09/29/2015 - Terry Patterson
A + B = AtoZ – How Alphabet might be the dark horse in buying Blackboard
The EdTech world started buzzing when Providence Equity Partners, current owner of Blackboard, was looking to auction off the EdTech giant for three billion dollars which is twice what they paid for the company in October 2011. Since then many have pondered and pontificated about who would buy the company. Some believe Pearson, a major player in testing and publishing, sits at the top of the likely suitors. However I think an announcement made a few weeks back could bring a dark horse buyer into the field. That would be the new parent company of Google, Alphabet and let me explain why.
Google, at its core, profits from providing information and data. The information can be about users, websites, locations, and more. In my opinion, Google started the big data revolution, think about Google Analytics which many companies use to monitor and understand website visitors. Education recently started to understand the importance of this data to find students who are likely to quit school, drop out, or fail classes. LMS environments, like those owned by Blackboard, started to create analytic tools which address these concerns. While Blackboard bought iStrategy in 2010, the purchase by one of the biggest data engine giants could really empower its products to excel. With federal and state funds now being tied to completion rates, better analytics means successful students and successful programs.
Google not only brings its experience as a analytics leader, but also leadership in collaboration tools and services. Once again Blackboard and Google mesh well here. For several years, Blackboard has integrated YouTube videos and the ability to record video on YouTube and post it within courses. Video’s importance in online education continues to grow. Companies like ShareStream and Kaltura allow organizations to control content, yet YouTube continues to be a major player. YouTube’s little brother, Google Hangouts, has seen rapid usage and growth. Hangouts and Blackboard’s new Collaborate Ultra experience, both rely on WebRTC and HTML5. Google even is a founding member of WebRTC with Mozilla and Opera. Both companies continue to place a lot of time and money in the continuing development of these protocols.
Blackboard has always been an education company. Just look to Jay Bhatt’s corporate keynote at Blackboard World 2015 in July and see how he laid out the company as servicing the needs of K12 and higher education in a variety of ways. Google has the same level of focus with its Google Apps for Education. Though Google doesn’t share much about K12 and Higher Ed usage, there are a few locations where you can find lists of schools using Google. In February 2010, Google did release data which showed Google Apps for Education had over 15 million users around the world.
With Google Apps for Education, institutions can use Google’s robust document storage and email solutions. This is a major strength which Blackboard doesn’t have, however Blackboard does bring solutions that would strengthen areas where Google lacks a foothold. Blackboard’s Schoolwires platform provides specialized development of school websites, something Google Sites does, but not to the same level.
In 2014, Google released Google Classroom and its initial jump into the LMS market. The product’s development appears to be limited, but many compare the product to Blackboard’s new Learn Ultra product and Instructure’s Canvas LMS. However, if Google and Blackboard join forces Google gains a lot of experience in the LMS market and access to open source and closed source LMS platforms which they can leverage into their other solutions.
Sometimes explaining the products doesn’t provide clarity as a graphic. Below are graphics comparing the two companies and their products.
As you can see in the graphics, these two companies really do match up nicely. Both bring tools to complement the other, and include major strengths that will greatly benefit the other.
In the past few paragraphs I hope you see how the purchase of Blackboard by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, would be a smart move for both companies and for the marketplace at large.
While many companies could be looking at the 3 billion dollar price tag and question would the purchase be worth it. Google should have the cash to take on a purchase like this and bring into itself a tool set that will only enhance its current offerings.
The Blackboard Guru
User compiled lists of institutions using Google Apps for Education