In a $180 million deal, Blackboard, the software company that Temple uses for computer learning, purchased WebCT Inc.
The two companies, which are major providers of E-learning software, will merge. The company will remain under Blackboard’s name.
In the past, both companies have provided E-learning software to colleges, universities, schools and other educational facilities worldwide. According to the company’s Web site, the merge will further enhance their ability to provide good service to their clients.
A press release from the company said, “The transaction will combine two pioneering academic e-learning organizations into a single company with the client base, resources, and expertise to uniquely meet the rapidly evolving needs of educators around the world.”
According to Melissa Chotiner, public relations chair for Blackboard Inc., Blackboard intends to combine the best features of each company.
“Both companies work closely with their client base and have a connected community.” Chotiner said.
Eileen Aitken, director of instructional technology and training for Computer Services at Temple said that one problem of the merge is that it would eliminate Blackboard’s main competitor.
“Although a couple of competitors, such as Angel, Desire 2 Learn and some Open Source options remain, with Blackboard’s major competition no longer in the picture, Blackboard could be free to raise its prices,” Aitkens said.
“The increased amount of resources we are going to have is going to enable us to provide new innovative solutions to enhance teaching and learning,” Chotiner said.
Initially, Blackboard will continue to support each product individually and they will remain intact. In time, they will develop a common application program interface that will enable both programs to interoperate with one another and additional applications. At this point, Blackboard will begin combining the best features from each company to develop a stronger system.
According to Chotiner, the integration of the two products will not affect client’s ability to use the software.
“We will be providing support for our client’s throughout the integration process. It’s not something where people will have to make a drastic change over night,” Chotiner said.
Last week, Blackboard held an Educause conference in Florida to explain the changes to clients.
“It’s great to work with a community of clients that are so passionate about what they do.
“We welcome the opportunity to share our thoughts with them and to hear any comments or concerns the may have,” Chotiner said.
Aitken was one of the attendees. She said that at least initially, the company plans to keep developing enhancements for both Blackboard and WebCT products.
“Blackboard could enhance its products by adding some of the features available in WebCT that are not currently available in Blackboard,” Aitken said. “Also, with the addition of experienced developers, programmers, support personnel, and other staff from WebCT, Blackboard’s development and technical support teams could be enhanced.”
Stephanie Cumberbatch, a sophomore biochemistry major said, “Blackboard helps me to organize information for many of my courses. It’s nice to be able to refer back to past lectures and get up-to-date announcements from my professors.”
“I think improving the system is a good idea as long as it doesn’t cost me extra tuition,” she said.
The companies will start the process of integration gradually. The merge will take an estimated one to two years to complete and is expected to be finalized in late 2005 or early 2006. In order for the merger to be complete, the Federal Trade Commission has to approve it.
Kennedi Greenwood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.