I'm 10 minutes into WindowOnWallStreet.com's online multimedia course on Nasdaq Level II trading. As stock quotes change on my screen and colors blink, a narrator's tinny voice explains how to make sense of it all. It's a smooth, slick presentation, streamed right to my desktop, and it definitely beats reading a book on the subject. If anything, the course shows that daytrading using Level II quotes is a lot harder than most people imagine.

Fact is, whether you're a seasoned daytrader or just starting out as an active trader, there are now plenty of quality educational sites on the Web. Some of these training sites focus on strategies and tactics, while others walk you through the complicated software needed to trade effectively. Online training rarely matches what you'd get from an intensive $2,500, three-day seminar. But the cost of Web-based training is a lot lower. And the investment is well worth it. (By the way, I want to hear your active-trader wish list for 2001. Please see my notes at the end of this column.)

Online Campuses

Several Web sites function as veritable portals for active trader education. At Daytrading University, you can go through four sample lessons without having to register. Topics include things like how to spot bullish intraday chart patterns and deciphering the true intentions of Nasdaq market makers. For $129, you get six months of access to the entire curriculum, including live trading sessions.

Another portal site, Pristine.com, contains a lengthy archive of articles on active trader strategies, from trading on margin to short-selling strategies, written by the site's co-founder Oliver Velez. New lessons appear weekly. And if this information whets your appetite, you can pay anywhere from $75 to $750 per month more for things such as live chat and emailed trading alerts.

Still another portal site, DaytradersUSA.com,, functions as a club for active traders. Annual dues are $59. For that you get a downloadable daytrading manual, plus a long list of lessons and tips. The club's in the process of setting up a mentoring program in which skilled traders teach the ropes to newcomers.

I'll mention two more portal sites that couldn't be more different: HardRightEdge and the IntelligentSpeculator.com. HardRightEdge greets you with a chaotic design. And as the name might suggest, this is not a site for beginners. Rather, well-known active traders such as Tony Oz and Mark Seleznov have planted some trading homilies here. You'll also find a few decent lessons.

Out of curiosity I clicked on the one explaining something called "Adam & Eve and Adam." And I admit I was a little disappointed to learn this was actually a chart pattern. HardRightEdge offers a "Mastering the Trade" seminar. For $99, you get 60 days' access to lessons, online mentoring and multimedia presentations ¿ not bad considering some trading books cost up to $70.

Where HardRightEdge is, well, hard-edged, the IntelligentSpeculator.com has the crisp look of an art school thesis project. Founder Teresa Lo, who I've spoken about before in this column, is an expert in candlestick charting. And you'll find explanations of her methods on the site. Lo also teaches an online course devoted to trading futures contracts on the S&P 500 and Nasdaq indices. The fee will be $150 for the three-day online seminar.

Nonpartisan Vs. Partisan Learning

Many course authors make a point of saying they're not tied to any particular trading software platform. Take TradeCourse.com, which requires that you open an account with a participating online broker before enrolling in its free course. (Two direct access brokers, Tradecast and MB Trading, have partnered with TradeCourse.com so far.) Despite the linkage requirement, TradeCourse insists its course is not platform-specific.

In my view, there's something to be said for learning how to trade using trading software you're familiar with. You can spot opportunities all day long, but if you don't access the right pull-down menu to execute an order quickly, you're pretty much sunk.

If you're thinking of getting started with active trading, you might investigate some of the trading platforms that are available first and decide on one (along with a brokerage offering it). Then look into where you can get training on that platform. You can find a complete list of trading platforms here. Then, follow the links on each to see what training might be available.

The more popular trading platforms will offer you more options. Pristine.com's courses, for example, are often closely tied to RealTick popular trading software. The direct access brokerage CyBerCorp.com publishes a list of trading schools that use its platform.

Tradecast's execution software is also widely used by active traders, not just by those who trade directly through the broker itself. Co-branded versions of Tradecasts' software can be found in daytrading rooms and direct-access brokerages around the country. EdgeTrade.com is one of the latter. It's found a niche as "the educational brokerage." EdgeTrade.com offers everything from one-on-one mentoring at its New York offices to online seminars you can take at home. Fees range from $500 to $3,500.

If those prices seem high, consider the cost of not getting training. Lots of traders jump in with little or no preparation. During the bear market, many of them I've spoken with have dropped a few hundred grand -- which is more than the cost of a Harvard Medical School education.

Active Trader Wish List

The market aside, it's been a good year for active traders, with all sorts of new sites and services proliferating Webwide. But where can things improve? Please email me with your year 2001 wish list -- anything from software features to brokerage improvements to programs that automatically handle accounting and tax preparation. Send me an email and I'll pull the suggestions together for next week's column. Happy holidays!

Mark Ingebretsen is editor-at-large with Online Investor magazine. He has written for a wide variety of business and financial publications. Currently he holds no positions in the stocks of companies mentioned in this column. While Ingebretsen cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he welcomes your feedback and invites you to send it to mingebretsen@onlineinvestor.com.