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eLearning Update: K12 Inc. Buys Kaplan Virtual Ed.

There's been lots of moving and shaking in the world of online education this week. (Sources close to the situation won't say if said moving and shaking are tremors related to the earthquake that will commence tomorrow's upcoming rapture.)

K12 Inc. Thursday announced the purchase of the credit-bearing assets of Kaplan Virtual Education, or KVE, a subsidiary of New York-based Kaplan Inc., in a deal with financial terms not yet disclosed, according to a press release.

K12, which is based in Herndon, Va., and is the largest provider of K-12 online curricula and programs in the country, will be taking over a division that operates online public schools in eight states for grades 6-12, as well as assorted private schools.

According to the Dow Jones Newswires, Kaplan Inc. had only recently gotten involved in the formal online education business when it founded KVE in 2007. Just months ago, Dow Jones reports, it bought Insight Schools Inc. to grow the very same division it is now selling.

"While our experience in online learning made the Insight Schools an attractive acquisition with long-term potential, we determined that the timing was not right for us to devote intensive energy and resources to this initiative right now," a Kaplan spokesman told Dow Jones in an emailed statement. "Exiting this business will enable us to focus on our core businesses of higher education and test preparation."

• The Arlington, Va.-based Public Broadcasting Service, or PBS, is uniting with Boston affiliate WGBH and other member stations to launch PBS LearningMedia, a new platform available to teachers and students by the 2011-2012 school year that will be the home for all of PBS' available online educational content.

The project will eventually include a for-pay option, according to a press release, quite an unusual feature for any PBS product, which typically relies on government funding, and public and private contributions, but has been labeled as a target for national and state-level budget cuts as of late.

The project appears to be largely a reorganization first, with the preliminary phases being the combination of existing infrastructure models from PBS' digital library, as well as local services from WGBH, WNET-New York, and Kentucky Educational Television, or KET.

As it grows, the service will be available in a basic free mode and a more nuanced pay-for-use model. The latter will include options for bulk registrations, detailed analytics, assessments to correspond with material, and even professional development courses.

• And also Thursday, education publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt launched its Global Education Challenge calling for ideas to transform K-12 education, which will be hosted on a collaborative online platform.

The competition will offer up $250,000 in cash and prizes to the winners, including $100,000 for first and $25,000 for second. It will be paid for from part of the publisher's $100 million innovation fund that was announced last September.

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