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Cyberschool does the math

Online training over the Internet is booming. Courses from new venture DigitalThink include personal finance and wine appreciation.

Online training over the Internet is booming, promising to educate consumers and business people practically anytime, anyplace.

In the latest example, Texas Instruments, Adobe Systems, and Hambrecht & Quist today got into the business with the launch of DigitalThink. The company has struck deals with several authors and high-tech companies to provide courses on the Web. Topics include personal finance and wine appreciation.

DigitalThink joins such virtual classrooms as ZD Net University and those launched by the state of California for college courses.

"The Web can make learning convenient, cost effective and engaging," said Peter Goettner, DigitalThink's chief executive. "Web-based training allows self-directed individuals to learn what they want, when they want--wherever they happen to be."

Students also can benefit from the expertise of teachers who are located in other cities and not necessarily at the local community college, added Steve Zahm, vice presient of marketing. For example, the wine courses will be taught by Virtual Vineyards founder Peter Granoff and Tim Gaiser, two of only 28 certified "master sommeliers" in the United States.

DigitalThink's courses will range from $40 to $350, and they will vary in length from four to 35 hours.

"This market is starting to explode," said Brandon Hall, editor and publisher of the Multimedia and Internet Training Newsletter. The biggest gains have come in the past year as many Fortune 500 companies adopt Web training classes.