Colleges embrace Internet education

Justin Costley

Following a nationwide trend, the Carlson School of Management recently proposed its first move into e-commerce.
Beginning next fall, the school hopes to offer a concentration in e-commerce for MBA students and MIS majors, satisfying a demand by students and employers for more Internet-related course work.
The outstanding performance of online companies on the stock market and the public embrace of all things with the prefix “e” have encouraged many brick-and-mortar firms to make the move to e-commerce.
That’s where the Carlson School comes in.
Despite the hype, many online ventures have yet to turn a profit, largely because of high costs and inefficient product delivery.
The course work proposed by Carlson School professors will teach students tried-and-true business strategies, then show how they can be applied to the Web.
The Carlson School wants to add several new classes to the one undergraduate and two graduate-level e-commerce courses it already offers.
Les Wanninger, e-commerce committee chairman and University professor, said without the new classes, Carlson would fall behind other business schools.
“I think at this point, all the universities are scurrying to get something offered in a hurry, and I think we are scurrying with them,” Wanninger said.
As businesses are shifting to e-business, more employers and students are asking for e-commerce programs, said Richard Welke, a professor developing an e-MBA program for Georgia State University.
Although Internet business is all the rage, said Welke, there aren’t enough graduates with the right training.
“I would guess that the production of students who have a sufficient understanding to actually operate in Internet business would certainly be no more than hundreds,” Welke said.
“Trying to marvel at what an e-business does, and why that’s different from a regular business, should be somebody’s educational agenda,” Welke said.
To make the Carlson School’s agenda work, professors will invite local entrepreneurs and business leaders to work as mentors with students to make sure the curriculum stays grounded in what really happens in the marketplace.
“We could do some academic, theoretical thing, but it only works if it is actually representative of what people are doing,” Wanninger said. “We found that those companies are very willing to work with us.”
When it comes to e-commerce, companies are very enthusiastic about training potential employees to foster a new generation of Internet-educated workers.
Colleges and universities have had to fight hard to keep students and faculty members from leaving for Web ventures.
“We have already lost two faculty who, in a sense, have taken a page out of their own books and went to Internet start-up companies,” Welke said.
“They have gotten venture capital, and will probably be multimillionaires,” Welke said. “Our only hope is that they endow their own chairs and come back.”

Justin Costley covers business, and welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x 3236