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Blackboard To Chalk Up Elluminate, Wimba

Blackboard is buying out ed tech developers Elluminate and Wimba, whose technologies are in use by more than 2,600 schools, colleges, and universities in the United States and around the world. The companies have entered into definitive agreements for the acquisition, which will cost Blackboard $116 million in cash, according to information released July 7.

Both Elluminate and Wimba develop collaborative communications technologies designed specifically for education. These technologies, according to Blackboard, will be combined to create a new collaborative learning suite, which has already been dubbed "Blackboard Collaborate," which Blackboard described as "the newest standalone platform in the company's family of education solutions."

However, Blackboard said Elluminate and Wimba customers shouldn't feel any significant impact. "Elluminate and Wimba products will continue to be shipped and supported without change for the foreseeable future," the company told us in an e-mail. "At the same time, the new Blackboard Collaborate team will begin thinking about future innovations in synchronous learning and collaboration in education that can bring more value the work that clients do. As the company brings the talents, technologies and experience of these organizations together, it will share future plans and our progress, which Blackboard hopes to inform with input from clients."

Elluminate is the maker of Live!, an electronic learning, conferencing, and online collaboration tool that includes note taking features, two-way interactive video, archiving and automatic indexing of e-learning sessions, organizational tools for teachers (pop-up announcements, sorting of participants by hand raising, timers, and other features), whiteboarding, and various other collaboration tools. The company also makes Elluminate Plan and Elluminate Publish. Plan is a tool designed to help instructors and instructional designers organize and package content for online sessions prior to the session being conducted live. Publish is a tool used to create reusable learning content from Elluminate Live recordings.

According to information released by Blackboard, Elluminate's technologies are in use by more than 1,900 higher education and K-12 institutions in 81 countries.

Wimba is a developer of interactive collaborative technologies for K-12 schools and post-secondary institutions, including the Collaboration Suite, which includes four of Wimba's communications tools: Classroom (a virtual classroom environment); Pronto (an instant messaging and voice chat tool); Voice (a live audio tool); and Create (a utility for converting Word documents to LMS-friendly formats).

Wimba's tools, according to Blackboard, are in use by more than 700 K-12 and post-secondary institutions in 28 countries.

"We've heard directly from our clients that this technology has become increasingly fundamental to the learning process for the online course experience and beyond," said Michael L. Chasen, Blackboard's president and CEO, in a statement released today. "Collaboration technology is joining the range of solutions that our clients are leveraging to support and improve the teaching and learning experience. We expect this will grow as institutions look for cost-effective ways to encourage social learning and support learning interactions of all kinds."

Ray Henderson, president of Blackboard Learn and formerly of Angel Learning, which Blackboard acquired back in May 2009, will lead the combined team and "set the technology strategy," according to Blackboard.

"Bringing Elluminate and Wimba together allows us to accelerate development of their technologies to better realize the full potential for impacting education--at a rate much faster than any of our organizations could have achieved independently," Henderson said in a prepared statement. "I'm confident in our ability to maintain positive experiences for clients and learners in all contexts, regardless of which learning management system is used. We will continue to support Elluminate and Wimba integrations for open source products and plan to do the same for bridges with other commercial LMS providers as well."

Blackboard said the deal is expected to close in early August.

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