Chris Matthews

Ken Twining

Cheer, Cheer For New FSU

SEC and NASD

Chauncey Group

Corrections or additions?

Online the Ivy’s Virtual, But Learning’s Real

This article by Vivian Fransen was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on March 24, 1999. All rights reserved.

Despite all the other changes in the business landscape,

one central New Jersey industry, a cornerstone of the economy, has

remained remarkably consistent: higher education. Led by the 250-year-old

Princeton University and the ethereal Institute for Advanced Study,

the academic community has given Princeton a worldwide reputation.

Some of the newcomers to the higher education field have actually

been fly-by-night operations, simply using a Princeton mailing address

to give the illusion of academic excellence.

Now, however, two new educational institutions have surfaced on the

Princeton landscape. Princeton Learning Systems Inc. reports that

enrollment in its Financial Services University has swelled to more

than 40,000 corporate users and that it has entered into a collaboration

with the Chauncey Group International, a for-profit subsidiary of

Educational Testing Service, to provide additional services focusing

on healthcare and government.

And meanwhile a name synonymous with finance and information, Dow

Jones, has added a structured educational thrust to its business.

Earlier this year it formed Dow Jones University, with an initial

choice of six courses on financial investment principles, tactics,

and strategies.

In addition to the prestigious Princeton address, both of these new

"universities" have one other element in common: They are

both online. While these ventures are designed to serve distinctly

different needs and purposes, they both share a confidence in the

value of structured educational experiences afforded to individuals

who have access to Internet technologies. They are both hoping to

hone their skills in what is becoming a new field: Learning technology.

Launched in January of this year, Dow Jones University (DJU) now offers

its courses in investment principles directly to consumers exclusively

through its website: http://dju.wsj.com. Each of the courses,

which cost $49 apiece, consists of six lessons, using text, graphics,

audio and video clips, interactive features, and online quizzes. Each

one of the six lessons takes about 60 minutes to complete. And each

student’s passwords are valid for eight weeks, which allows unlimited

access to the Dow Jones Interactive Journal (which otherwise would

require a subscription fee).

The course instructors include writers and columnists from the Wall

Street Journal, and the online format encourages interaction between

students and teachers as well as among students. "The element

that makes this different is the Internet itself," says Chris Matthews,

director of strategic marketing, consumer products, who participated

in the launch of Dow Jones University. "With chat rooms, and E-mail

students can participate anytime they want. There are actually increased

opportunities to ask questions."

Top Of Page
Chris Matthews

Matthews, whose father is a professor at Old Dominion and whose mother

is a retired schoolteacher, earned his undergraduate degree at the

University of Virginia (Class of 1983) and went to business school

there prior to going into consumer banking. Working in marketing at

NatWest Bank, Matthews recognized that "a large segment of the

consumer population wanted to be in control of its finances —

they were looking for empowerment. At the same time the online world

was coming into being. I thought there would be tremendous opportunities

in the merger of those two forces."

Dow Jones University, Matthews says, was "designed

to break even in its first year. And we are pretty much on target."

Why take a DJU online course instead of reading an article or a book?

"While it’s true that an online course and a book share some of

the same characteristics (that is, allowing self-pacing and accessibility

at any time), our DJU students report that the online experience offers

a different style beyond simply being an academic exercise," says

Ken Twining, editor and general manager of DJU.

Top Of Page
Ken Twining

Twining grew up in Ohio and Massachusetts, where his father worked

as a chemical engineer and his mother was a registered nurse. A history

major at Vassar, Class of 1972, he has worked at Dow Jones for 25

years. "The content is written conversationally, with current

news items inserted as examples. And the online ability to ask questions

to the instructor, via the Professors Mailbag feature, and scheduled

chat room sessions with other students, helps the text come alive,"

says Twining. One student taking DJU’s "Tools and Techniques of

Technical Analysis" course remarked that he found the online course

much more effective in helping him understand the issues than studying

a book covering similar content.

Given the convenience, accessibility, and affordability factors, what

are the drawbacks to online learning? "Taking an online course

takes discipline and dedication from a student," says Twining.

