Echo360 Acquires Ann Arbor’s Lecture Tools

Virginia-based education tech company Echo360 announced today that it has acquired Ann Arbor, MI-based startup Lecture Tools, which makes a digital student-engagement platform. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Perry Samson, the University of Michigan professor who developed Lecture Tools, will remain in his position as U-M’s Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences while also serving as Head of Education Innovation at Echo 360

Sampson began working on Lecture Tools in 2005 as a research project with the goal of better engaging students in large university classrooms through their smartphones, tablets, and laptops. The Lecture Tools technology—which is a Web-based student feedback, note-taking, and inquiry system—was created as part of an attempt to improve the quality of crowded classrooms at universities, where financial constraints often prevent schools from hiring more faculty.

“We’re trying to raise the bar and make classes far more interactive,” Samson says. “It’s a need I had, and I expect other faculty had a similar need. Lecture Tools was developed by the people who are actually going to use it, and that makes it really authentic.”

Richard Taylor, Echo360’s chief marketing officer, describes his company’s relationship with Lecture Tools as a “perfect marriage,” since Echo360’s blended learning and lecture-capturing software is used by 1 million students at more than 600 schools in 30 countries. “We focus on the before and after [class], and Lecture Tools focuses on the during,” Taylor adds. “Now we can offer students an end-to-end experience.”

Since officially launching in 2011, Lecture Tools has been implemented by professors at more than 30 colleges and universities in the United States, Canada, and Asia. As part of the deal, the Lecture Tools team will stay in Ann Arbor. (“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Taylor notes.) In fact, Samson expects to grow quickly and start hiring designers and engineers within days. “Ann Arbor will become a center for designing an active learning platform that encompasses what a student does both inside and outside the classroom,” Samson says.

Samson, a serial entrepreneur who co-founded Weather Underground, which was sold to the Weather Channel last summer, says that U-M’s office of tech transfer and the TechArb student accelerator were instrumental in the success of Lecture Tools. “We’re very happy, and we’re looking forward to where we go next.”

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