Corporate raiding made easy

March 10, 2006

The software company that markets the world-dominant commercial virtual learning environment to hundreds of universities has joined the major league of new technology players with its own title in the Dummies series of manuals.

Blackboard's $178 million (£101 million) takeover of main competitor WebCT, confirmed last week shortly after Department of Justice clearance, gives it an industry-leading position in the supply of systems to manage online content.

In June, publisher Wiley will publish Blackboard for Dummies . It will be the latest in a series of titles seeking to explain the complexities of software applications to ordinary users.

In a news release, the publisher says: "Blackboard provides an online manual, but it's not especially teacher-friendly. This book is intended to tell potential and current instructors, 'OK, you've been told to take your class online with Blackboard - now what? Here's what you need to know to get it online successfully'."

In San Diego last week, Michael Chasen, Blackboard's CEO, announced the completion of the WebCT takeover to 1,700 users of the company's product.

The merger was announced in autumn but was held up by a Justice Department investigation into potential breaches of anti-trust laws. The inquiry ended in early February.

As a result of the takeover, Blackboard has established a client base of 3,700 universities, colleges, schools and other training providers worldwide.

Mr Chasen characterised the deal as a tipping point in the acceptance of e-learning into the mainstream of higher education, with 135 universities worldwide using the company's full Academic Suite to deliver teaching online.

Mr Chasen said: "Over time Blackboard and WebCT will converge. Over time, the two will reach a point where all the code is shared and there is only one next-generation learning system."

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