleagues (2001) noted that 40 percent of the e-commerce programs that they studied included law courses. Burkey (2007) tracked a decrease in the percentage of MBA programs that included e-commerce law courses from 2001 (40 percent) to 2005 (18 percent). No security or ethics courses were evident in the MBA programs analyzed. Two additional studies coded the contents of e-commerce course syllabi (King, Frank, and Platt 2001; Rezaee, Lambert, and Harmon 2006). To sum- marize the descriptive findings concerning courses and syllabi, fewer than half of the programs in most of the studies offered a law or ethics course or covered legal issues, ethics, or privacy in the syllabus. The studies

TABLE 1 Summary of Studies Reporting Law and Security Courses in MBA and Master of Science in e-Commerce Programs

Percentage of programs in which law course(s)

were present

Percentage of programs in which security course(s)

were present

Study MBA MS e-commerce MBA MS e-commerce

Mechitov, Moshkovich, and Olson (2002)

50% 70% 4% 70%

Novitzki (2002) 31% 46% 12% 13% Ethridge, Hsu, and Wilson (2001)- Required courses only

10% 22% Not reported Not reported

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concerning security courses reported that from 70 percent (Mechitov, Moshkovich, and Olson 2002) to none (Burkey) of the programs appeared to offer them, although slightly over half of the syllabi included security as a topic. No previous studies were found that reported the existence of courses on prevention of e-crime.


Research on stakeholder recommendations for e-commerce curricula has focused on employers and industry representatives (Gueldenzoph 2006; Ragothaman et al. 2007), students (Gunasekaran and Ngai 2004; Petrova and Claxton 2005), and faculty (Brookshire, Williamson, and Wright 2002; Metha, Shah, and Morgan 2005; Mitchell and Strauss 2001; Morrison and Oladunjoye, 2002). According to Downey, McMurtrey, and Zeltman (2008), a sample of employers and industry representatives did not designate ethics, privacy, security, or legal issues as top critical skills for an e-commerce track program. Contrary to these results, Gueldenzoph reported that a sample of employers and educators rated legal, ethical, privacy, and security issues as ‘‘absolutely necessary’’ topics for e-commerce education. Ragothaman and colleagues likewise noted a high level of concern about e-commerce security issues among accounting practitioners.

Two studies (Davis, Siau, and Dhenuvakonda 2003; Li, Yen, and Cheng 2008) compared courses in e-commerce curricula with Internet job postings as an indicator of industry demand. Although the percentage of total courses for legal, security, and ethics was well under 5 percent of the total courses offered, few of the job listings called for these skills. The authors concluded course offerings in these areas were balanced with industry demand.

With regard to student input, Petrova and Claxton (2005) and Gunasekaran and Ngai (2004) reported contradictory results. Students in New Zealand (Petrova and Claxton) indicated that a business law course was generally not helpful in their e-business undergraduate program. How- ever, Gunasekaran and Ngai reported that a sample of students in Hong Kong perceived the following topics as necessary in e-commerce education: computer virus protection, privacy, security, and confidentiality.

To summarize the prescriptive studies’ findings, stakeholders did not appear to agree on the extent and methods for covering legal, ethics, and security topics in e-commerce programs. Some of the results suggested high levels of concern among stakeholders for these issues (Gueldenzoph 2006; Gunasekaran and Ngai 2004; Mitchell and Strauss 2001; Morrison and Oladunjoye 2002), while other findings indicated that the stakeholders involved did not view a legal or security course as necessary for all students in an e-commerce program (Brookshire et al. 2002; Mehta et al. 2005).

Independent curriculum prescriptions have also been proposed by accrediting agencies such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools

6 M. Fusilier and C. Penrod

of Business (AACSB). AACSB requires an ethics component in business curricula (AACSB 2008). The Computing Curricula 2005 Report (Association for Computing Machinery [ACM], Association for Information Systems [AIS], Computer Society [IEEE-CS] 2006) identifies legal, ethics, and security as knowledge areas to be covered across all computer and technology degrees. Mykytyn and colleagues (2005) took a prescriptive approach, advocating more extensive incorporation of intellectual property (IP) concepts into e-commerce education. These authors surveyed management information systems (MIS) faculty to identify barriers to including IP material in courses. Findings suggested that the faculty felt they lacked appropriate knowledge and time, and perceived a problem of fit between legal and IT course material.

