Virtual learning acquisitions shake up marketplace

Experts say virtual learning's rapid growth is attracting notice.

As K-12 virtual learning expands across the nation, two of the nation’s largest ed-tech providers have jumped into the virtual learning market with significant acquisitions they hope will boost their offerings and help them appeal to a wider set of students and teachers.

But the moves also come as a new report from the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado argues that K-12 virtual learning needs stronger government oversight.

Education publishing giant Pearson announced last month that it will acquire Connections Education for $400 million in cash. Connections Education’s Connections Academy business operates online schools in 21 states, with more than 40,000 students.

And Texas-based Cambium Learning Group, an educational company based in Nebraska that primarily focuses on serving at-risk and special student populations, is acquiring, a virtual learning solution provider that serves students and adult learners, for roughly $4.5 million in cash.

Connections Education’s revenue grew more than 30 percent each year for the past three years, and Pearson said it expects the acquisition to boost its earnings moving forward as it gives the company another foothold in the virtual learning marketplace. delivers online courses for grades 7-12 and offers accredited instruction through Lincoln National Academy, an online high school. In a press release about the deal, Cambium executives said they were pleased to add to their offerings and that the acquisition would help Cambium expand its reach in the marketplace.

“The innovative, online courses offered by will allow us to expand further into the high school market and, in addition, address market fragmentation as more at-risk students either attend virtual charter schools or take online courses,” said Ron Klausner, Cambium’s CEO.

In a Getting Smart blog post analyzing what the Pearson-Connections acquisition means for the virtual learning marketplace, Tom Vander Ark commented that the transaction is good for all parties involved.

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