10 ed tech acquisitions: How the landscape has changed since 2012
Educational publishing and services are among the sectors most heavily impacted by the rise of digital learning. Increasingly popular and cost-effective ed tech options like digital textbooks and open source learning management systems have impacted bottom lines and made innovation a necessity.
As is the case in many other industries, the quickest way to innovate and regain lost ground (or expand your existing foothold) is often to buy a younger, smaller company. The past few years have seen several of the biggest publishers and educational service providers snap up several younger ed tech companies—and even, in some cases, a few bigger names.
In case you missed them, we've compiled a list of 10 significant acquisitions in the space since 2012.
1. NATIONAL TRANSCRIPT CENTER
Acquired by: Hobsons
When: July 2013
In July, Pearson sold the world’s largest e-transcript exchange provider, National Transcript Center, to education solutions company Hobsons. The amount of money that changed hands in the deal was undisclosed, but the move put Hobsons in control of the record exchange between K-12 and higher ed institutions, putting it in a position to work with other organizations on a new standard for transcript exchange networks. National Transcript Center is used by 137,000 institutions with over 14 million students, and Hobsons already owned Naviance Docs, which is used by thousands of institutions, as well as Apply Yourself and Intelliworks application management solutions.
2. DEGREE COMPASS
Acquired by: Desire2Learn
When: January 2013
Degree Compass, the course recommendation engine developed at Austin Peay State University, was purchased in January by Canadian learning management system provider Desire2Learn. Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Degree Compass’ algorithm uses students’ transcripts, past grades and standardized test scores to suggest courses needed for their individual majors, suggesting how easily the student can pass selected courses by grading them on a five-star scale and offering estimated final grades. The details of the transaction weren’t disclosed.
3. LATE NITE LABS
Acquired by: Macmillan
When: March 2013
In March, Late Nite Labs became one of the latest start-ups to be purchased by publishing giant Macmillan. The virtual science startup’s acquisition was made with the $100 million fund, dubbed Macmillan New Ventures, created in summer 2011 for the purpose of bringing 10 to 15 promising ed tech startups into the Macmillan portfolio by 2015. Though the terms of the deal were undisclosed, Late Nite Labs did raise $1.1 million in late 2011 from angel investors, including former Disney Education head of business development Don Burton and former New York City public schools chancellor and Kaplan EVP Harold Levy.
Acquired by: Palgrave Macmillan
When: February 2013
Macmillan Group member Palgrave Macmillan acquired BioSocieties from the London School of Economics and Political Science. BioSocieties is a quarterly interdisciplinary journal focused on the social studies of life sciences and biomedicine, available in print or digital subscriptions and offering authors the option to publish with immediate open access. The journal was published by Palgrave Macmillan for four years, and continued with the same editorial team.
5. ALEKS CORP
Acquired by: McGraw-Hill Education
When: June 2013
Publishing giant McGraw-Hill Education announced its agreement to purchase adaptive learning technology company Aleks Corp. The transaction was the first for the education publisher since its $2.4 billion purchase in January by Apollo Global Management. Aleks utilizes artificial intelligence to counsel students on what they’re ready to learn based on what it can determine they already know, and McGraw-Hill Education had already marketed and sold it for higher ed math for over a decade. Aside from continuing to be sold as a standalone product, the technology is expected to be incorporated into existing content and digital platforms.
6. MOODLEROOMS AND NETSPOT
Acquired by: Blackboard
When: March 2012
On the same day in March 2012, Blackboard announced its purchase of Moodlerooms and Netspot, both of which provide support and deployment services to schools using Moodle—an open-source learning management system. The announcement was a swerve for the LMS giant, which once sued competitors, as it said it would now embrace open source and created an Open Source Services Group to assist institutions in the management of learning management systems like Moodle and Sakai. Each company continued its existing programs with clients and retained its leadership.
Acquired by: Pearson
When: October 2012
EmbanetCompass came into the Pearson fold in October. The online service company’s purchase from an investor group led by Technology Crossover Ventures and Knowledge Universe cost the ed publishing giant a cool $650 million. The acquisition is part of Pearson’s efforts to make up for sluggish print sales with a digital expansion, and pulling EmbanetCompass’ services—which include learning program design and development, marketing and student recruitment, faculty training and support, data-driven student retention, learning analytics and counseling—under its umbrella seems like a surefire way to gain ground on that front.
Acquired by: Pearson
When: May 2012
Earlier that year, Pearson purchased GlobalEnglish for $90 million in cash. The company is a leading provider of software for cloud-based Business English learning, assessment and performance support, and over 450 corporate customers—including General Electric, HSBC and Tata Consultancy Services—have utilized it. The GlobalEnglish deal places Pearson—which already offered an adult English language training service called Wall Street English—in a much larger position as it expands its English-as-a-second-or-foreign-language services to around 2 billion learners worldwide.
Acquired by: John Wiley & Sons
When: October 2012
John Wiley & Sons purchased Chicago-based online learning services firm Deltak.edu for $220 million. Deltak was founded in 1997 and assists in developing and supporting fully online degree and certificate programs for leading colleges and universities. The company brought in $54 million in revenue during the fiscal year ended September 2012, and its acquisition increased the digital learning strategy and service offerings at Wiley, adding operational and academic solutions for higher ed.
10. EFFICIENT LEARNING SYSTEMS
Acquired by: John Wiley & Sons
When: November 2012
One month later, Wiley acquired Efficient Learning Systems for $24 million. An e-learning provider focused on areas including professional finance and accounting, the rapidly growing ELS brought in about $7 million in revenue for the fiscal year ending December 2012. Its flagship product is a CPA exam prep tool called CPAexcel. The purchase was part of Wiley’s efforts to rework its professional development segment for the international market.
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