Tech Industry

AOL buys stake in FamilyEducation

America Online buys a stake in the developer of education services and resources, and enters into a long-term strategic partnership with the company.

America Online said it took a stake today in FamilyEducation, a developer of education services and resources, and entered into a long-term strategic partnership with the company to boost the development of an interactive network to link parents and teachers.

While the amount of the investment was not disclosed by the companies, a report in the Wall Street Journal said AOL took a 20 percent stake in the company for $14 million.

In addition to an investment, the FamilyEducation Network (FEN) will become an anchor tenant within AOL's Research & Learn and its Families channels under a four-year exclusive carriage agreement.

Through FEN, the educational service provider offers schools free customized Web sites to create a home-school connection, creating online communities to support parent-teacher communications, group discussions of school policies and programs, updates on school activities, schedules, and lunch menus, and other convenient and time-saving uses.

The partnership between AOL and Boston-based FamilyEducation aims to bring more parents, students, teachers, and administrators together. Each school participating in FEN will be assigned an AOL Keyword that will allow AOL users to navigate directly to a specific school's site.

In just 12 months, 337 school districts--representing a total of 2,855 schools--have signed onto the FamilyEducation Network's initiative.

"AOL is committed to using the tremendous potential of the interactive medium to build strong educational communities," Steve Case, chairman and CEO of AOL, said in a statement. "It's time to shift the education focus in this country from wiring schools by connecting computers to engaging parents by building home-to-school communities."

"As we enter into a knowledge-based 21st century, education will be an increasingly important part of our society," FamilyEducation Network cofounder and president Jonathan Carson said in a statement. "There are 30 million households with children, 28,000 PTA chapters, and 100,000 schools--this partnership will connect them all together."

FEN began building its local school network in 1997 and to date has rolled out its network in school districts in four states: Arizona, Maryland, Michigan, and New Jersey.