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September 25, 2014

Wheelings & Dealings: Blackboard Buys Requestec

The writing is on the wall: WebRTC is the future of communications. In the latest move indicating this new direction, education software company Blackboard today announced the acquisition of WebRTC company Requestec for an undisclosed fee.

The simplification of videoconferencing that Requestec and WebRTC enable is the key driver of the deal.

“WebRTC will revolutionize videoconferencing as we know it,” said Mark Strassman, senior vice president of product management for Blackboard. “It will provide the best synchronous learning experience – better than anything that is available in the market today. I couldn’t be more excited to invest in this dynamic new technology and talent that will not only keep our customers ahead of the curve, but also provide them with a solution that is easy to use, easy to manage, and redefine how they engage with each other.”

Videoconferencing and real-time communication have become critical teaching and learning tools in the education vertical, notes Blackboard, which says that online programs are growing 10 times faster than traditional programs. 

Blackboard is a leader in providing online tools to the education vertical. Its solutions enable administrators, students, and teachers to more easily communicate and manage their workloads.

Requestec specializes in video calling services, including a new video online banking solution and a video application for medical purposes. The company’s WebRTC solution was the winner of the Ready Now award at last year’s WebRTC Conference & Expo.

Education is key vertical that is primed to benefit from WebRTC.

“Expect to see more examples and case studies of WebRTC in education as the school year moves forward,” Doug Mohney wrote just last month. “The price is right for delivering video-based and collaboration services directly to the classroom and educators are always on the lookout for new and fresh ways to engage students.”

In addition to enabling videoconferencing for distance learning applications, and to enable students and parents to more easily interface with college professors and administrators, WebRTC is also seen as a way to make recruiting easier.

The recruiting environment is very competitive, and WebRTC opens the door to quick and easy videoconferencing as a way to assess, attract, and retain students. In an age in which both students and parents are becoming more discerning consumers of college education, which we are continually reminded comes at a high and growing price, a real-time video interaction can make the difference between a family choosing one school vs. another.

A video interaction, as opposed to a mailing or a call, can give both schools and students (and their families) a better sense as to whether the student, and the college or university is a strong match. And, of course, a video call is less expensive and more time efficient than an on-site visit no matter where the student candidate resides.

The ease of use that WebRTC delivers means anyone can use it, without the time and trouble of having to install a special client or worrying about compatibility issues.

While videoconferencing is possible via video and audio conferencing services and systems, and without WebRTC, these traditional methods tend to be expensive, are often proprietary, and may require the download of additional software or a special application. That’s time consuming for everybody, and may be frustrating for those who are less technical. WebRTC eliminates those hurdles for parties on both ends, and can also bring other nice features such as data and screen sharing into the mix. 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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