Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Faculty of Informatics


Using an argumentation approach in which argument is used as a research methodology and strategy, this thesis investigates, as its primary purpose, the relationship between distance education and electronic commerce. A second purpose, contingent on discovering the nature and extent of the relationship, is to discuss the possible use of an electronic commerce framework for better understanding the theory and practice of distance education in Australian universities. The thesis presents a series of arguments that together constitute the case being defended. The desired outcome is a case that is plausible, defensible, and logical. Whilst the thesis is focussed on Australian universities, it nevertheless draws extensively on international literature to provide evidence in support of the case being built. The thesis positions both electronic commerce and web-enabled distance education as outgrowths of the information economy in which the focus is upon trade in products and services which have information and knowledge as their principal constituents. It investigates the business models that have arisen in the domain of electronic commerce and then discusses them in relation to distance education enabled by electronic technology especially the world wide web. The dissertation concludes that there is a relationship between distance education and electronic commerce though the relationship is not yet mature. As a result knowledge and understanding of the nature and extent of the relationship is imperfect. Further research is also warranted to more fully answer the second research question, though it appears on the surface to be likely that an electronic commerce framework could add insight to the study of distance education theory and practice. Such additional research forms one part of the suggested research agenda emanating from the study.

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Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.