In a move that could strengthen competition in the market for online course management systems, educational publishing giant Pearson PLC said its Pearson Education unit is buying, which sells eLearning systems to K-12 and higher-education institutions, in a deal worth approximately $538 million.

Under terms of the transaction, eCollege shareholders will receive $22.45 in cash for each share they own--a 28-percent premium over the company's average closing share price during the previous 90 trading days. In addition, eCollege's Datamark enrollment marketing division will be sold for $41 million to an investor group led by Oakleigh Thorne, eCollege's chairman and chief


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