As academic and educational publishers continue to develop digital services, sophisticated analytics are becoming increasingly important. Interest in education technology has also created a positive climate for tech start-ups, allowing them to develop their offerings and provide much sought after services to the publishing industry. With measurable success and proof of effectiveness so important, we take a look at 3 acquisitions where publishers establish analytics services through the purchase of promising start-ups.

Learning Catalytics

In the education market and to the news of Pearson’s purchase of Learning Catalytics, we can see the early shoots of a growing trend among publishers looking to shore up their analytics offerings. While better analytics is by no means the only purpose of this acquisition, measuring the effectiveness of online & digital services is fast becoming a necessity for companies like Pearson.

Learning Catalytics, founded in late 2011 and developed by Harvard university professors Eric Mazur, Gary King and software engineer Brian Lukoff, provides a platform to teachers wanting to get a better idea of student engagement. It allows real-time communication between teachers and students and gives teachers a much better understanding of different student group’s levels of understanding. For Pearson, the addition of sophisticated analytics to its array of other digital products, gives them a valuable platform to justify success rates with new technologies and offers proof of effectiveness. The ever growing volume of data that this tech generates in regards to student engagement and learning is tremendously valuable to a number of parties, both schools and publishers.  In these early days, it is hard to say exactly how this data will be used, as profiteering and data ownership issues could potentially cloud the benefits of a better understanding of individual learning experiences, either way, analytics and data look set to impact education technology in a big way.

Mendeley & Elsevier

Back in early April we wrote about the Mendeley, Elsevier acquisition and the importance of content discovery to academic publishers. Mendeley supports storing, sharing and the recommending of academic content to over 2 million people, its sophisticated analytics provide data on sales rates and can show measurable proof of online successes or failures.

With Elsevier providing the content and Mendeley supporting analysis of distribution, the company has opened up to an array of potential investment opportunities as well as created a window into what content customers are using and how they are using it. Such highly valuable solutions to publishers of digital content are a bench mark for further acquisitions in the academic publishing world.


While news of these high profile purchases broke within the last month, it’s important to note that in 2010, News Corp made a successful bid for a 90% controlling stake in Wireless Generation, an educational content & assessment company. After delays throughout 2011, Wireless Generation was finally rebranded and re-launched into a new education division called Amplify in July 2012, building assessment and learning analytics, digital curriculum and content delivery into News Corps educational offering. This re-launch comes at a time when the standard model of ed-tech, academic publishing and education publishing is being challenged by the growth in digital distribution.

While it is possible to surmise that News Corp sat on their acquisition until a more preferable climate in the education technology market took hold, News Corps issues with customer confidence, and the growing concern over big data, may prove to hinder the venture regardless. However, with News Corp’s huge reservoir of funds and resources as well as global market penetration, the education technology market could be in for a corporate picking. With the sophisticated analytics of Amplify, News Corp will have all the supporting data to hone and improve their educational offerings to potentially corner the growing market.

The trend of publishers acquiring tech start-ups looks set to continue, but as schools in the UK and in America move towards more digital and online learning experiences and academic publishers look to build on investment in digital distribution, the ability to measure success and to refine what works and what doesn’t will only increase in importance. Analytics will be vital in attracting investment to a wide range of publishers and to definitively prove who offers the best in educational experiences and academic research.