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JANUARY 3, 2001


An Open Door at Fuqua
The Duke B-school is experimenting with a Web initiative that's available to anyone, including students from rival B-schools

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Matthew Hergott has an MBA from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business. He's also a certified financial analyst. But over the next three to four months, the 28-year-old vice-president in the quantitative group at Zurich Scudder Investments has to build a new global-asset-allocation model. He has worked on similar projects in the past. And though he could go to the Web to read research papers on global-asset allocation, he says, what's important is the context a professor could provide.

In Hergott's weekly search of new information in financial services, he stumbled across a course at Fuqua offered in 2001 by a former professor of his, the school's specialist in portfolio management and global-risk management, Campbell R. Harvey. But Hergott won't head back to Durham, N.C., to audit the course. Instead, when Professor Harvey begins his 13-year-old spring course, Global Asset Allocation and Stock Selection, for 40 MBAs, the school will video-stream him over the Internet to Hergott in San Francisco, as well as to 100 others around the world.

A LIFELONG PROCESS.  Harvey is hoping to entice Duke alumni and professionals back to his lecture hall with a new stab at making business education a career- and lifelong process instead of a single stop along the path to upper management. The initiative lets people who have never attended a Duke program enroll, and it gives the school's alumni a chance to step back on campus over the Net.

It also puts the school out on an academic ledge — a move that had the university's provost and president meeting over an October weekend to consider how to orchestrate the delivery. That's because Duke says it won't require students who log on — a privilege that costs $500 for Duke alums and $1,000 for others — to apply for admission to the school's MBA program or to turn in class assignments if they don't want to. Those who do hand in a suitable capstone project will get a certificate of completion.

Since Duke will welcome any entrant, including MBAs from rival B-schools, management education could start to break down some of the school's old rules, such as rejecting credits from other B-schools. "This could push schools to allow students to diversify their portfolios of courses," Harvey says.

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!  The 12 classes won't be repackaged for the Web, just primed and lit for the cameras. San Francisco-based Digital Island will provide the video streaming for the program, with Duke shipping the 135-minute course over Digital's worldwide network. The class meets twice a week, starting at 10:30 a.m. — a time that's convenient for European and West Coast students — in a room with a production crew and three cameras.

Fuqua's latest attempt at expanding e-learning follows its growing Duke MBA-Global Executive program, which has been taught in person and via the Web since 1996. More recently, the school launched Duke MBA-Cross Continent, in which Duke professors deliver an MBA program to full-time professionals via the Web and in person to a total of 100 students at the school's campuses in Durham, N.C., and in Frankfurt, Germany.

Fuqua trails others B-schools that are making moves in similar directions. The University of Virginia's Darden School of Business, the University of Michigan Business School, and the Haas School at the University of California at Berkeley share e-commerce courses by linking classes on each campus with the Net. But this trio restricts outsiders. The University of Arizona's Eller School of Business has an entire MBA program streamed using videoconferencing technology, but the program requires students to gather in prearranged locations in California and Arizona to attend class.

IMPORTANT AUDIENCE.  MBA students weren't told about the Webcasting before they signed up for Harvey's course. The professor says he'll stress that class begins on time. And when he asks the MBAs to come to class prepared, he'll expect them to remember that their comments will be broadcast around the world to people who could be future employers.

If Harvey's class is a hit, Duke may add more courses to its Webcasting roster. And the school doesn't rule out the possibility of creating a certificate program in global-asset management someday. But at the very least, Duke now has a way to prod alumni back to its classrooms. As Harvey says, his course meets a new demand for the school. It's neither executive education, nor an MBA, but "something in between."

By Mica Schneider in New York

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