Navarro (2008) suggested that functional areas in business schools form competing coalitions that result in inadequate coverage of legal and ethical topics in MBA curricula. Stronger coalitions such as finance and marketing claim more of the core courses. Regulatory focus theory might suggest that these power differentials are consistent with the general promotion focus of business. Functional areas more closely associated with a promotion focus such as marketing may have greater power because their purpose is consis- tent with the general focus of the school as a whole. Areas such as business law may claim less power and fewer core courses because they are focused on prevention, which may be inconsistent with the general emphasis of business schools.

Research Questions

Although there is considerable literature on e-commerce curricula, none has applied regulatory focus theory to understanding the composition of the pro- grams. The present study applies regulatory focus theory to organizational rather than individual decisions and behavior. Application of the theory may clarify why e-commerce curricula are structured as they are and also provide direction for effective methods for modifying preparation for e-commerce professionals. This appears essential given the apparent preva- lence of e-crime and the importance of establishing trust in e-commerce relationships.

The present study examines the extent of prevention-focused courses in master’s degree e-commerce curricula for programs worldwide. Prevention- focused courses as defined here include law, ethics, and security topics. The extent of this coverage is further compared to marketing course offerings because marketing is a ubiquitous business school course (Navarro 2008) and appears to be promotion focused. For example, the marketing term promo- tions is common in the field. Specific questions addressed are as follows:

1. To what extent are law, ethics, and security courses represented in e-commerce master’s programs? Kim and colleagues (2005) recommended

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that at least three types of security courses be incorporated into an e-commerce program: (a) security management, (b) fundamental security, and (c) technology-based security. As noted in the present study’s litera- ture review, accrediting agencies (AACSB 2008; ACM, AIS, IEEE-CS 2006) focus on the need for coverage of legal, ethics, and security topics.

2. What is the relative representation of law, ethics, and security courses in relation to marketing courses in e-commerce programs? It is hypothesized that more marketing courses will be evident because this topic is consis- tent with the general promotion focus of e-commerce programs.

3. Does the prevalence of prevention- (law, security, and ethics) and promotion-focused (marketing) courses vary according to world regions? This is an exploratory analysis. Lee, Aaker, and Gardner (2000) suggested that an independent, achievement-oriented self-view characteristic of American culture is consistent with a regulatory focus of promotion. An interdependent self-view that emphasizes fulfillment of social obligations is characteristic of Asian culture and consistent with a regulatory focus of prevention. With regard to the present study, more prevention-focused courses might be expected in e-commerce programs based outside of North America. However, Chen, Ng, and Rao (2005) demonstrated that Asians could be primed to take a promotion focus in an online purchase situation. In the present case, if e-commerce programs have a collective regulatory focus on promotion, differences should not be apparent across world regions.


Web Searches

Data were collected from April to July, 2007. Exhaustive Web searches were conducted to find Web page descriptions of e-commerce master’s-level degree programs by institutions of higher education around the world. A variety of search and metasearch engines was employed in the Web searches: Google, Lycos, MSN, AskJeeves, Yahoo, Dogpile, Netscape Search, About. com, and Prior evidence suggests that Web sites are a valid data source on e-commerce education programs: Burkey (2007) compared 33 e-commerce program curricula displayed on Web sites to hardcopy catalogs published by the colleges and universities and found the information to be 100 percent consistent.

Programs were considered e-commerce if their titles and=or the degree awarded contained the words e- (or electronic, Internet, or network) commerce or business, or any e-functional business area, such as e-marketing. Some programs that did not have any of these terms in their titles were included in the study if the curricula suggested that they were in fact e-commerce programs. Some established e-commerce programs did

8 M. Fusilier and C. Penrod

not have a clear Web presence or one that the researchers were able to locate. In such cases, the schools were contacted by e-mail or phone in an effort to obtain information on their curriculum. Programs were included in the study only when a detailed curriculum description was available. Web sites in languages other than English were either translated by the authors or by an Internet translation site.

