Killen & Associates Global WebCast Alert; Distance Learning Bridges Technology and Business Skills

December 7, 2000

PALO ALTO, Calif. — Do today’s working students in high-tech hot spots face unique challenges? One expert on the subject, Dean John Buckingham of the University of Arizona Eller Graduate School of Management, offers an unreserved Yes. During a WebCast interview with Michael Killen, chairman and founder of Internet research firm Killen & Associates, Buckingham described the difficulties that students working in technology-rich areas such as Silicon Valley must overcome if they are going to succeed. The WebCast will be available for public viewing on December 6, 2000 and will replay thereafter at .

According to Buckingham, working students in technology face three distinct challenges: “First, they have to be able to compliment their great technical skills with business skills of a wide range, from marketing to finance to operations. Second, they need to keep earning while they’re learning; they can’t afford to take two years off to get a degree. And third, they need to keep pace with technology, particularly eCommerce as it relates to understanding every segment of the business.”

As for the first challenge, acquiring more business skills, Buckingham notes that “…a large percentage of our class includes engineers and scientists who find that they don’t have knowledge of areas such as marketing, finance, operations management, and (general) management. Without an understanding of these basic skills, there are going to be some failures.”

Buckingham says that the business skills problem is universal. At large companies, such as Intel or IBM, people will need higher-level business skills if they’re going to advance “up the food chain.” The same holds true for entrepreneurs at a dot-com or scientists who want to start their own companies. “It’s not just enough anymore to have a good idea,” he insists. “You’ve got to be able to have the business skills to take it to the full extent… Unfortunately that doesn’t often come out until after the business idea has been generated and the entrepreneur starts to get full of himself with success. Then he gets to a point with his business where these other skills that he doesn’t have start to cause him to fail.”

Buckingham believes that distance or eLearning is essential if an institution is to enable working students with technical skills to acquire the business skills necessary to succeed in today’s competitive environment. eClassrooms make it possible for students to learn and work, and to gain the in-depth knowledge of eCommerce that they’ll need to be competitive in today’s marketplace. The key, though, is to use the right technology — and “right” means technology that facilitates a high degree of interaction among students and faculty.

“A number of top schools have taken (classes) online or (instituted) Internet computer-based methods, but pedagogically, we at the Eller Graduate School, feel that (conventional approaches are) like taking a correspondence course. We’ve been able to find technology that enables our students to interact virtually in a `cohort,’ which we call a group of students who are taking the course together. Ninety percent of the whole learning experience is being able to interact with their classmates, and interact with the faculty member instead of working in an asynchronous sterile environment at home at night by yourself.”

“A lot of our MBA program is based on teamwork,” he says. “Many of the faculty members form teams for different projects — and the projects can run the gambit. For example, one of our MIS/IT professors actually breaks up classes into teams and they build websites for companies that don’t have sites but would like one. So there’s a team project helping a company. Another might be that an entrepreneur has a new product idea but he has not done any market research, so he doesn’t know the feasibility of his product. An Eller student team would actually do the research to determine whether this product has a market of not.”

Killen himself relates a direct experience with the Eller approach. “I was in one of your classrooms and I stood up as if to lecture,” he says. “There were students sitting right in front of me, so as a lecturer, I could develop a relationship with them then and there. I also noticed on the walls that there were large panels. I was in Tucson at the time. Then, they brought up a classroom at 3Com (a Silicon Valley Eller eLearning partner). I’m told that they can bring up a classroom at PricewaterhouseCoopers in London, a classroom at the Waldorf Astoria. I can see those students on the walls.” But, not just see them, Killen attests; it was like feeling as if he were part of a larger group.

“You probably could see the details of the colors of what they’re wearing, whether they’re wearing jewelry, too. You could even hear them whispering,” Buckingham adds. “These are all of the things that faculty really like to have because they want to read body language. So do students — they want to read the body language of the professor. All of that is possible because of this technology.”

But, does the virtual meeting truly supplant the need for “face time”? Absolutely not; according to Buckingham. The Eller approach works because it blends the virtual classroom with real-world interaction. “What’s interesting is that we now have teams that are forming between students in Silicon Valley and Tucson,” he comments. “Sometimes students fly back and forth at their own expense just to be with each other, just to make the virtual reality one-on-one… Also, I require that the faculty come to Silicon Valley at least twice per a semester in which they’re teaching so that they can be with the students physically. That extra interaction of maybe having a dinner or having a one-one-one meeting would be beneficial.”

As the Eller WebCast reveals, eLearning isn’t just a dream. It truly works for working students.

About the Eller Graduate School of Management

The University of Arizona’s Eller Graduate School of Management, located in Tucson, AZ, is ranked 31st amongst public and private graduate business schools in the nation (12th amongst public institutions) by US News and World Report, and 5th in the discipline of Information Systems. The Eller School offers a variety of business program, both traditional and via distance learning. Website:

About Killen & Associates

Killen & Associates is a leading market research firm that focuses on the impact of the Internet on enterprises, specializing in B2B, B2C, and B2E applications. These applications include electronic bill presentment and payment (EBPP), electronic statement presentment (ESP), and electronic invoicing presentment and payment (EIPP). The company’s EBPP Business Intelligence Subscription Service offers exclusive business intelligence to business professionals in the telecom, utilities, and financial services industries worldwide. Founder Michael Killen is an internationally renowned authority on eBusiness strategy. Killen & Associates maintains offices in Palo Alto, California; Richmond, Surrey, UK; and Zurich, Switzerland. Website:

Contact Information:

Killen & Associates

Kimberly Floerke, 650/617-6130