INTEGRATING THE INTERNET INTO THE BUSINESS
EDUCATION PROGRAM

written by:  Roderick Hames
Introduction

    If one invention has influenced business the most over the past five years it would arguably be the World Wide Web.  Ever since the ban was lifted to allow businesses on the Internet, the web has grown exponentially.  Transitions this formidable are not always so universally welcomed.  However, business educators have always accepted that change is a fact of life.  From the typewriter to the transistor, business curriculum has continually shaped itself to meet the needs of business.  As a result, the success and survival of business education constantly depends on its ability to adapt and keep pace with the needs of its customers.  These changes present challenges for both the learner and instructor.  Nevertheless, it is the business educator that must be willing to adapt and manage these challenges to ensure successful programs for the future.  It is essential that the Internet be a useful and vital component of the business education curriculum if business programs across the country are to continue to meet the needs of its students.

    The basic goals of business education have not changed.  Business education is still about preparing students for the world of business.  In fact, it is because of this goal that business education should embrace and use the Internet in order to meet the expectations and needs of the next generation.  Just as in past history when significant advances affected businesses, educators again have an opportunity to broaden and improve their programs.  It is imperative that business curriculum always be flexible enough to change to meet the needs of business.  Consider this quote by an astute business education leader made at the start of this decade:
 

 ďDuring the 1990ís, business educators will either manage the decline of their discipline or oversee a fundamental structural change in the discipline.  If changes are not made in response to new economic conditions and workplace requirements, business education will witness an exodus of students from its programs.Ē
    It is this paperís goal to show the huge impact the Internet has had on business and to reveal some of the unusual benefits that the Internet can provide for business education.

    Information technology.  It has been a long time since the invention of the typewriter in 1868.  Since then, no bigger invention has made such sweeping changes to its curriculum as the invention of the microchip and now the Internet.  The emergence of the Information Age has given business educators new tools and progress never before imagined.  Society is in the midst of an age when knowledge and information are king over steel, oil, and wheat.  To look forward and lead others is the only option for success.  The real wealth of the future is in information technology.  Colleges, businesses, and other organizations are currently rethinking how to use and learn from the tools of the information age.

    In the 1950s very few companies used computers.  In the 1970s approximately 50,000 computers existed worldwide.  Today, over 50,000 computers are manufactured everyday.  In the past four years information technology has been responsible for more than a third of the United Statesí economic expansion.  Consider that by the year 2002 it is predicted that electronic commerce between businesses in the United States alone will exceed $300 billion.  Information technology is a major factor for business success today.  Already the high-tech industry employs more people today than the auto industry did in its height in the 1950s.  It is the correct use of such technology that makes a company profitable.  Everyone needs to be computer literate to use the information and services available to them.  By using and integrating the Internet into a business education program, students are given the skills and knowledge to succeed in the 21st century.

    The Internet.  The Internet is the newest and fastest growing part of the Age of Information Technology.  The inception of the Internet actually began over 25 years ago as a United States Defense Department project.  The Internet is now a global computer network that allows millions of computers around the world to communicate through the telephone system and other communication lines.  The Internet is also referred to as the web and the Digital Information Superhighway.  It was the invention of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee and the lifting of the ban on commercialization that sparked such incredible growth of the Internet.  Two key features of the Internet are: (1) the enormous amount of information it contains and (2) the speed at which this information can be accessed and published.  No other single entity has ever been so widely accepted at such a non-stop pace in history.

    The impact of the Internet is felt everywhere in society and it has become an everyday household term.  Currently over 100 million people in 150 countries around the world are using the Internet.  In the United States alone the growth is staggering.  The number of Americans using the Internet grew from fewer than 5 million in 1993 to over 62 million in 1998.  It is predicted that over one billion people may be connected to the Internet by the year 2005.  Remember, just five years ago the Internet was barely known.  Today there are 1.5 million new web pages created every day, 100,000 an hour, and 100 million new users will come on this year alone.  The web may be the fastest growing segment of the Internet; however, e-mail is the most widely used part.  On an average business day there are 30 times as many messages delivered by e-mail than by the United States Postal Service.

    The Internet adds a new dimension to the curriculum that provides students the opportunities to engage in more challenging and life-like activities.  The potential uses of the Internet in a classroom setting are limited only by the imagination and creativity of the students and their teachers.  Many say the Internet has become one of the most valuable tools for education.  Secretary of Education Richard Riley states, ďThe Internet is the blackboard of the future...Ē and ď...the future is here and now.Ē   The Internet has four practical applications within the business curriculum: as an independent subject, as a teaching assistant, as a means of transforming the process of learning, and as a research vehicle.  Using the Internet requires and improves upon a number of skills including verbal, written, critical thinking, computer, and telecommunications.  Additionally the Internet makes learning active, exciting and fun.  To avoid being left behind, business educators should take steps now to integrate the Internet into their curriculum.