The programs took the form of (1) e-commerce concentrations in master’s programs or (2) master’s degrees in e-commerce. Concentrations typically entail fewer e-commerce courses than do e-commerce degree pro- grams. Nondegree programs and those that involved certificates or diplomas in e-commerce were excluded from the present study’s sample. Diploma programs were excluded from the North American sample because they tended not to be graduate degrees. The graduate diploma programs were included in the sample of programs based outside of North America because in other parts of the world this term is synonymous with a master’s degree. For the present study’s analyses, graduate diploma programs were consid- ered degrees in e-commerce as opposed to concentrations.

Course Coding

Course titles and descriptions in e-commerce program curricula were ana- lyzed to place courses in the following categories: (1) business law, (2) e-business law, (3) ethics, (4) security, (5) marketing, and (6) e-marketing. Consistent with many previous studies, the present research used course titles as a measure of topic coverage (Burkey 2007; Dunning et al. 2001; Kim et al. 2005; Novitzki 2002). This approach was chosen as opposed to coding topics covered in course syllabi for the following reasons: (1) Course titles typically indicate that a topic will be addressed. Topics listed on a course syllabus are sometimes not covered due to time constraints or other problems. (2) Course titles were always available on program Web sites that contained a curriculum listing. Course syllabi were not always available. Reliance on syllabi would have considerably reduced the present study’s sample size.

Course titles by themselves were frequently adequate for determining assignment to the categories. In many cases, however, course descriptions were examined in detail to determine the most appropriate category. The present study’s authors independently coded the courses. The few disagree- ments that arose were resolved upon discussion. All courses were also clas- sified as required or elective. The specific procedure used for coding is:

1. Business Law: General business law courses were included in this cate- gory. Example titles include ‘‘Survey of Business Law’’ and ‘‘Legal Environ- ment of Business.’’ Legal issues and ethics were sometimes included in the same course (12 incidents). Based on the course descriptions, these

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combination approaches appeared to emphasize legal topics. In order to be consistent, the legal and ethics combination courses were coded as business law, or if they had an e-commerce focus, as e-commerce law. An example title of a combination course is ‘‘Legal, Regulatory, and Ethical Environment of Business.’’ No courses were counted in more than one coding category. This was done to avoid inflation of the measures of topic coverage. A course titled ‘‘Law and Ethics’’ could at best provide the student with half of a course on each topic. If this were counted as two courses, it would not be com- parable to programs at other schools that included an entire course on one or both subjects.

2. e-Business Law: This classification pertained to legal topics courses that focused on e-business. Example course titles were ‘‘Cyber Law’’ and ‘‘Legal Aspects of Electronic Businesses.’’ E-commerce intellectual property courses were coded into this category.

3. Ethics: All courses with a title that concerned ethics were coded into this category. Included were courses on general business ethics or business and society, as well as those that concerned ethics of information, technol- ogy, or marketing. Typical example course titles are ‘‘Business Ethics and Society’’ and ‘‘Applied Ethics.’’ Very few courses pertained specifically to e-commerce ethics, therefore no separate category was established.

4. Security: Security courses encompassed a range of course titles including privacy, any title that included the term security, cryptography, encryption technology, risk analysis, firewall technology, intrusion detection system, handling computer viruses, etc. Example security course titles are ‘‘Compu- ter Security for e-Commerce’’ and ‘‘Electronic Payment and Security.’’

5. Marketing: Courses that concerned the functional area were included in this classification. Example course titles included ‘‘Marketing’’ and ‘‘Strategic Marketing Management.’’

6. e-Commerce Marketing: This designation was used for courses that used marketing and Internet or e-commerce in their titles. Example course titles are ‘‘e-Business Marketing’’ and ‘‘e-Marketing.’’


Web searches yielded 163 e-commerce master’s programs with complete curriculum listings, of which 88 were degree programs and 75 were concen- trations. Ninety-one programs were based in North America (Canada [3], USA [87], and Mexico [1]), 27 in Australia=New Zealand (24 and 3 respectively), 33 in Europe, and 12 in Asia.

