By Guy Halverson, writer of The Christian Science Monitor
The Christian Science Monitor
When it comes to high finance, college is only a click away. On the Internet, that is.
Thanks to continuing advances in interactive computer technologies, scores of junior colleges, four-year universities, business trade groups, and market-linked Web sites are now offering a growing number of investment courses for would-be financiers, business executives, and traders.
The latest example is Dow Jones University (ws2.dju.com), presented by the folks who bring you The Wall Street Journal. After going through an online registration process, you'll be transported into course work designed to help you become "a better investor and a better businessperson," says Ken Twining, senior product manager for Dow Jones interactive publishing.
DJU currently offers nine courses ranging from basics about investing to more detailed discussions of stock and bond markets, mutual funds, and tools and techniques used by professional market analysts.
Along the way, students can ask their teachers questions, share ideas with other students, receive special reading materials, and be led to lists of books and texts, all via the Internet.
Oh yes, there's no escaping it: Students also take tests.
"Courses are very affordable," says Mr. Twining, at $49 each. Each lesson takes about one hour. Students, however, can take the courses at their convenience by using a password that is good for eight weeks once the course begins.
Dow Jones is not alone in bringing the world of financial education to Web users.
A number of popular Web sites now offer courses in - or provide basic information on - investing.
"The most popular section on our Web site is the 'bookstore,' where people can order instructional materials," says Kimber Lintz, a spokeswoman for the Mutual Fund Education Alliance (www.mfea.com), a Kansas City-based trade group.
The Motley Fool Web site (www.fool.com), created by two brothers, David and Tom Gardner, provides a broad range of educational material on investing. One advantage: Their instruction, usually in the form of lengthy articles, is free.
Two individual-investor organizations, the National Association of Investors Corp. (www.better-investing.org) and The American Association of Individual Investors (www.aaii.org), also provide informational materials on investing. Many mutual-fund and brokerage- house Web sites offer finance instruction.
"These types of courses, of course, are not really college courses, although that is not to say that they are not useful," says Hans Stoll, a professor of finance at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tenn.
"Investors have always had access to books and tapes on various aspects of finance. These [Web] courses are similar to reading a book. …