    Because the business education curriculum is driven by standards for and about business, teaching and using the Internet fit perfectly into the many areas of the business curriculum.  The following twelve curricular areas were developed by the National Standards for Business Education (NSBE) with the financial support of the National Business Education Association (NBEA):  Accounting, Business Law, Career Development, Communications, Computation, Economics and Personal Finance, Entrepreneurship, International Business, Interrelationships of Business Education Standards, Information Systems, Management, and Marketing.  Each of these twelve areas already have a wealth of information on the Internet that can aide both the student and teacher of business education.  Business teachers should be able to design, develop, implement, and evaluate Internet activities.  The following school is a good example of a complete integration of the Internet into a business education curriculum.

Case Study:  Alton C. Crews Middle School

    Countless schools across the country are currently using the Internet to integrate with their business education curriculum while keeping with the standards set by the NSBE.  This paper will examine one such school.  In the case of Alton C. Crews Middle School, the Internet is an integral part of the business education program.  Crews Middle School is located just north of Atlanta, Georgia in Gwinnett County.  This middle school is just one year old but has already developed a dynamic Internet-based and supported business education program.  The curriculum is filled with many uses of the Internet.  Many administrative duties are also supported with the use of the Internet.

    The schoolís web site found at http://www.crews.org has a central purpose.  It is a hub of information and application for the school.  Many of the schoolís departments are using the web for things such as to plan lessons, research academic topics, provide information to parents and the community, and communicate globally with sources around the world.  The schoolís business education department is located under the link media/technology in the area of computer science.  The web pages found on this site provide support for the business education program and web resources for all students who access these pages.  The business education program at Crews teaches common business skills such as keyboarding, computer literacy, programming, word processing, desktop publishing, spreadsheets, and entrepreneurship.

    It is part of the goals of business education at Crews to use the Internet as a strategic tool designed for increasing the rigor and relevance of the curriculum.  In part because of relevance, students become motivated to learn business objectives that might otherwise lack excitement.  It is clear from the web site (see Figure 1), students are encouraged to use and engage the Internet for every business subject.  The use of the Internet enables students to connect their learning to real-world, work-related situations which also enable learners to become better students.  Simple word processing skills become World Wide Web prerequisites.  In many ways, students have more responsibility for self-directed learning, critical thinking, and self-assessment with the aid of the Internet.

    Sixth grade.  In sixth grade, students learn basic keyboarding rules and practice the touch method using a keyboarding software program.  However, their lesson begins on the Internet where they learn from a web site about the history of typing and the rules by which they will be evaluated.  They can even visit a web site that shows them the correct finger to use for each key on the keyboard.  A short video is also played from the web that lets them see the correct posture and technique to use while typing.  Finally, a web page outlines how their grade will be computed and the steps for recording their scores.

    Sixth graders also practice basic word processing and spreadsheet skills along with learning beginning computer literacy objectives.  When finished, each student is instructed how to prepare some of their word processing and spreadsheet documents for publishing on the Internet.  The best projects are then posted on the Crews web site.  This has promoted student success and also has aided the teacher by having some of the best projects available for display the next nine weeks.  Instruction is also provided on basic Internet terminology and history.  An additional assignment for using the Internet directs students to read an article about computer history then answer questions about the article.  The use of the Internet comes when the students are required to send their answers to the instructor via e-mail.

    Seventh grade.  In the seventh grade, students continue to build on what they have learned the previous year.  Their first assignment is to create and learn how to publish on-line newspapers.  They also create campaign flyers that are published on the Internet.  Their work is published on the Crews web site if approved.  With the use of an integrated word processing package and Internet publishing software, students find creating web pages not only easy but a lot of fun.  After a few weeks of work, they finish their desktop publishing unit by creating a map.  Instead of turning this assignment in on paper, they must attach their work (file) to an e-mail message.  This is in turn opened from the instructorís e-mail and then graded.

    Finally, the last four or five weeks, these seventh grade students study a computer programming language called Logo.  The Logo language is a unique computer language because of its age appropriate difficulty level along with its powerful capabilities.  In addition, one of the technical features of Logo is its ability to publish to the Internet.  Because the language is easy to learn, students quickly grasp the lessons and begin generating exciting interactive projects almost immediately.  Students then learn how to save their projects so they can be viewed and interacted with on the web.  The best projects are then posted on the Crews web site for show and instructional purposes the next quarter.

