Pearson made an interesting acquisition yesterday. Their acquisition of eCollege continues their corporate foray into Student Information Systems and Course Management. Last year, Pearson acquired PowerSchool and Chancery Software yielding a very strong position in Student Information Systems for the K-12 market. Clearly, they like these learning infrastructure markets for several good reasons.
1. At present, they seem to be solid businesses with only a few competitors that are poised to grow at rates exceeding their traditional textbook businesses.
2. The acquired customer base brings them many new customers and brings them closer to the students (and parents) who use their instructional products. The information about these students and the ability to reach them with additional product offerings is not to be underestimated in this digital world.
3. As the range of course materials such as content modules, learning software, simulations, educational websites, etc. continues to grow, the value of the course infrastructure technology will increase as well as provide a strategic advantage for integration with their broad range of course materials.
Last week at the Digital Book conference in New York, several speakers agreed that college textbook publishers will look more and more like software publishers over the next ten years. The reasons for this transition will center on using technology to: 1. deliver appropriate content to the student when it is needed to solve homework problems and prepare for tests; 2. integrate traditional material with innovative simulations and learning modules available from communities like MERLOT; 3. add life to static published content by enabling further exploration via web links and domain specific search engines and content repositories.
Pearson is wise to acquire successful software and technology companies to give them the pockets of technical expertise that would take many years to develop within the company. While there may be some culture clashes, this strategy should serve Pearson well and position them to maintain or expand their leadership position in educational publishing.