Today's Transactions: <br>Echo360's Acquiring of LectureTools Underscores M&A Trend

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Consider Echo360 Inc.'s acquisition of LectureTools Inc., a maker of interactive in-class educational tools, to be the latest in a series of deals in a consolidating industry.

The day prior to Echo360's Nov. 7 announcement, John Wiley & Sons Inc. (NYSE: JWA, JWB) said it agreed to spend $24 million on Efficient Learning Systems, an e-learning system provider that specializes in professional finance and accounting.

On Oct. 29, Pearson plc (NYSE: PSO) made sure it retained the rights to the Penguin brand in education markets after it agreed to combine its book publishing business with Bertelsmann AG's Random House in a multi-billion merger.

Advisers have been noticing an uptick in M&A within the education sector, and expect more private equity firms to be acquisitive as well. Pivotal Group, for example, recently purchased Pan Am Education, a provider of online learning services for students and education companies in 10 countries, including China, Brazil and Mexico. Then there's Riverside Co., which announced the purchase of Learning Seat, a Melbourne, Australia-based developer of electronic learning courses. The acquisition, Riverside's 300th, will be counted among the firm's 30 education investments.

The reasons behind this land-grab of education assets has to do with companies' attempts to provide a more comprehensive solution by combining content with digital tools, according to Berkery Noyes adviser Peter Yoon. In its own right, Echo360 makes products that digitally record and share learning content, while LectureTools provides digital polling, chat and assessment services that can be used to improve student and professor interaction.

Ann Arbor, Mich.-based LectureTools was created by Perry Samson (pictured), a Arthur F. Thurnau professor of atmospheric science at the University of Michigan, as a means to improve teaching through technology. Samson will continue teaching at the university while serving as head of education innovation at Echo360.

Echo360 did not disclose what it paid for LectureTools.

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