Team Teaching

Partnerships between companies and universities are burgeoning.

The company and Darden are exploring new technologies to deliver future programs. Experts say virtual classrooms with large TV screens and globally interactive audio hookups may soon become the norm.

The deployment of such technological wizardry in corporate-finance settings has been slowed by cost and bandwidth issues. But the seeds are being planted. USC’s Marshall School of Business has just launched a “distance learning” program in partnership with Washington, D.C.-based Building Owners and Managers Association International (BOMA), a trade association for real estate owners and managers, to deliver graduate-level courses in finance and leadership, for example.

A third collaborator is included: Caliber Learning Network Inc., in Baltimore. Over the past four years, Caliber has built some 40 U.S. and 7 European learning centers, teaching up to 90 students at a time through interactive, live classes from a remote location. Caliber also runs open-enrollment courses through the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Columbia University, and Johns Hopkins University, among others.

For the BOMA program, USC professors will deliver lessons from a single Caliber studio. Via camera, they will see and communicate with students in multiple classrooms. The association is charging students $1,650 (member price; for nonmembers, the cost is $1,850) for each of two separate three-day classes, which will be broadcast to at least 20 locations.

“After you’re in class for a few minutes, you forget you’re not in a live classroom,” says Patricia M. Areno, BOMA’s vice president for education, conventions, and meetings, who attended a pilot training. The convenience factor, she says, will be a great selling point: 13,000 of the 17,000 BOMA members live within driving distance of a Caliber center.

Kris Frieswick is a staff writer at CFO.

New from Web U.

At the other end of the spectrum from corporate-university partnerships, an entrepreneurial new breed of “education aggregator” aims to offer college-quality courses over the Internet. And these companies say they expect Web-based finance classes to be some of their biggest sellers.

One aggregator is UNext, a Deerfield, Illinois-based venture partly owned by Knowledge Universe, which is backed by Michael Milken and Oracle Corp. founder Larry Ellison, among others. Through its virtual university, called Cardean (after the Roman goddess of the threshold), UNext plans finance-class offerings on asset valuation, capital budgeting, portfolio analysis, the capital asset pricing model, and discount rates. The courses use a “problem-based, active-learning pedagogy,” and work with case studies, says chairman and CEO Andrew Rosenfield.

Although courses were designed with help from some big-name institutions — Columbia University, Stanford University, the University of Chicago, Carnegie Mellon University, and the London School of Economics — UNext will brand them with the Cardean name, and offer Cardean degrees. UNext is wrapping up tests of its finance courses in a program with IBM Corp., and has just begun taking on clients.

Pensare, in Los Altos, California, delivers guided online courses that also use chat rooms and dedicated workspaces to allow students to collaborate on projects. Its courses were designed with academic partners Harvard Business School Publishing, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, and the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center for Communication. Pensare’s finance topics include asset and liability evaluation, risk management, and global financial management.

A third aggregator, Los Angeles-based University Access, offers courses taught by professors from the London Business School, USC’s Marshall School of Business, and the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, among others.

Some corporate educators are skeptical about online training. Early experiments indicate that Web courses may get students up to speed on the basics, but don’t make the grade when it comes to teaching high-level executives, or in taking on complicated concept discussions, for which live interaction is still viewed as essential.

Rosenfield concedes that UNext’s programs can’t compete with university-based training. “If people are able to congregate, they are able to learn better,” he says. “We seek to provide the best learning environment for people for whom the congregation is not economically viable.” —K.F.

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