Pearson Accelerates Investment In Learning Network to Spearhead Online Education Revolution

Pearson plc, the international media company, announced today a series of major strategic alliances and a further acceleration of investment in its online consumer education network. Launching in September, and branded the Learning Network, it will build on Pearson's position as the world's leading education company to create the Internet's premier education source.

Pearson is purchasing, for $129m cash, 87% of the equity in FamilyEducation Network, Inc. (FEN), the Internet's largest and fastest growing school and parent network dedicated to children's learning. America Online, Inc. (NYSE: AOL), the world's leading interactive services company, will continue to be a minority shareholder in FEN, along with FEN's founders, including its CEO, Jonathan Carson. FEN has seven websites, which generate more than 50 million page views per month, and include well-known online brands such as familyeducation.com, funbrain.com, infoplease.com, mygradebook.com, myschoolonline.com, schoolcash.com and teachervision.com. The acquisition of FEN will enable Pearson to accelerate the development of the Learning Network's School (Kindergarten -12th grade) channel.

Pearson has also reached a preliminary agreement for a minority investment in Classroom Connect Inc., a leading developer of web-based curriculum product and professional development programmes for K-12 educators. Classroom Connect will offer its signature products - Classroom Today, Connected University and Quest Interactive Expeditions - within the Learning Network's Teacher channel and identify its own Internet site as a member of the Learning Network.

Separately, Pearson and AOL today announced a broad strategic alliance under which the Learning Network will be a premier supplier of educational content and online learning tools to users of several America Online, Inc. brands. Under the three-year agreement, the Learning Network will be an anchor tenant on the main screen of AOL's Research and Learn Channel, providing educational content for stages throughout a person's life, from pre-school to adult learning, including ongoing education and professional training. In addition, the Learning Network's educational resources and tools will be promoted through AOL Workplace, AOL Families, and other areas of the AOL service, as well as through learning-related areas of AOL.COM, Netscape Netcenter and CompuServe.

Commenting on today's announcements, Marjorie Scardino, Chief Executive of Pearson plc, said:

"We aim to use the Internet to bring the most respected pedagogy, the very best technology and the richest and deepest content to homes and classrooms across America and around the world. In seizing this opportunity, we are opening up a new and rapidly growing market for our education business while creating educational opportunities for every age and every stage of learning. We aim to work with FEN, Classroom Connect and all our partners to make the Learning Network the place to go for online learning."

FEN's partners include leading US educational bodies, such as the National PTA, the American Association of School Administrators, Reading Is Fundamental, National School Boards Association, and the National Educational Association.

"I have seen first-hand the tremendous impact that organisations like the FamilyEducation Network can have by supporting community and parent involvement in education," said U.S. Secretary of Education, Richard Riley. "I look forward to continuing to work with them, and I applaud their efforts to improve communication and co-operation among teachers, students, and parents."

"We're proud to continue our longstanding working relationship and strategic alliance with FamilyEducation Network," said Anne Bryant, Executive Director of National School Boards Association. "Combined with Pearson's commitment to education, the power of the Internet is creating enormous opportunities for education, not only as a learning and teaching tool, but also as a vehicle for facilitating communication throughout the education community. In FamilyEducation Network, we found a credible partner to help our school board members connect to schools and communities via the Internet."

The Learning Network will offer users four integrated online networks, sharing common technology, infrastructure and marketing, and serving the K-12, higher education, professional development and lifelong learning markets. These networks will be supported by a Learning Network store, which will host e-commerce opportunities for both online and offline products. All of Pearson's major publishing operations - the Financial Times group, Pearson Education and the Penguin group (including the recently acquired Dorling Kindersley illustrated reference publishing business) - will deliver extensive content and online services through the Learning Network. They will also cross-promote the Learning Network through their online, publishing, distribution and sales platforms.

Headland Digital Media, Pearson's digital publishing operation, will become part of the Learning Network, providing the organisation's programming, content development and network technology. Prentice Hall Direct, Pearson Education's direct marketing and retail business trade publishing unit, will also join the Learning Network, providing the venture with immediate e-commerce and direct marketing capabilities.