Research question 1 concerned the extent to which prevention-focused courses, for example, law, security, and ethics, were represented in the master’s e-commerce curricula. Table 2 shows that for each type of course,

10 M. Fusilier and C. Penrod

fewer than half of the programs included even one course, required or elec- tive. Nearly 90 percent of the programs did not include a course focused solely on ethics. Only 6.1 percent of the programs included three or more security courses. This suggests that 93.9 percent had fewer security courses than recommended by Kim and colleagues (2005). Figure 1 graphically dis- plays the numbers of each type of course.

Research question 2 concerned comparisons of the prevention-focused courses to a representative promotion-focused type of course, marketing. Table 3 shows the results of t-tests comparing the average number of total (required and elective) marketing and e-marketing courses to the average total number of each other course: law (includes business law and e-business law), security, and ethics. In each case, results are statistically significant with the average number of marketing courses per program greater than for each of the other courses.

FIGURE 1 Frequencies of e-commerce master’s programs according to the numbers of law, security, and ethics courses offered.

TABLE 2 Frequencies and Percentages of e-Commerce Master’s Programs According to the Numbers of Law, Security, and Ethics Courses Offered

Number of courses in the program of each type

Law (includes all required

and elective business law and e-business law)

Security (includes required

and elective security courses)

Ethics (includes required

and elective ethics courses)

Programs Percentage Programs Percentage Programs Percentage

0 86 52.8 109 66.9 146 89.6 1 56 34.3 30 18.4 16 9.8 2 15 9.2 14 8.6 1 0.6 3 4 2.5 7 4.3 0 0 More than 3 2 1.2 3 1.8 0 0 Total Programs 163 100% 163 100% 163 100%

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It is possible that some master’s programs may have many available electives, and this could affect the results obtained for these comparisons when tested with total numbers of courses. Therefore, these hypotheses were also tested using only the average number of required courses in each area. Results are shown in Table 4 and are similar to those for the total num- bers of courses: the significant t-statistics suggest that there are more required marketing courses on average than each of the other course types. The results again appear to support the notion that on average there are more marketing (promotion-focused) courses than prevention-focused courses. Figure 2 graphically displays the mean comparisons for total marketing and required marketing versus the prevention-focused courses.

The exploratory analysis (research question 3) investigated the preva- lence of each type of course across the programs based on major continents represented in the data set: Asia, Australia=New Zealand, Europe, and North America. A one-way ANOVA was employed for each type of course (law,

TABLE 4 Comparisons of Average Required Number of Marketing Versus Law, Security, and Ethics Courses for e-Commerce Master’s Programs

Course type Mean SD t (df¼ 162)

Marketing (includes all required marketing and e-marketing) 0.92 1.13 Versus Law (includes all required business law and e-business law)

0.30 0.55 6.61��

Marketing (includes all required marketing and e-marketing) 0.92 1.13 Versus Security (includes all required security courses) 0.26 0.55 6.28��

Marketing (includes all required marketing and e-marketing) 0.92 1.13 Versus Ethics (includes all required ethics courses) 0.10 0.33 9.01��

�p< .05; ��p< .01.

TABLE 3 Comparisons of Average Total Number of Marketing Versus Law, Security, and Ethics Courses for e-Commerce Master’s Programs

Course type Mean SD t (df¼ 162)

Marketing (includes all required and elective marketing and e-marketing)

1.71 1.80

Versus Law (includes all required and elective business law and e-business law)

0.66 0.90 7.29��

Marketing (includes all required and elective marketing and e-marketing)

1.71 1.80

Versus Security (includes all required and elective security courses)

0.60 1.19 6.07��

Marketing (includes all required and elective marketing and e-marketing)

1.71 1.80

Versus Ethics (includes all required and elective ethics courses)

0.11 0.33 11.33��

�p< .05; ��p< .01.

