Today Dulles, VA-based Echo360, a provider of lecture capture solutions for colleges, announced its acquisition of Ann Arbor, MI-based LectureTools, a web-based professor and student interaction platform, for an undisclosed amount. The acquisition equips the company with a platform aimed at helping professors interact with students, to hopefully improve grades and class participation.
The acquisition comes on the heels of Echo360’s $31 million funding round earlier this year from investors including Steve Case and Ted Leonsis. The company aims to capitalize on the trend of ‘blended learning,’ where traditional lectures are supplemented or replaced with digital learning tools and media. To date the Echo360 platform is used in over 500 institutions across 30 countries and reaches over one million students.
Echo360s existing solutions prior to the acquisition were designed to be used before and after a class, now with LectureTools, the company can offer a set of interactive tools during classes. “We’ve really focused a bulk of our time on what you can do before a class, for example ‘flipped classrooms,’ the idea they can record learning objects and make them available to students, adjust the lectures and come to class for discussion and peer reviewing,” Echo360 CMO Richard Taylor said in an interview. “And then we spent a lot of our time on the after a class portion, reviewing lectures, looking at presentations, asking questions, we do have some in class things but we really felt that we could shore that up with a lot more and we found LectureTools.”
LectureTools was developed by a University of Michigan professor in an effort to improve students’ learning experiences via technology. The integration of the cloud-based software lets Echo360 users conduct polls during class, which students can respond to via their smartphones or laptops, and professors can integrate instantaneous student responses into presentations and measure how well they’re learning the material. “We’re thrilled to find that it was developed by a professor for professors and students, and it’s a really impressive bit of software, all cloud-based. For us it really completes that whole component of before, during, and after class,” Taylor added.
Echo360’s platform is available to institutions through an annual licensing agreement directly through them, or from Dell, and through a reseller program that spans the globe. The price varies according to the size of a school, however, the company earned $12 million in revenues in 2011 and hopes to double that by the end of this year.
Other players in the ‘blended learning’ market offer different components of the digitized education experience, with companies like SonicFoundry that provide webcasting capabilities for professors to broadcast their lectures, in addition to companies like Desire2Learn and TechSmith that also provide lecture capturing and analytics solutions. Taylor said the company is trying to be a bit more broad than existing solutions in the edtech space, tackling all the challenges students face before, during, and after a lecture.
Both Echo360 and LectureTools will continue operating as usual for the time being, and will look to slowly integrate their services. With the acquisition under its belt, Echo360 will continue working with its customer base of educational institutions to scale out its offerings, with the hopes of becoming a go-to source for post-secondary teachers and students. With several companies looking to become the de facto solution for campuses, the company has no shortage of competition to contend with moving forward.