Phil Hoffman, President of Pearson Inc., will be the Learning Network's chief executive officer, responsible for commercial and financial operations. Mark Nieker, CEO of Headland Digital Media, will serve as the Learning Network's President, responsible for network programming, content development and technology. Sally Wood, President of Prentice Hall Direct, will be President of the Learning Network's e-commerce and direct marketing capabilities. Jonathan Carson will be CEO of the Learning Network's K-12 channel. The CEOs of the higher education, professional development and lifelong learning channels will be announced in due course.

The Learning Network will generate revenues from online subscriptions paid by school districts, institutions, corporations and individuals, hard-good and digital good sales, syndication, sponsorship, affinity marketing and advertising sales.

Notes to Editors:

About Pearson

Pearson is an international media company. In building the Learning Network, it will draw on content, technology and distribution from across its major publishing operations:

Pearson Education (www.pearsoned.com) is the world's largest education company. Its imprints, textbooks and online programmes are an established and respected presence in classrooms and on college campuses across America. Its K-12 divisions, including Scott Foresman and Prentice Hall, represent more than one in four textbooks used in US schools. Computer Curriculum Corporation distributes more than 3,000 hours of on-line content to more than 16,000 US schools each year. Every American college student will be assigned at least one of its texts or on-line programmes from Prentice Hall, Allyn & Bacon, or Addison Wesley Longman during his or her college career. It is the #1 technology publisher in the world with imprints such as Que, Sams, Peachpit, Macmillan and Cisco Press. Its Longman division is the world's leading English Language Teaching (ELT) publisher. It has over 2800 sales staff, who work with local schools and college campuses across America and around the world. It publishes over 120,000 education titles and supplies some 120 million educational textbooks and programmes around the world every year.

The Penguin group (www.penguinputnam.com) is one of the world's premier English language consumer publishers. It publishes an extensive range of titles covering the very best fiction, non-fiction and illustrated reference. It publishes subjects ranging from history, business and science to essential reference and health and travel guides. It is the pre-eminent classics publisher and owns some of the leading brands in children's publishing. Earlier this year, it acquired Dorling Kindersley, the worldwide illustrated reference publisher, which has an extensive digital library and specialises in creating images and content ideally suited to an online environment.

The Financial Times group (www.FT.com) is a leading source of global financial news, analysis and data for senior managers and investors around the world. It publishes the world's leading network of business and financial newspapers and online services, which are read by millions of business executives and investors around the world every day. FT Knowledge (www.FTKnowledge.com) is one of the world's leading management, business and finance distance learning businesses. It offers accredited degree and diploma programmes in association with partners ranging from professional institutions such as the Chartered Institute of Marketing to leading US and UK universities, including Wharton Business School and the University of Michigan Business School. FTK also provides learning consultancy, custom-designed management development, and design of learning resources and systems to major organisations throughout the world.

Pearson Television, the leading international television production business, is merging with CLT-Ufa to create Europe's leading integrated broadcasting and communications group.

About FamilyEducation Network (FEN)

Headquartered in Boston, FEN (www.fen.com) is the Internet's largest K-12 and parent network dedicated to children's learning. FEN brings together leading organisations from both the public and private sectors to help parents, teachers, schools, and community organisations use online tools and other media resources to positively affect our children's education and overall development. In the six months to June 30 2000, FEN, is expected to have invested some $27m , net of revenues in developing its business. FEN's mission is to improve the home-to-school connection with a network of websites that includes:

  • familyeducation.com, the Internet's leading parenting site and recently voted "best of the web" by Brill's Content and Forbes.com;
  • funbrain.com, an interactive learning and edutainment site that links children, parents and teachers;
  • infoplease.com, an online reference site comprising encyclopaedias, almanacs and dictionaries with over 250,000 pages of proprietary content;
  • teachervision.com, an online "one - stop" resource for teachers;
  • schoolcash.com, a recently launched fundraising website, specialising in e-commerce affinity programs for schools, that already has over 200 online retailers and 11,000 schools as partners;
  • mygradebook.com, a web-based electronic teacher grade book;
  • myschoolonline.com, an education-focused website hosting platform for schools and community groups which hosts over 1,400 US school districts on its network.

About Pearson's Learning Network Partners

Classroom Connect, Inc.
classroomconnect.com is an Internet company that develops and markets original, Web-based curriculum products and teacher professional development programmes for the K-12 education community. Its partners include some of America's most respected organisations, including the American Museum of Natural History, the Library of Congress and NASA.