12 M. Fusilier and C. Penrod

security, ethics, and marketing) as the dependent variable and continent as the independent variable. ANOVAs involving the total numbers of each type of course did not yield significant results except in the case of marketing. Results appear in Table 5a. To explore the nature of the differences, Bonferroni post hoc tests were performed. Results suggested that the North American pro- grams hadmoremarketing courses, on average (mean¼ 2.12, SD¼ 1.86), than programs in Europe (mean¼ 0.76, SD¼ 1.09). No further course differences were apparent between any other pair of continents as represented in the sample. Descriptive statistics by continent appear in Table 5b.

Again, to avoid potential undue influence of elective courses, the ANOVAs were also conducted using only the required courses in each area as the dependent variable. Results suggested significant findings for business law and marketing and appear in Tables 6a and 7a respectively. Descriptive statistics by continent are presented in Tables 6b and 7b. For the required business law variable, variances appeared to be unequal across continents (Levene statistic¼ 16.67�� df¼ 3, 159), therefore a Dunnett T3 post hoc test was applied. Results suggested significant differences with more required business law courses, on average, in North America (mean¼ 0.23,

TABLE 5a Comparison of Total Marketing Courses Across Continents Using One-way ANOVA

Sum of squares df Mean square F

Between Groups 50.13 3 16.71 5.59��

Within Groups 475.31 159 2.99 Total 525.45 162

Note. Includes all required and elective marketing and e-marketing. �p< .05; ��p< .01.

FIGURE 2 Average number of marketing versus law, security, and ethics courses.

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TABLE 6a Comparison of Required Business Law Courses across Continents Using One-way ANOVA

Sum of squares df Mean square F

Between Groups 1.412 3 0.47 3.15�

Within Groups 23.753 159 0.15 Total 25.166 162

�p< .05; ��p< .01.

TABLE 5b Descriptive Statistics for Total Marketing Courses across Continents

Continent n Mean SD

Asia 12 1.08 0.90 Australia=New Zealand 27 1.78 2.12 Europe 33 0.76 1.10 North America 91 2.12 1.86 Significant difference between sample means for Europe and North America (p< .01)

Note. Includes all required and elective marketing and e-marketing.

TABLE 6b Descriptive Statistics for Required Business Law Courses across Continents

Continent n Mean SD

Asia 12 .17 .39 Australia=New Zealand 27 .04 .19 Europe 33 .03 .17 North America 91 .23 .47 Significant differences (p< .01) between sample means for: . Europe and North America . Australia=New Zealand and North America

TABLE 7a Comparison of Required Marketing Courses across Continents Using One-way ANOVA

Sum of squares df Mean square F

Between Groups 13.86 3 4.62 6.73��

Within Groups 109.22 159 0.69 Total 123.08 162

�p< .05; ��p< .01.

14 M. Fusilier and C. Penrod

SD¼ 0.47) than in those programs in Europe (mean¼ 0.03, SD¼ 0.17) or Australia=New Zealand (mean¼ 0.04, SD¼ 0.19). Likewise, for required marketing courses, Bonferroni post hoc test results suggested that North American programs had more required marketing courses, on average (mean¼ 0.86, SD¼ 0.95), than those programs in Europe (mean¼ 0.33, SD¼ 0.69) or Australia=New Zealand (mean¼ 0.19, SD¼ 0.62). No other differences were apparent.


Since its emergence in the 1990s, e-commerce has been characterized by overall expansion in terms of both its revenues and universities’ offerings of e-commerce educational programs and their associated enrollments. Attention to this growth may have overshadowed the importance of legal and security considerations as components of the foundation for e-commerce success. The present study applied regulatory focus theory to conceptualize the e-commerce emphasis on expansion as a promotion focus and avoidance of legal and security problems as a prevention focus. The pre- sent study’s finding of more marketing than law, security, or ethics courses supports the notion of a predominant promotion focus in the e-commerce programs. This is consistent with the general emphasis on gain in business schools. This result also appears to support the contention derived from regulatory focus theory that an organization with a promotion focus will make decisions and behave in a manner that is more consistent with attain- ment of gain than loss prevention, in this case, prevention of e-crime. The decisions and behavior in the present case took place at the organizational level and concerned the structure of the curriculum and the numbers of each type of course actually offered.

