It's not your typical banking classroom: The professor walks in, starts typing on a computer that is built into his lectern, and uses a mouse to navigate on-line lecture notes.
Then he addresses the class: "I thought we used the Internet for the mid-term pretty well," says Thomas J. Kitrick.
By day, Mr. Kitrick is vice president of strategic emerging technology at First Union Corp., where he helped develop its Web site and intranet.
But on Thursday nights, he is a visiting professor at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, teaching what may well be the nation's first course in electronic commerce specifically for bankers.
The university's business school has a Center for Banking Studies, which trains hundreds of bankers a year. Mr. Kitrick's course, "Frontiers of Electronic Commerce," was added to the curriculum this semester.
The idea is that while bankers still need to learn how to assess a loan and understand returns on equity, they must also know about client-server technology and digital money.
Mr. Kitrick and the director of the banking center, D. Anthony Plath, are trying to turn the course into an Internet-based "product" that other schools could use.
"This class isn't about technology-not at all-it's about how to make money off this technology," Mr. Kitrick said. "The big thing I tell people is that this stuff is not going to replace regular commerce, it's just going to augment it."
The class is almost entirely paperless: Students order texts on-line from Amazon.com, read the syllabus and lecture notes on Mr. Kitrick's Web site, and communicate with one another during the week via E-mail.
Each student is learning to post a Web site. Together they are tracking a portfolio of technology stocks.
The final project will be to write a business plan for an Internet venture.
Several students are already brimming with ideas.
"I want to create a central boat broker site for yachts up and down the East Coast," said J. Craig Bradfield, a corporate account executive at Branch Banking and Trust Leasing Corp., a unit of Southern National Corp.
Mr. Bradfield, 35, has worked in the banking industry for more than a decade and said his father was a community bank president in West Virginia.
Before enrolling in Mr. Kitrick's course, he knew little about the Internet, he said, but sensed that it represented a huge opportunity.
"Just based on the changes I've seen in the industry, electronic commerce is here, and it's here to stay," he said.
"I fully intend to get out of banking, so this could be my road out."
In light of his desire to become a boat broker, Mr. Bradfield was particularly intrigued by a demonstration of a digital camera given by a guest speaker. "I could go out there and have 10 'Boats of the Week,' putting their pictures up on the site," he said.
Mr. Kitrick-who has offered free space on his server to students who want to move forward with such projects-praised the idea: "He could do that on a Web site-easily."
Most colleges and MBA programs that offer banking programs pay little attention to electronic commerce. (See accompanying article on this page.)
But Mr. Kitrick and Mr. Plath said the content of their course and the way it is taught will evolve into standard teaching tools.
Mr. Kitrick's course materials are available to anyone with an Internet browser, at www.beyondhype.com.
No passwords are required. The syllabus, weekly lecture notes, and midterm questions are posted along with exemplary exam answers.
One student took his exam during a business trip to Chicago; others took it in their homes around Charlotte. Mr. Kitrick graded the tests in London during a business trip and sent students instant comments by E-mail.
Some of the 14 students have backgrounds in technology. Jennifer B. Moore, an assistant vice president in the card products strategic planning division at First Union, worked with Mr. Kitrick in developing the bank's Web site.
She said that experience led her to the course.
"I've seen the frustrations of CEOs in not having enough knowledge to make decisions," said Ms. Moore, 25. "When we were getting money for the project, we had senior vice presidents listening to me give them advice. It's very scary."
Ms. Moore-who said that taking an exam at home was a real treat-praised Mr. Kitrick for "thinking outside the box" and lamented what she perceived as bankers' reluctance to pursue entrepreneurial ideas that could move them forward on the World Wide Web.
"I think a lot of people who are going into management need to know the buzzwords, the language, so the technology people don't come in and speak over their heads," Ms. Moore said.
Mr. Kitrick agreed: "My students have already bought into the idea that this is the future. Those people actually scare the upper-level people, and I think that's great."
Sometimes the class compares thoughts on software-students will snort in derision when a particularly faulty example is mentioned-or shares the addresses of favorite Web sites.
One of Mr. Kitrick's pet sites is www.farsight.com, an investment banking site hosted by D.E. Shaw & Co.
"Last week we went over client-server computing, what it is and why it is a revolution," Mr. Kitrick said.
"A lot of people never put it in the context of the fact that we used to have mainframes and now we have smaller computers, and that is just a major shift in thinking.
"If you don't have history and context," he added, "you don't know what's going on. Here, you just see people's eyes open."