On March 6, Pearson announced it was taking equity stakes in three other leading Internet education companies:

Edgate.com, Inc, (www.edgate.com) creator of the Copernicus Education Gateway, which provides customised local education portals for teachers, parents and students across the United States, will be represented in local schools and school districts by Pearson's K-12 divisions including Scott Foresman, Prentice Hall, and Computer Curriculum Corporation. Edgate will co-brand its localised education communities with The Learning Network. The combined offering will be promoted as a key element of the K-12 channel.

Blackboard Inc.'s Blackboard.com, (www.blackboard.com) will be the preferred course aggregation site presented within the Learning Network. Blackboard's course management products are used by more than 1800 colleges and universities in some 70 countries around the world. The new release of its flagship course management product, Blackboard5, is scheduled for next month. Blackboard5 enables educators to enhance online instruction in both campus-based and distance learning environments by bringing their course materials, class discussions, assignments and quizzes to the web. Pearson Education is also collaborating with Blackboard to develop a "private label" version of Blackboard5, branded CourseCompass, for the Higher Education market. Beginning this fall, CourseCompass will be marketed in association with hundreds of Pearson Education textbooks sold around the world. Pearson's CourseCompass is designed to enable educators to create an online course in less than 15 minutes, without any special technical skills or training. Pearson and Blackboard also plan to cross promote and develop content and services between the Higher Education channel and Blackboard's own web properties.

eSCORE.com, a leading provider of online learning and resources for children, will, through the K-12 channel, deliver online educational coaching and support to students whose teachers and parents use The Learning Network.

About the Learning Network
The Learning Network aims to be the place to go for online learning and education. Launching in September, it will be made up of four vertically integrated networks serving the K-12, Higher Education, Professional Development and Lifelong Learning markets.

K-12 Network
The K-12 network will contain discrete channels for teachers, parents, and students. The channels will be organised by grade level (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12) and by subject (math, reading, etc.) Activities for the classroom and the home will be designed to work together, so that exercises undertaken at home support learning already taking place in the classroom. Communication features will enable teachers, students, and parents to exchange information and track progress.

The Teacher's channel will enable teachers to subscribe to online courses to gain additional qualifications that enhance their professional development. They will be able to plan lessons, integrating online learning activities and tools with classroom instruction, and develop customised individual student learning programmes. They will be able to communicate with parents to discuss and monitor student progress against state and national standards and buy supplementary text and online education programmes and learning tools.

The Student's channel will provide a secure, supportive, and completely interactive environment that helps students master curriculum-based concepts and real-life learning skills. School children and students will be able to practice skills, communicate with schoolmates and teachers online, complete schoolwork supplements, take review and practice tests, and tap into a wealth of resources for homework help.

The Parent's channel will provide parents with more efficient ways to participate in, and support, a child's education. Secure, interactive tools will enable parents to access lesson plans, track their child's progress, and communicate with teachers and other parents. They will also be able to buy supplementary online and text-based products that will enhance their children's learning.

Online content, teaching, and testing will be directly linked to Pearson's leading basal and supplementary programmes in text and digital formats from Scott Foresman, Prentice Hall, Computer Curriculum Corporation, Pearson Learning, and Globe Fearon. Content will cover all the major disciplines including reading, literature, math, science, social studies, music, and religion. It will also draw directly on content from Dorling Kindersley and Penguin Putnam's leading educational, reference and children's titles.

The Higher Education Network
The Higher Education network will provide resources that meet the needs of both faculty and students and foster collaboration between them. Students will benefit from research tools that help them find relevant resources to aid them in their studies. Faculty will be able to access communication tools that facilitate interaction with their students and post assignments, answer questions, review quizzes, administer tests and prepare for their courses. Professors and students will be able to buy online and offline materials and resources.

The Higher Education channel will feature a wealth of resources for professors and teaching assistants. It will feature CourseCompass, a customised version of Blackboard's leading course management platform. CourseCompass enables educators to get up and running with an online course in 15 minutes or less. After making just a handful of personalisation decisions, educators will have access to an abundance of online content correlated to specific Pearson education textbooks.