Representation of Law, Security, and Ethics Courses in e-Commerce Programs

The present results suggest a relative neglect of the prevention-focused courses of law, security, and ethics in e-commerce master’s programs. This

TABLE 7b Descriptive Statistics for Required Marketing Courses across Continents

Continent n Mean SD

Asia 12 0.33 0.49 Australia=New Zealand 27 0.19 0.62 Europe 33 0.33 0.69 North America 91 0.86 0.95 Significant differences (p< .01) between sample means for: . Europe and North America . Australia=New Zealand and North America

e-Crime Prevention 15

crucial omission is inconsistent with the admonition of Taylor and colleagues (2005) that legal considerations and prevention of e-crime are necessary first steps in e-commerce activities. Without such preparation, it is unlikely that e-commerce professionals will fully understand the legal boundaries and opportunities of cyberspace. On one hand, a risk-averse e-commerce profes- sional may forfeit important e-commerce legal rights simply because he=she is unaware of the full menu of rights available to professionals in cyberspace. On the other hand, the risk taker may unwittingly stray beyondwhat is allowed by law and thereby subject him=herself to civil or even criminal penalties.

The present study utilized a larger sample of e-commerce programs than previous studies in an attempt to obtain representative data. The relatively extreme previous findings concerning law courses tended to be associated with smaller sample sizes: Ethridge, Hsu, and Wilson (2001) reported that 10 percent of MBA programs included at least one law course (n¼ 31) and Mechitov and colleagues (2002) indicated that 70 percent of their master’s in e-commerce programs included law (n¼ 10). The present study’s results corroborated most of the earlier reports suggesting that under half of e-commerce programs include a law course. This consistency lends confi- dence to the conclusion that subject coverage may be insufficient to provide students with the necessary legal knowledge for e-commerce success and e-crime prevention. And the need for such education is likely to increase with the worldwide growth of jurisdiction-specific cyber laws (Edappagath 2004).

Kim and colleagues (2005) concluded that because only 54 percent of their sample of e-commerce programs included a security course, ‘‘there are not enough courses that deal with e-commerce security’’ (p. 56). The present study’s results suggested that only 32.5 percent of the programs had one or more security courses, coverage that is even less adequate according to the standard of Kim and colleagues. It should therefore not be surprising that secur- ity problems are common in e-commerce today (Nash 2008) because providers are apparently not prepared to prevent and cope with security imperatives.

Dedicated ethics courses were present in only 10.4 percent of the pro- grams investigated in the present study. Given that accrediting agencies require ethics coverage in degree programs (AACSB 2008; ACM, AIS, IEEE-CS 2006) this appears to be a startling underrepresentation. It is possible that ethics is incorporated into courses with other titles. This would cause ethics coverage to be underestimated by the present study’s data collection method. However, studies that coded the contents of e-commerce course syllabi did not identify ethics as a topic in any of the syllabi examined (King et al. 2001; Rezaee et al. 2006). The ethics-related topics of privacy issues in e-commerce were included in 31 percent and 41 percent of these studies’ samples of syllabi, respectively, and trust was included in 6 percent (King et al. 2001). This evidence suggests that ethics coverage is also sparse in courses that were not titled as ethics. A potential problem with incorporating a topic into different courses is the difficulty of assessing the extent of its

16 M. Fusilier and C. Penrod

actual coverage. Bruce and Edgington (2008) reported that inclusion of a required ethics course in the curriculum was positively associated with MBA students’ views of the effectiveness of ethics coverage.

In the present study, the comparison of promotion- and prevention- focused courses was tested with only one representative promotion-focused course: marketing. Other business areas can also take on a promotion focus, such as certain aspects of finance, operations management, etc. The overall numbers of such courses may constitute a much larger proportional represen- tation than prevention-focused courses if the entire curriculum were taken into account. This suggests that if all promotion-focused courses in an e-commerce curriculum were considered, the number of prevention-focused courses would be dwarfed. Future research might investigate such an analysis.