For those who are accustomed to Web surfing (scanning many sites at

one sitting) and Web diving (combing through reams of information

to find a specific nugget of information), the concentration required

to master content presented online may require a different rhythm

for people to adopt. Students soon discover that an online course

is more than an electronic page-turner.

"There are lots of investment-oriented websites out there,"

says Twining. "Whereas many sites simply post article after article

on a particular subject, our DJU course instructors bring information

together to convey a structure and context for students to absorb

the key concepts."

DJU courses are designed to reach individual investors, ranging from

those who are relative novices to those with sophisticated sensibilities

toward financial matters. "I received an E-mail from a man with

a Ph.D. and 30 years of experience in finance who commented that our

online course was valuable and useful to him," says Twining. And

given the global reach of the Internet and the news reach of the Dow

Jones branding, online students participating in the first offering

of DJU courses include people from Europe, Asia, and South America.

"The primary motivation for people taking our online courses is

their desire to better understand how to invest effectively,"

says Twining. While no formal credit or certification is given for

successfully completing a DJU course at this time, Twining notes that

students are requesting a mechanism be developed to document their

participation.

"Our online courses fit perfectly with the Dow Jones corporate

mission to provide timely, reliable business news and financial information

to help business people and investors," says Twining, who admits

that even he has learned a few lessons from the content. "After

completing our online `Planning and Investment for Retirement’ course,

I made some phone calls the next day to make a few personal changes."

While Dow Jones’s plunge into the "university" mode may give

it some valuable insight into the learning technology business, don’t

expect it to introduce courses in basketweaving or pop psychology.

"It becomes a question of what are Dow Jones’s core competencies,"

says Chris Matthews. "We are going to play to our traditional

strengths."

Dow Jones Interactive Publishing, Ridge Road and

Route 1, Box 300, Princeton 08543-0300. Dorothea Coccoli Palsho, president.

609-520-4000; fax, 609-520-4010. Http://www.djinteractive.com.

Dow Jones University website: http://dju.wsj.com

Top Of Page
Cheer, Cheer For New FSU

The motivation for individuals to take advantage of

the 250 online courses offered through Financial Services University,

created and orchestrated by Princeton Learning Systems Inc., is a

matter of career survival. Rather than traveling to a centralized

location for continuing education sessions that often take them away

from the office for one or two days, their employers have brought

ongoing educational opportunities to them via online training.

"Over the past 18 months the demand for our package of online

products has grown from six client companies representing more than

1,000 individuals to 31 client companies representing more than 40,000

individual users," says Steven Haase, principal and executive

vice president of Princeton Learning Systems (PLS). In fact, based

on its success in 1998 with more than $1 million in revenues, PLS

projects a revenue stream of $9 million for 1999, according to Haase.

"It’s nice to have investors these days taking the initiative

to contact us, instead of the other way around," says Haase, referring

to the start-up days with co-founder William Healy in 1995, when they

launched the firm with an initial investment of $225,000 from their

personal bank accounts. The firm grew cautiously, keeping overhead

low but image high for their first two years by occupying shared space

at HQ Princeton in Forrestal Village. This past fall the company moved

into quarters of its own at 707 State Road.

Among the many factors that help explain PLS’s growth spurt is the

company’s strategy to approach large companies in the financial services

industry with an irresistible offer: "Let us take the hassle out

of employee training and compliance management for you and your brokers,

investment advisors, insurance agents, and other staff." Brokers,

insurance, banking, and mutual funds companies, such as Prudential,

Mass Mutual, PaineWebber, NationsBank, and Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette’s

Pershing Division, proved eager to sign on as clients.

Similar to medicine, law, accounting, and legions of other professions

that require licenses and certifications, financial services professionals

have to do more than pass a single, rigorous test and obtain a license.

Investment advisors and their colleagues must follow prescribed educational

mandates on an ongoing basis throughout their careers to retain their

position as professionals in good standing.