    Eighth grade.  In eighth grade, students utilize much of what they have learned in the previous two years to design and create a portfolio of documents for a simulated business (see Figure 2).  This entrepreneur project gives students the chance to invent a company and/or product of their choice that could be later placed on the Internet.  This unquestionably is an example of turning the classroom into a learner-centered environment instead of a teacher-centered.  Through this business simulation, learners transfer their knowledge, skills, and attitudes to actual business applications.  Additionally, students easily see meaning and purpose in what they are creating and learning which in turn motivates them to work even harder.  Students are also encouraged to explore, collect data, analyze the data, and derive their own conclusions from their research on their companies.  Advanced Internet scripting, which is very challenging at their age, is often requested by many of the students due in part to the excitement and motivation generated from using the Internet.

    Eighth graders begin their work with learning how a typical business gets started and the things all perspective business owners have to analyze before they start a company.  Numerous web pages have aided in this discussion.  Once this is done, a grand opening flyer is created, saved, and printed.  This flyer requires a map and other pertinent information that any ordinary new store flyer might contain.  Many other documents are then created for their simulated business which includes:  a party invitation, company checks, gift certificates, business cards, letterhead, formal letters, envelope, memo, and fax.  Students see this project as an opportunity to show what they know and to explore a business that interests them (see Figure 3).  All of their work for the past three to four weeks is saved and printed.  Their last two weeks of the course is spent on designing and creating a realistic company web site from the desktop publishing documents they have previously created.

    Students are expected to understand the marketing aspect of a web site and notice key features put into sample premiere company web sites.  After some discussion and visiting examples of real and student company web sites on the web, students are given clear instruction on the process of putting together their web pages.  The entire process is broken down into several manageable steps.  When they are finished building their eight to twelve page web site and if they receive an ďAĒ for their work, students are given a letter for their parents to sign that allows them to put their company web site on the Computer Science home page.  After such an enormous project, eighth grade students get a realistic taste of the hard work it takes to start their own company.

Administrative Uses of the Internet

    Using the Internet to directly impact instruction is both critical and easy for teachers to do.  It doesnít take much effort to find ways to allow the Internet to enrich an already strong curriculum.  There are many examples that clearly indicate any teacher can use the Internet to enhance and motivate student learning.  The next half of this paper will examine how the Internet can impact teacher instruction and administrative duties.  Again, by looking at the business education program at Crews Middle School, there are many typical examples of the Internetís impact upon teacher responsibilities.  A typical week for a teacher includes grading papers, communicating with parents, handing back papers, preparing lessons, creating handouts, and communication with students about their work.  All of these duties can be aided by using the Internet.  A close examination of one teacherís use of the web reveals this to be true.

    Grades and assignments.  Just like any normal classroom around the country, grading and reporting grades to students can sometimes take up a large portion of a teacherís day.  At Crews Middle School, there is one big distinction to reporting grades.  It is done on the Internet (see Figure 4).  The Crews business education teacher uses the Internet to communicate grades and assignments to his students.  While one might think that distributing grades across the Internet creates just one more chore for the teacher, consider the time spent in telling approximately 180 students their averages, grades, and missing assignments.  Time taken for these necessary tasks is lost opportunities to teach curriculum.  For this reason alone, using the Internet benefits everyone involved.  It is true that the initial time spent learning how to post grades on the web is significant.  However, once publishing grades on the web is learned, it become easy and saves much time.  Students then simply view the grades web page to see their grades, missed assignments, and their averages.

    Students constantly want to know their progress in a class.  This information is easily delivered over the Internet.  All the students need to know is where to look.  To address security, students are given a secret code which conceals their identity.  This code allows them to know which grades on a list is actually their grades.  Unless they share their code, student grades remain anonymous.  Grades and assignments are posted every two weeks and lists by assignment each studentís grade in the class.  This results in better and more communication with the students and parents.

    By posting these grades, students can actually see which assignments they are missing and therefore what progress they are making in the class.  It is also very helpful information for parents who also want to keep track of their studentís grades and assignments.  Having this information on the Internet allows the student and parents to access the information 24 hours a day from home, work, or school.

    Grades on the Internet does pose some possible problems of student privacy.  Nevertheless, every precaution is taken to keep student codes as secret as possible.  It is certainly likely that with the growth and demand of Internet ready information, Internet grading software will evolve and some day be as common as the report sheets now used to display student grades.

    Publishing handouts and assignments on the Internet.  In the process of a school year, students in middle school have countless opportunities to participate in a variety of outside activities that take them out of their business education class.  Field trips last two and sometimes three days.  Extra band practice before a concert takes one day.  Special education classes, vacations, and of course sickness keep students out of class.  Preparing a list of missed assignments takes valuable time from a teacherís day.  When the student returns, valuable time is spent one-on-one with that student explaining and gather missed materials  All these reasons support using the Internet to post handouts and assignments on the Internet.

