February 17, 2018

Two Largest Courseware Providers Merge

By LJ Staff

The two leading courseware providers Blackboard and WebCT have announced that they will merge. Under terms of the agreement, Blackboard will acquire WebCT in a cash transaction for $180 million and the combined companies will operate under the Blackboard name and brand, headquartered in Washington, DC. Operations will continue in WebCT’s facilities in Massachusetts and Canada. Blackboard President and CEO Michael Chasen will continue to serve in those roles. The blockbuster merger creates a heavyweight company that will count more than 3,700 higher education, K-12, corporate, government, and commercial academic institutions among its customers.

As libraries and IT departments have increasingly come together, librarians have become more involved with the management of courseware systems used to host syllabi, assignments, and supplemental readings online for students. The software also allows students to engage in online discussions. Although company officials said the deal would benefit customers, others have raised questions. John Campbell, associate VP of information technology at Purdue University, noted that the two companies now control more than half of the higher education course management market. "You’re talking about the No. 1 and No. 2 companies worldwide in course management software," Campbell said in a statement released by Purdue. "This is a big shift in the market, and while the companies say transition will be seamless for customers, there are justifiable concerns in terms of costs and software issues." While the merger is expected to close late this year or early in 2006, Campbell said antitrust concerns could also be a stumbling block given the two companies’ dominant market share.