The Student's channel will help students succeed in college by providing trusted, quality academic research and learning tools. It will have discussion forums for students, links to external resources and interactive practice exams that match the curriculum. The channel will provide relevant supplementary information and tools to allow students to track their own progress in a particular subject. Career counselling and job placement tools will enable students to explore career opportunities and find jobs in their chosen fields. It will link to Pearson Higher Education's extensive online resources including 1200 companion websites, 300 eBooks, over 40 special editions of Peregrine Places, 120 password- protected sites, and 249 online courses. In 1999, Pearson's Higher Education business distributed over one million PIN codes that integrate online resources with Pearson's Higher Education texts. The Student's channel will be the site at which students redeem their PINs and access their online coursework for all Pearson Higher Education online products.

The Professional Development Network
The Professional Development network will enable professionals to improve their managerial or IT skills, or learn English as a second language, using quality sources and distance learning programmes.

The English Language Teaching (ELT) channel will enable professionals around the world to learn English as a second language, with online language instruction, language exercises, and interactive information services tailored to meet the needs of the global consumer. They will be able to subscribe for certified courses, which they can take at home or in the office. Content will be created by Longman, an imprint of Pearson Education and long renowned as the world's market leader in ELT. It will combine practice from U.S. and U.K. Longman ELT materials along with original material created especially for the site. The channel will provide real-time instruction, interactive self-paced practice activities from grammar to pronunciation, instant access to language learning resources such as online dictionaries, and customised news and information services. It will also provide access to a wide variety of products such as textbooks, audio/video supplements, editing services, translation services, travel, and other business related services.

The IT channel will enable IT professionals to access premier information technology sites and draw on IT resources that include the world's most popular computer books, cutting-edge IT chat links, access to current IT trade magazines, and an online marketplace of books and hard goods. It will link to InformIT.com (www.InformIT.com), Pearson's IT portal, featuring access to leading brands, authors, alliances, expert advice options, as well as career profiling, mapping and personalisation. InformIT.com currently has 300,000 registered users, growing at a rate of 25,000-30,000 per month. It has an extensive list of high tech marketing partners including Cisco Systems, Sun Microsystems, and IBM. The IT channel will draw upon the vast computer and technology content published by Pearson, which comprises of the world's most powerful collection of IT publishing assets. Pearson imprints include QUE, Sams, New Riders, Peachpit Press/Adobe Press, Prentice Hall/PTR and Addison Wesley Professional/Cisco Press. Together, these imprints consistently lead the online best seller lists in the IT category. This year, Pearson expects to distribute over 17 million copies of computer and technical books worldwide.

The Business Education channel will be the premier source of educational support spanning the entire career of a business professional. For an undergraduate or graduate business student, it will be the most interactive, efficient, and effective way to locate and download content critical to instruction. It will offer personalised access to a current bank of 85 unique business web sites that already serve the needs of over 45,000 learners per week. These sites offer reinforcement tutorials, current and relevant events, links, business subscription services, and communication tools. Through media-rich resources like the Mastering Business Series, working professionals and students alike will benefit from hands-on experimentation with foundation business concepts. This enhanced web support will expand the leadership reach of Prentice Hall Business Publishing and Addison Wesley/Longman's economics and finance lists into the higher education market. In 2000, these companies will ship over 3 million business books worldwide.

For the professional executive, it will allow seamless access to the wealth of business material available within Pearson. Professional resources will include certification programmes, career and executive consultation, subscription services and other resources spearheaded by Financial Times/Prentice Hall and Financial Times Knowledge.

The Lifelong Learning Network
The Lifelong Learning network will address the needs of the individual learner by providing information and tools targeting popular consumer subjects like personal finance, travel, music, computing, and health-all presented from compelling sources in a streamlined environment that makes finding topics and resources simple. The channel will feature current and relevant resources from premier publishers and online partners, and experts and authors.

The Lifelong Learning Network will link to best-selling Pearson titles, such as The Rough Guides, The Idiots Guides, Penguin's best-selling health and lifestyle titles and Dorling Kindersley's digital content and illustrated reference titles on subjects ranging from decorating and gardening to health and nutrition.

The Learning Network Store
The Learning Network store will provide a safe, secure shopping environment that supports each channel and from which one can buy learning and educational products in a variety of media-including online subscriptions, books, software, videos, games and music-all within a single, easy-to-navigate interface. Through qualified product reviews and rankings, sales of products will be linked to specific learning objectives. Customised publishing will enable users to create online and offline products that meet their specific needs.

For further information
Pearson plc

John Fallon
+44 (0)20 7411 2310
john.fallon@pearson.com