Education

Ed tech startup Class to acquire virtual classroom tool from Blackboard

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Dive Brief: 

  • Class Technologies, a startup that incorporates teaching and learning tools into Zoom, announced Thursday that it entered an agreement to acquire Blackboard Collaborate, a virtual classroom platform. 
  • The companies did not disclose the terms of the deal, which is expected to close in late June. However, one investor close to the transaction told TechCrunch that Blackboard Collaborate is being bought for $210 million. Upon closing, Blackboard Collaborate will be renamed Class Collaborate, and Class will bring over about 60 new employees. 
  • Class and Blackboard Collaborate will together serve more than 1,750 colleges, K-12 schools, and corporate learning and development teams. Anthology, which currently owns Blackboard Collaborate, says the transaction will allow the company to focus more resources on improving its flagship learning management system, Blackboard Learn Ultra. 

Dive Insight:

Class Technologies was created in 2020 with the mission to fill the urgent need for virtual learning tools during the pandemic. Rather than develop a platform from scratch, however, the company created software that adds teaching and learning tools to the existing Zoom platform. 

The startup has been popular with investors, raising $105 million in its latest public funding round in July 2021. 

Blackboard Collaborate, on the other hand, is a decade-plus-old virtual classroom tool. It is often sold as an add-on when institutions select Blackboard as their learning management system provider. 

Michael Chasen, the CEO and co-founder of Class, also helped launch Blackboard in 1997. He first approached Blackboard about the deal and sees the acquisition as a full-circle moment that will help Class aid virtual learning worldwide. 

Ed tech startup Class to acquire virtual classroom tool from Blackboard

Michael Chasen

 

The health crisis has permanently changed higher education, Chasen said. “Synchronous learning and online learning has become an even bigger component,” he said. 

Class will benefit from Blackboard Collaborate’s integration into the Blackboard learning management system, as well as its global customer base. Once employees transfer from Blackboard to Class, the startup will have more than 300 workers. 

The two companies will have close ties after the deal closes. Class will become Blackboard’s preferred virtual meeting partner. The company has similar partnerships with D2L and Open LMS, Chasen said.

The move comes after Anthology, a higher ed software and services company, acquired Blackboard in 2021. At the time, company leaders cast the deal as a way to offer a broader spectrum of services than its competitors. 

Jim Milton, Anthology’s chair and CEO, said in an emailed statement that selling Blackboard Collaborate will help connect data flowing through the companies’ software in order to aid institutions in improving their teaching and learning environments.

Both the virtual classroom and the learning management system are critical to support online and hybrid learning, and we are offering the best of both through this partnership,” Milton said. 

The deal to acquire Blackboard Collaborate is financed through equity and debt that Class raised from several investors, including SoftBank Vision Fund 2, Insight Partners, Salesforce Ventures, Arizona State University and Educational Testing Services. It is subject to regulatory approval.

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