On Sept. 13 it was announced that one of the world’s largest Learning Management System (LMS), U.S.-based Blackboard, will merge with Anthology, formed only last year from the combination of three other edtech companies.
The merger creates an edtech behemoth that is said to be worth about $3 billion according to Bloomberg News, though Blackboard and Anthology did not reveal the terms of the deal.
Anthology comprises three formidable companies operating in specific areas: Campus Management offers a student information system; Campus Labs is software for students and school leaders to manage clubs, events, and other student-affair activities; and iModules foster alumni engagement to help universities fundraise.
Anthology combined with Blackboard brings in an additional sector of edtech: providing learning management software for educational institutions to manage both online learning and in-person classes.
The two companies will combine their resources to “create the most comprehensive and modern edtech ecosystem available on a global scale,” according to a joint news release.
“Upon the completion of this merger, we will have a data-driven product portfolio that seeks to touch every constituent at the institution and will aim to transform the way education uses technology to engage, connect, teach, learn and drive efficiencies across the institution,” said Jim Milton, chairman, and CEO of the combined companies.
Anthology works with over 2,000 colleges and universities in more than 30 countries, offering data services for enrollment management, student engagement, alumni fundraising, and institutional effectiveness.
Blackboard provides learning management software and communication tools for about 150 million users in K-12 schools and higher education in over 80 countries.
“Together, Blackboard and Anthology will lead the next wave of edtech innovation,” said Blackboard CEO and President Bill Ballhaus.
“We believe that combining our companies will enable us to break down data silos across the institution and surface deeper insights about the learner so that we can deliver unmatched personalized experiences across the full learner life cycle.”
Next wave of big edtech
Watchers have already predicted that the new wave of edtech will be global, corporate big.
India’s edtech giant Byju’s later in the week acquired Tynker, a U.S.-based coding platform for K-12 students. Tynker is the latest major purchase by Byju as it expands to international markets.
According to TechCrunch, Byju’s has amassed over 100 million registered users — about 6.5 million of whom are paying customers — across the world. In 2020 alone, Byju also acquired Scholr, Aakash Institute, Hashlearn, Epic and Great Learning for over $2 billion in cash and equity deals. Just last week it revealed that it had also purchased Times Internet-backed Gradeup for an undisclosed amount.
“Byju’s growth demonstrates how the edtech market is truly becoming borderless,” Isabelle Hau, longtime global impact education funder, in an interview with EdSurge.
China’s edtech giants such as TAL and New Oriental have seen great growth, although it has cooled recently with announcements of regulation of online learning by the Chinese government.
What it means for edtech & learners
Two decades ago Blackboard was the king of the LMS in the K-12 space.
“Blackboard was my first LMS experience as a postgraduate student in the U.S. in 2000. I was blown away at how the classroom experience was complimented by this amazing tool,” said David Yeo, learning architect and founder and CEO of Kydon Group.
Yeo said that learning management did not change much for 20 years because it viewed education from a singular perspective: the institution and dealt with learner engagement without context.
“What is this context? That is the world which the learner must contend with in real life: jobs and work,” explained Yeo.
“Beyond learning, we must now look to the necessary integration of learning, jobs, and workplace performance if we want to see meaningful transformation in the learning technology space.”
Could learners’ data gathered by multiple players in an edtech ecosystem make education more meaningful going forward?
“As we look to the future, we are ready to both expand and accelerate our vision of delivering a personalized experience fueled by data,” according to Balhous, Blackboard’s CEO.
Phil Hill, an education technology solutions consultant, added, “The purpose of this deal is a revenue growth opportunity driven by cross-selling, international growth, and the opportunities to combine products and create new value, particularly at the data level.”