    Assignments that are placed on the web give all students access to much of the same information and materials they missed by not being in class (see Figure 5).  A nice part of posting assignments is not having to keep track of numerous sheets of paper.  Less paper saves not only money but time searching for copies or having copies made.  This in turn allows the teacher time to make last minute changes to a document.  Changes due to errors, or changes in methodology or for instructional purposes can easily be made minutes before class starts and then posted on the Internet.

    Assignments published on the web also give parents at home some information on what types of work their child is being asked to perform.  The assignments on the web allow for one other feature that is only available on the web, hyperlinking.  Student assignments and handouts which are posted on the web can contain hyperlinks to other web pages that might explain the assignment in more detail, provide a tutorial, show other student examples, or simply allow for student comments about the assignment.  Posting assignment on the web simply offers better and greater flexibility to work with individual student needs.

    Communicating via e-mail.  Communicating with parents is never as simple as just picking up a phone or notepad and reaching them.  The job of directly supervising over 180 students in a day leaves very little time for a teacher to plan and prepare thorough lessons much less call two or three parents during the day.  Writing a note also can be lost or misplaced.  This is where the Internet plays a vital role.  E-mail far outweighs the usefulness and efficiency of the United Statesí Post Office or even phone messages.  Of course nothing beats a direct person to person conversation.  Yet, e-mail is the choice of communication for more and more people.  The web is only one of many parts of the Internet.  E-mail is actually the most widely used part of the Internet.  E-mail can be sent any time of the day and arrives within minutes to the desired partyís mail box.  Their computer doesnít even have to be on to receive a message.

    Because parents are a vital link to a studentís success, building better communications with the parents can only enhance the educational good of a student.  By using e-mail, a parent can stay in touch with their teacher no mater what time of the day.  Parents and teacher also get the privilege of carefully wording key phrases and communicating precise messages.  Maybe the best part of e-mail is that teachers donít have to leave the classroom or wait for a convenient time to send a note to a parent.  As much as a teacher loves the benefits, parents equally appreciate the value of sending carefully worded messages to their childís teacher.

    Teachers and parents are not the only ones who benefit from using e-mail.  Teachers and students can also strengthen their lines of communication.  Students often send e-mail to their teachers to request further information about a grade, subject material, or some other school related topic.  Many students who have used e-mail to communicate with their teachers find it extremely resourceful and a wonderful way to stay in touch with their teacher when otherwise it would be difficult.  It is obvious that Internet e-mail can and does strengthen the bridge of communication between the educational team of teacher, parent, and student.

    Posting the syllabus on the Internet.  Parents and students deserve to know the course description and objectives for which they are going to be held accountable.  This is primarily communicated through a course syllabus (see Figure 6).  The course syllabus usually includes the following items:  course description, instructorís e-mail address, course objectives (broad), required reading materials, supply list, evaluation methods, class rules, grading policy, and possibly a course outline of assignments and due dates.  All of this information can be vital to a studentís success.  Posting it on the web allows students with access to the Internet to easily refer to the information anytime.  Assignment dates give students advanced planning for doing assignments.  It also gives them advanced warning of tests or significant dates during the course.  By posting this information on the web, confusion and poor communication can be practically eliminated.  The Internet helps an unorganized student overcome this obstacle and still stay successful in class.  Parents also read the syllabus to help students with their responsibilities.

    In Gwinnett County, Course objectives are important.  They are so important, they determine the pass or failing grade for a class.  These objectives are called AKS or Academic Knowledge and Skills.  The AKS for a course can be several pages long.  Therefore, placing the AKS on the web eliminates the cost of printing out the complete list for each student.  If the student desires to see the AKS for a particular course or subject all he/she has to do is visit a web page.  It is obvious the importance of communicating these objectives.  Students and parents therefore should be given complete access to all these objectives plus the syllabus on the web.

    Again, the responsibility of communicating key information is shared by all three members of the educational team:  students, parents and teacher.  No longer should students claim they lost or didnít know the objectives or materials list.  No longer should students miss the procedures for turning in late work, not knowing the assignment, what their grade is, or when assignments are due.  By posting such information on the web, not only does the student and teacher have access to the information, the parents also have access.

Conclusion

    Publishing and using the Internet is not the fix all cure for the problems faced by education.  The issues run much deeper than a simple cut.  However, using the Internet is good medicine and can strengthen some of the weak body parts of the educational system.  The true success of using the Internet starts and ends with the caring and concern from a teacher for their students.  Still, this is not enough.  New thinking and risk takers are needed to face the future challenges of the information revolution.  Parents and students also must assume more responsibility for the role they play.  Simply put, the Internet is just one more tool that allows a dedicated teacher to reach students who might otherwise be lost or unmotivated.  However, if business educators choose not to utilize the benefits the Internet can provide, then it will be the students who suffers.  Students unready for an information based society will have some catching up to do when they enter the 21st century work place.  In addition, an exodus is almost certain from business education programs if it lacks to meet the needs of its students.

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