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Blackboard Purchased by Private Equity Firm

The big news of the day is that Blackboard, arguably the Microsoft of learning management systems, has been purchased by private equity firm Providence Equity Partners for $1.64 billion.



As one who remembers counseling a university to not adopt a course management system in the pre-Blackboard days because they were too complicated, or purchasing a Blackboard site license for $3500, or attending an early user conference in DC when few had heard of Blackboard, it's amazing to see how much as changed in the past decade or so.


As a user, however, I confess being frustrated at how little the core product really improved in that same timeframe.  From the faculty perspective, the expensive Blackboard 9.1 system isn't really that much better than the relatively inexpensive product of the late 1990s.  Accordingly, I wonder whether this sale will prompt universities who adopted Blackboard years ago but hesitated about switching will reconsider their position.

Over at Inside Higher Ed, Joshua Kim has an interesting piece in which he speculates that by 2015 Blackboard will be owned by a major online services company such as Microsoft or Amazon, that educational services rather than their popular LMS will be the company's most important business, and that Google will regret not moving aggressively into the education sector.

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