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In a belated attempt to get up to speed in the field of e-learning, Japan’s educational institutes and companies are scrambling to offer online education programs and cash in on the burgeoning field.

In contrast, the U.S. education industry centering on venture businesses and universities has grown into a market worth several hundreds of billions of yen thanks to e-learning programs. Nearly 70 percent of U.S. universities reportedly offer remote teaching courses.

On the home front, Yasuhiko Ikebe, a professor at the University of Aizu in Aizu Wakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, has developed teaching software that enables students to easily study determinant algebra in English.

Ikebe, a well-known educator in computers and languages, has started offering lectures on the Internet to test his teaching materials.

Capitalizing on a network of personal contacts he established during nearly a decade of research in the United States, Ikebe has arranged a tieup with the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture and Shizuoka Sangyo University in Shizuoka Prefecture.

“I would like to free students from learning only through classroom study,” Ikebe said. “They can study in line with their own abilities and at their own pace. Young people tend to favor dialogue on the computer rather than meeting face to face.”

Koji Sakate, former president of IQ3 K.K., said the day is soon approaching when software for taking higher degrees hits Japan in earnest. IQ3 is a leading surveyor of U.S. business trends.

Toyota Motor Corp. plans to swing into full gear in terms of corporate education in July, requiring its employees at 5,000 sales locations in the country to take induction courses.

Sakate said Toyota’s employee training program will not simply be aimed at those working in remote areas.

“The mainstay of Japanese corporate training is to assemble (employees) around lecturers,” he said. “It costs a tremendous amount of money. An induction course offered on the Internet is useful now that new products and technologies are emerging in succession.”

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