Top Of Page
SEC and NASD

These continuing education requirements are dictated by the Securities

and Exchange Commission, which works through the National Association

of Securities Dealers and also has the power to levy fines upon companies

that do not properly execute and document compliance with these mandates.

Hence, financial institutions have a compelling financial incentive,

combined with their desire to promote professional staff development,

to meet all requirements in a timely manner.

That’s how PLS fits in. The firm offers four core products focused

on meeting these mandated requirements, with the ability to customize

various aspects to each client’s needs. Called Financial Services

University, this online educational platform handles the registration

process, delivers the courses, manages the testing, and generates

all tracking and reporting details for their clients. To date, PLS

offers 250 online courses by working with 10 leading publishers to

aggregate course content. With the recent opening of a continuing

education help desk, each of PLS’s 40,000 users has hassle-free access

via an 800 number to a staff of 15 individuals who can acquire educational

materials (both online and offline) and assist with specific needs

based on educational profiles maintained for each user.

Top Of Page
Chauncey Group

Furthermore, through an exclusive three-year collaboration with Educational

Testing Service’s Chauncey Group International, PLS clients can directly

obtain the necessary certifications using online learning, as well

as gain the efficiencies and security of knowing that PLS is managing

all tracking and reporting requirements.

One of Princeton Learning System’s newest affiliations will be announced

next week: The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants

— with more than 330,000 members — is collaborating with PLS

to offer six courses on its website (http://www.aicpa.org).

"Continuing education is an Institute mandate," says AICPA

senior vice president Charles M. Peck, to help members "compete

in a highly challenging business environment."

The Internet connection was especially attractive to the accountants

group, which has a long range "Vision Project" to redefine

the role of the CPA in the global business community. "Technology

is one of the basic Vision elements," says Peck, "so the Internet

must play a vital part in the process."

All of which can only be music to the ears of Princeton Learning’s

founding partners. Haase grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where

his parents have a video production company, and graduated from Rider

(Class of 1989). After college he sold insurance for Prudential, where

he met Healy.

A graduate of the University of Bridgeport (Class of 1969), Healy

has worked for AT&T, Xerox, Cigna Corporation, Merrill Lynch, and

Shearson American Express. He also took the time to earn two master’s

degrees in psychology, one each from Stevens Institute and Fairleigh

Dickinson, and a PhD from Fairleigh Dickinson. In 1986 he set up a

firm which he sold to VMI Learning Systems in 1991, and later served

as VMI’s president before starting Princeton Learning Systems.

At a real university proctors would roam the aisles

of a classroom during finals, watching for cheaters. Is that a problem

among these 40,000 users who sign up for such online courses as "Income

Taxation," "Insider Trading," and "Ethics"?

"PLS offers a number of safeguards to discourage such activity,"

says Haase. These measures include randomization of screens and multiple

choice test questions. However, many clients have chosen to implement

a self-regulating, high stakes admonition, having employees and managers

sign off on consent forms acknowledging their understanding that their

careers are on the line should such improprieties occur.

Such concerns seem small compared to the huge growth forecast for

the field. "In five to seven years," predicts Haase. "I

can see the introduction of some sort of intelligent information appliance

in our homes. This appliance will be able to know our preferences

about what we watch on television, what we learn about, what we like

to learn about, our hobbies, and the products we buy."

"What really excites me is the capability to tie into programs

with such education leaders as Wharton, Johns Hopkins, and New York

University," says Haase, "I’m convinced that whether it’s

Johns Hopkins, Thomas Edison, or DeVry, every institution needs to

leverage Internet technologies. And as we say at Princeton Learning

Systems, `conquer the world and be a leader (in online learning) OR

be road kill.’ Those who don’t adapt to the latest and greatest will

be left behind."

Princeton Learning Systems Inc., 707 State Road,

Suite 212, Princeton 08540. William J. Healy, president. 609-924-2882;

fax, 609-520-1702. Home page: http://www.fsu.org.

— Vivian Fransen


Next Story


Corrections or additions?


This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com

— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.

Facebook Comments