Hughes Pursues Distance Education

Article excerpt

Hughes Network Systems Inc. is knocking on the classroom door.

The Germantown maker of satellite equipment joined forces yesterday with Apollo Group Inc., the nation's largest private university system, to expand into the distance-education market.

Hughes and Apollo agreed to purchase One Touch Systems, which provides distance-learning services to corporations such as Ford Motor Co. and Oracle Corp.

Using Hughes' satellite capabilities, the companies want to expand into the education market with technology that combines real-time video and the interactivity of the Internet to connect to students scattered across the nation.

"Our company goal is to extend the benefits of satellite technology and communication into larger and new markets," said Pradman Kaul, Hughes Network president. Hughes Network, a subsidiary of Hughes Electronics, employs about 2,500 people in Maryland.

Hughes will buy 51 percent of One Touch, based in San Jose, Calif., and Apollo will pick up the remainder, although the companies refused to disclose the purchase price. One Touch's technology allows students to view teachers over their personal computers and to ask or type questions.

Apollo operates 110 campuses that offer nearly 67,000 students mainly business and technical courses. But analysts say Apollo's on-line division is the fastest-growing segment for the Phoenix-based company.

"The neat thing about the Internet that you never had with traditional correspondence schools is it's interactive," said Scott Soffen, an analyst at Legg Mason Wood Walker brokerage. …