Distance learning and educational software provider Echo360 has acquired ThinkBinder, a social collaboration tool that helps students communicate with one another and share files over the Internet, for an undisclosed sum.

ThinkBinder doesn’t do anything particularly revolutionary, but it combines a number of robust tools in a single package. Users can see who’s online at anytime, similar to Skype and chat using an instant messaging client or group video call feature.

There’s also a group calendar, a virtual whiteboard and area for uploading and downloading specific files.

The interface and overall design is a little underwhelming, but the premise is sound and Echo360 plans to use the underlying technology, rather than the current product, to boost its existing services and solutions.

“Students benefit with crowdsourced learning while instructors can participate and monitor as needed,” Fred Singer, CEO of Echo360 said. “This drastically improves an institution’s ability to enhance the experience for on-campus, distance and even MOOC students by creating a connected and collaborative online learning experience.”

Echo360 is on a bit of a spending spree at present. The company acquired LectureTools in November last year, which was originally a research project by Dr. Perry Samson at the University of Michigan.

It allowed lecturers to important any existing PowerPoint slideshow presentation and enhance it with interactive activities, such as polls or student feedback. The use of a virtual feedback system was particularly novel, as it helped student who were afraid to ask questions during class, as well as teachers who ran out of time for a formal Q&A session.

Combined with ThinkBinder, Echo360 has the tools to create an online teaching solution that is rather unique. Echo360 already records, broadcasts and archives traditional classroom lectures and instructional material for students who were unable to attend. The content is then accessible from any device, including smartphones, tablets or desktop PCs.

The idea that the Internet can give anyone in the world access to a robust education isn’t a new one. Nevertheless, it’s important and encouraging to see companies such as Echo360 creating tailored tools that can help improve the online learning experience.

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