Blackboard and WebCT Seek to Reassure Campus Customers After Merger Announcement

By Campus Technology Staff

Blackboard Inc., and WebCT, Inc., two of the leading purveyors of course management software, sought to reassure customers this week that their announced merger is good news on campus.

Executives said the merger will break down barriers to collaboration across institutions by developers and end-users. "Both companies are passionate about the academic market and, alongside our respective clients, have truly pioneered the category together," said WebCT president and CEO Carol Vallone (in photo at left with Blackboard President and CEO Michael Chasen). "Given the alignment of our visions, technologies, and overall strategies, the combination of our two companies will advance the teaching and learning technology industry, benefiting customers worldwide."

At a brief news conference Tuesday morning at EDUCAUSE 2005 in Orlando, FL, Vallone intimated that the merger had not come out of the blue. She said that in the past she and Blackboard President and CEO Michael Chasen had talked about the synergy possible if the two companies merged.

Asked about a future unified platform, Chasen said that when it is eventually developed it will represent "the best of both worlds" by combining the Blackboard and WebCT expertise and technologies. But he said it would be some time before that platform is developed. He reiterated that in the meantime both companies products would continue to be supported and upgraded. Both Chasen and Vallone sought to assure their customers that their investment in either companies' products would be protected when the merger is completed either later this year or early in 2006.

The resulting firm will have 3,700 academic clients, including higher education, K-12, corporate, government, and commercial academic institutions, making it the largest company focusing exclusively on the CMS space.

The deal calls for Blackboard to acquire WebCT for $180 million. Blackboard's product line consists of five software applications bundled in two suites, the Blackboard Academic Suite and the Blackboard Commerce Suite. WebCT also provides a flexible e-learning environment.

The combined companies will operate under the Blackboard name and brand with corporate headquarters located in Washington, DC.

According to reports, Vallone will continue to work with the merged companies as a "consultant."

In related news, Desire2Learn (www.Desire2Learn.com), which describes itself as "the second largest eLearning technology company," released a statement in reaction to the Blackboard-WebCT merger saying it has “no intention of merging or selling.” Desire2Learn said it was seeking to reassure it existing customers and potential customers.



Stay On Top of Blackboard/WebCT Merger

Blackboard and WebCT created a joint Website to keep campus customers informed as the merger of the two companies moves forward: www.blackboard.com/webct

(Photo courtsey of Blackboard)

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