Pearson Doubles Down Online

Pearson, which two years began tiptoeing into the market of helping colleges and universities take their academic programs online, jumped in with both feet Tuesday by purchasing EmbanetCompass, the biggest player in that space. The deal, which awaits regulatory approval, is worth $650 million, officials of the companies said.

The publisher-turned-learning company's expansion is the third major development this week in an increasingly crowded market place, following Blackboard's announcement that it too would begin offering “online program management services” and the purchase of Deltak by John Wiley & Sons.

EmbanetCompass grew from the 2010 merger of Embanet and Compass Knowledge Group, a deal engineered by Technology Crossover Ventures and Knowledge Universe, owned by Michael Milken.

Blackboard and Pearson join the burgeoning list of entities aiding the legions of colleges that are hustling to move their academic programs online to either sustain or expand their enrollments and tuition revenues, encompassing companies that have been doing so for more than a decade (such as Bisk Education in addition to EmbanetCompass and Deltak), newer entrants such as Academic Partnerships, Learning House and 2tor (which Wednesday changed its name to 2U), and nonprofit organizations like Educators Serving Educators.

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