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Peer Review

E-Commerce Business Ethics Case Study

by Terry Morris


Overall Numeric Rating:

4.75 stars
Content Quality: 4.75 stars
Effectiveness: 4.75 stars
Ease of Use: 5 stars
Reviewed: Feb 12, 2007 by Business Editorial Board
Overview: Students will explore ethical decision making and current issues in e-commerce as they follow the developments of E-Kin, a company started by graduate students. As E-Kin grows and delves into the world of e-commerce, the founders and executives face some tough decisions. The case study is presented in multimedia format, with Flash movies that describe the company's background, scenarios depicting ethical dilemmas, and an overview of ethical decision-making. The case was written by graduate students of Dr. Beverly Kracher at Creighton University. Permission was given to the author to adapt the materials to a multimedia format, publish the case to the Web and contribute it to Merlot. The complete case study consists of four scenarios -- each with a Flash movie, employee biographies, and questions. Additional resources include a page of e-commerce links and an e-commerce newsfeed.
Type of Material: Case study, primarily. Although the extensive links provided at the site also constitute a collection of resource or reference materials
Recommended Uses: A multitude of uses exist:
  • Assigned as individual or team discussions.
  • As essay questions for testing, depending on the other types of material on the topics.
  • As educational resources incorporated into classroom use in form of homework assignments, research projects, and lecture discussion.
  • Technical Requirements: Web browser with Flash 5 Player.
    Identify Major Learning Goals: Four different case scenarios are presented; two are oriented toward security issues relevant to e-commerce and the other two are related to privacy concerns.
    Target Student Population: Students of Accounting Information Systems/Auditing/Forensic Accounting/Fraud Examination/E-Commerce and Ethics classes. Also appropriate for general education courses and graduate school courses.
    Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Some interest in e-commerce is necessary to benefit from the case scenarios.

    Evaluation and Observation

    Content Quality

    Rating: 4.75 stars
  • Materials are presented in a concise and engaging manner.
  • Flexibility is excellent. The case with its four scenarios can be extended for use in other business courses beyond just the topic of e-commerce.
  • Content is very up-to-date on important issues that face businesses striving for an online presence.
  • The roles of the players highlight the competing tensions and tradeoffs inherent in such decisions.
  • The resource links provided are also excellent.
  • Concerns:
  • While the inclusion of the bios is interesting and humorous to review, in only the first case scenario are the different viewpoints of the individuals really highlighted. More case questions could be provided that would target the importance of these roles, as this inclusion is not explicit to the reader.
  • More direct integration should be made to the ethical decision making model that is otherwise only labeled Decisions on the menu.
  • No teaching notes appear to be available to instructors who might use the videos.

  • Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

    Rating: 4.75 stars
  • Learning objectives are highlighted in the explanatory dilemma section beginning for case scenarios 1 and 2.
  • The series reinforces concepts progressively, building on prior concepts, and demonstrating relationships between them. Scenarios 3 and 4, build on topics extremely well that were initially brought up in the first two scenarios.
  • The case and its scenarious can be used in many different ways by an instructor.
  • Overall, the module is very effective as a teaching tool.
  • Concerns:
  • The objectives for case scenarious 3 and 4 are only specified indirectly through the titles.
  • In terms of efficiency, the bios for scenarious 3 and 4 are very lengthy, involving too much reading to get to the point. A more effective implementation would be to have students just watch the video segments rather than read the transcripts, which include the bios.
  • After wading through the case materials, the decision model presented seems to get lost.
  • Users must follow the order of the side menu to know to go back for the assigned questions. This direction is not explicitly apparent.

  • Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

    Rating: 5 stars
  • This module provides materials in multiple ways improving accessibility to visually or hearing impaired users.
  • The graphical insets included in the video segments are great.
  • Users are allowed to skip the introductory music upon subsequent viewings of the website.
  • Overall, the cases are of very high design quality, visually appealing and engaging.
  • Concerns:
  • The instructions at the end of the video tracks do not direct the user to the next segment or the ethical decision model. Furthermore, the location of the model is not readily apparent. It is labeled Decisions on the menu.

  • Other Issues and Comments: This learning module has potential for applications beyond e-commerce users. Some text versions of other related cases by the original author are also accessible. These cases could be useful in a capstone course (a credibility case, intellectual property, etc.) that use extensions of cases for more integrative purposes. See the section titled About the Cases, and the link provided to the earliest cases ( Unfortunately, the extensions for the materials and added asignments have not yet been fully developed. However, the cases as presented are very good, good enough that most case users would want to see related topics developed so that all parts of the cases (examples and bios) could be seen for their full relevance to the issues.