Why Do People Choose Online Learning

Three people on my Facebook feed seemed to share at least one characteristic: a strong interest in online learning. I never know what’s going to trigger an impulsive post about how terrible online education is or how great it is.

Maryanne Roller

How often do you read something online that’s good for you? For us here at Prudential Retirement, it’s infrequent. In fact, we rarely do. (We’re personally impressed by the research conducted on behalf of Prudential. Find out what it’s based on.)

In terms of content, our general interests fall under three categories: investing and asset allocation, quality income and retention. Furthermore, we want to learn and be educated.

You might think, then, that we would follow the latest trend: online learning.

But we’re not interested in video lessons—why would we do that when we’re almost always at a computer anyway? Perhaps we want something more compelling than reading a text book?

We recently had a case study for an online investment coaching course. It didn’t require much effort, though we did have to help our new teacher send an e-mail. In-person coaching is just one of the various ways that professionals can learn in a manner similar to the one we try to describe in our latest investment advice column.

So we wanted to know if there’s really a demand for online learning. We asked retirement professionals from Prudential to tell us, “What’s the demand?”

We learned that financial professionals (a group that includes both those seeking and practicing financial advisors) are fairly positive about online learning.

“I understand that online learning isn’t for everyone,” says Andrew Riegel, a partner in the retirement planning practice at Insperity, an HR consulting firm that works with private companies in a wide variety of industries. “But I also think that to do clients’ jobs right, we should be continually learning and improving.”

Robert Madigan, senior vice president and head of retirement and investment services at United Services Automobile Association (USAA), adds that employees and retirees alike are “learning, well, everything online.” He adds that financial professionals who are trained to do so may find it valuable to get an “original take” (technical lingo for an informed and new perspective) on something they are asked to explain.

“Online courses are a vehicle for learning and content, and that’s at the core of what we’re doing,” says Liz Wagner, head of corporate portfolio management at Morgan Stanley Investment Management. “And I encourage it for our team and to our clients.”

Steven Schmidt, an independent financial advisor in Portland, Oregon, agrees. “As I become more familiar with digital resources, I find I’m benefiting from it,” he says. “The best part is that anyone with access to a computer and the internet can get access to most of these tools. So the next step is figuring out how to utilize those resources effectively.”

Wagner, whose own knowledge of digital tools is shallow, was given the chance to do just that. We worked with her to build a set of activities, which she shared with our team. These were rooted in lesson plans that have received favorable feedback in the past.

Her work helped us to understand that there are benefits to digital tools, and we hope our work helped you to understand that there are benefits to digital tools, too.

Here are some resources that could help with learning:

1. Brokerage company. Bank of America Merrill Lynch has an advisory service that can help you find the right kind of investment management for your situation,

according to Advisor! Summit.

2. Hedge funds. Whether you are new to the market or already invested in one, the web has some great resources.

3. Broker, lender or bank. For online learning about your choosing of a financial professional, take a look at these websites:


4. Registered investment advisor training. Learn what you need to know to learn from them.

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