Exploratory Analysis

The exploratory investigation examined differences in the representation of each type of course across the continents in which the programs were based. Results suggested more total and required marketing courses on average in the North American programs than in those in Europe or Australia=New Zealand. The notion that American culture may be promotion focused (Lee et al. 2000) could explain this finding. Furthermore, the United States is the largest capitalistic economy in the world, with greater advertising expendi- tures than Europe (Macleod 2008) or Australia (Sinclair 2007). These charac- teristics of the economies could also contribute to the apparently greater number of marketing courses in the North American programs.

No significant differences were apparent for the programs in Asia versus those based on any of the other continents. This might be explained by draw- ing on the research of Chen and colleagues (2005), which suggested that an Asian sample could be primed to take a promotion focus in a situation of gain. The general promotion focus of e-commerce programs may have primed decision makers in the Asian programs to take a promotion focus and there- fore offer as many marketing courses and as few prevention-focused courses as are available in North American programs. Another potential explanation for the finding is that Asian e-commerce programs were not adequately repre- sented in the present study’s sample. This could be due to Asian programs either not having a generally available Web site or the Web site not appearing when English language search terms were used with search engines. Also, evidence suggests that e-commerce certificate and other non-degree pro- grams are more common in Asia than master’s programs (Zhang, Li, and Lin 2005). In an effort to obtain a larger sample from all parts of the world, future research should examine other types of e-commerce education programs and master’s programs focused on regional enrollment.

Results of the exploratory analysis also suggested more required business law courses on average in the North American programs than in

e-Crime Prevention 17

those in Europe or Australia=New Zealand. This finding is consistent with Mechitov and colleagues (2002), who reported lower representation of law courses in e-commerce programs based in world regions outside of the Uni- ted States. As conceptualized here, law is a prevention-focused course. Its greater prevalence in North America is contrary to America’s ostensibly pro- motion-focused culture (Lee et al. 2000). Law in the United States may be of greater importance than other prevention-focused courses due to the rela- tively unique position law takes in American society. This finding might be explained by evidence that the United States is more litigious than European, Australian, Asian, or other North American nations (Li 2007). The strong environmental threat of costly lawsuits may present an imperative for some prevention-focused behavior, in this case, offering more business law courses. However, although North American degree programs might involve more business law courses, coverage of this topic may still not be sufficient to stanch the losses that businesses apparently experience due to litigation (Dutcher 2006).

Limitations of the Study and Directions for Future Research

The course coding was based on course titles and descriptions that may not adequately represent course content. If prevention-focused topics are being incorporated into courses with traditional business titles, coverage may be underrepresented by the present study’s results. Future research should investigate course content in a variety of course titles to determine the extent to which law, ethics, and security might be infused into other areas. King and colleagues (2001) and Rezaee and colleagues (2006) have developed coding procedures for e-commerce syllabi. These procedures could be applied in future studies of course content.

It is possible that law, ethics, or security courses may have been prere- quisites for entry to some of the master’s programs, which could account for lower levels of curriculum coverage found in the present study’s data. If this is the case, student knowledge and awareness could be underestimated. Future research might investigate program entrance requirements and count them as a component of what the master’s program requires to be covered.


A. The present findings suggest that more law, security, and ethics courses should be included in e-commerce master’s programs. Given the state and administrative limitations placed on many master’s programs con- cerning the numbers of courses that they can include, curriculum design may be a challenge. However, even one course in each area would be an improvement for a majority of the programs and would be a step toward a better balance of promotion- versus prevention-focused activities in the

18 M. Fusilier and C. Penrod

preparation of future e-commerce professionals. Offering courses dedicated to each topic could assure coverage and also streamline program assessment. A majority of a curriculum’s courses should probably be promotion focused to ensure that students have the skills to attain the primary business goals of gain and growth. However, strong preparation in prevention areas appears essential to confront the increasingly costly security and legal complexities of e-commerce and the threat of e-crime.

B. Regulatory focus theory was used in the present study as a framework to conceptualize collective organizational decision making and behavior. Much of the previous research on this theory has targeted individual behavior (Brazy and Shah 2006). Institutional-level application of the the- ory may have implications for assessing the effectiveness of collective trends and decisions. Future research should extend experimental tests of the theory to organizational decisions.


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