ELECTRONIC ACADEMIA: A COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS
BASED ON THE VALUE CHAIN MODEL
Antonis C. Stylianou, Walter L. Turner, Department of Information & Operations Management, The Belk
College of Business Administration, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, NC 28223 704.547.2064
ABSTRACT While use of technology is rampant in society, it has not
yet infiltrated all classrooms and curricula. In fact, the
While much has been written about Michael Porter's technological gap between industry and academia seems
Value Chain model as applied to business, not much has to be widening. Use of technology in the infrastructure
been said about its applicability to academia. As the 21st of academia, while much improved over the last ten
century approaches, many factors such as discriminating years, is less than it could be and perhaps less than it
shoppers, rising costs, rapid advances in information should be. However, technology's rapid rate of change
technology, and the possibility of increased regulation are makes practical application expensive, introduction and
causing turmoil in academia. management difficult, and the rate of return questionable.
In this paper we apply the Value Chain model to The lack of technology in many graduate curricula
academia and examine how, by taking advantage of IT, ensures that newly graduated professors are often not as
academia can forge new strategies that can lead to technologically adept as their predecessors. Therefore,
competitive advantage. Our research has expanded the "few faculty have the technological expertise to deliver
Value Chain model into a model termed "IT Advantage the benefits of education technologies to their students."
Assessment Model" which adds the necessary detail for  Quite often this situation does not improve as the
application of the Value Chain model to academia. The graduate enters academia, because staying current with
results indicate a great advantage in applying this type of technology consumes greater amounts of time as the rate
analysis to academia. of change and the plethora of options increases. Small
colleges, in particular, can not afford to keep up with
INTRODUCTION technology. In fact, professors in small colleges are often
not given the necessary release time to stay current in
With the advent of the 21st century, academia faces some their fields, irrespective of technology utilization.
of its greatest challenges. Students, along with their Inefficiencies resulting from the lack of technology
parents, have become discriminative shoppers-- deployment often translate into higher costs for staff and
dramatically increasing the competition between faculty, resulting in a higher price for students.
institutions of higher learning. Aided by information on
the Internet, students are now able to shop for the best Traditional funding sources for academia are
educational "package." Armed with this information, disappearing. Given limited funds and the other
some students are able and willing to pit institution challenges cited above, what should the objective of
against institution in a bidding contest. At a time when administrators be with regard to the deployment and
college costs are high and continuing to rise , utilization of technology? Can strategies be derived for
students and their parents want proof that they will the effective use of technology? Will deployment of
receive value from their investment. State legislatures technology increase costs or reduce costs, and will it add
are also concerned with the rising costs associated with value? While much has been written about the
attending college. As a result, they are discussing options application of Porter's Value Chain Model to the business
such as limiting tuition increases and requiring academia world [1,7,9], very little has been said about its
to better manage costs.  In light of the above, application in the world of academia. Our research has
distance education is beginning to make an impact.  resulted in an expanded model called the "IT Advantage
Assessment Model". This new model, while general in
Distance education, a form of spatial disintermediation, nature, was applied specifically to academia with good
can be defined as the use of "video conferencing, results.
personal computers, telephones and the Internet to reach
people unable to get to traditional classrooms". . Soon BACKGROUND
there will be competition, not only from local academic
institutions, but from institutions half a continent or Porter and Millar  define the activities of an
perhaps half a world away. organization that add value, viewed along with the
activities of the organization's suppliers and buyers, as a
"Value System." The traditional value system for Table 1: Player's Involvement in Value Activities
academia is shown below in Figure 1.
Value Activities Players
Admissions X X X
Student recruitment X X X X X X
Porter and Millar , in what is now referred to as the Internal collaboration
"Value Chain Model," have defined five steps to assess External collaboration X X
the advantages of information technology. These steps Fund raising X X X X X
are listed below: Information dissemination X
1. Assess information intensity;
2. Determine the role of IT in the industry structure and Marketing X X X X
its impact on the five competitive forces; And many more . . .
3. Identify and rank the ways in which IT might create
competitive advantage; Three of the value activities, Accounting, Classroom
4. Investigate how IT might spawn new business; and Instruction, and Admissions were selected for application
5. Develop a plan for taking advantage of IT. of the other substeps of the model. Shown below in
Table 2 is a partial list of the resulting IT functions with
IT ADVANTAGE ASSESSMENT MODEL Linkages for the Classroom Instruction.
In our research, Porter & Millar's steps have been adapted Table 2: Value Activity - Classroom Instruction
in order to provide a more detailed methodology for Physical Tasks IT Functions
identifying value activities, potential linkages and Handout assignment Provide multimedia
information technology applications. The result is what 1 interactive assignment
we call the IT Advantage Assessment Model which accessible from
consists of Porter's original five steps along with our six anywhere in world via
substeps that further define how to accomplish the web
strategies of the Value Chain Model. The substeps in the 2 Take attendance Students run ID through
IT Advantage Assessment Model were developed from scanner or assist in
application of the original Value Chain Model to a fingerprint analysis for
variety of industry settings. The substeps provide the distance education
necessary details to accomplish this process in a practical 3 Pickup assignments Interactive web-based
manner. The substeps are listed below: assignments with scoring
• Identify players and their roles. Display transparency View graphics on laptop
• Identify value chain activities. 4 in any classroom or out
• Identify the player's involvement in the value chain on lawn via cellular net
activities. or via the Internet.
• Identify the IT functionality to apply to each value Interactive annotations
chain activity. 5 Have a group discussion Video conferencing,
• Formulate strategies for IT and prioritize. chatrooms, threaded chat
• Conduct interviews and review external strategies to discussion
Application of our model to academia resulted in twenty-
A subset of the results of identifying player's involvement seven strategies for adding value through application of
in value activities for academia is shown below in Table IT to academia. These strategies were then validated
1. This table also depicts a sampling of the results of against strategic plans from various institutions as well as
applying the 1st two substeps of the IT Advantage through interviews with CIO's at various institutions.
Assessment Model. Two representative IT strategies are shown below in
Table 3: Representative Strategies What's at stake? Chantal da Silva , V.P. External
Strategy Description/Comments Affairs, Students' Society of McGill University, said it
best in her report to the Canadian government: "A well-
Provide distance Once the infrastructure is
educated population is a prerequisite for both economic
education options for in place to project classes
growth and societal development... Education encourages
selected classes over distances, the
democracy by creating a literate and knowledgeable
incremental costs per class
population, lowers crime rates, and decreases dependency
to do so are small. Then a
on health and welfare programs... Education is an
host of side issues arise
investment in our future."
such as ownership of class
contents and simple things
such as grading in a
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environments where investments in information
technology are derived from a more comprehensive plan
for achieving academic excellence."