The Washington Post

Blackboard makes pair of acquisitions

District-based Blackboard finalized a pair of acquisitions today that will allow the education software maker to provide technical and customer support to schools that use open-source software instead of its own products.

The announcement reflects a shift in strategy for Blackboard away from simply generating money through the sale of its software, which many secondary schools and colleges use to augment classroom instruction.

Now the company will provide services to assist schools that use “open-source” products, which are typically free and serve as competitors to Blackboard’s software. A new division at the company called Blackboard Education Open Source Services will oversee the new line of business.

“We think if the focus of our company is working with schools to bring their education online. . .we don’t want to limit ourselves based on the software they choose,” said chief executive officer Michael Chasen.

The company declined to disclose the purchase sum for Baltimore-based Moodlerooms and Australia-based NetSpot. Blackboard was bought by private equity shop Providence Equity Partners and taken private last year.

“Part of the additional flexibility and freedom of being private has allowed us to make what some would consider a surprising move,” Chasen said. “This is a very interesting and nuanced strategy for a company, especially one that used to be public, to pursue.”

Steven Overly is a national reporter covering federal technology and energy policy with a focus on Capitol Hill. He previously covered the business of technology, biotechnology and venture capital.



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