Over the past year, eCollege (NASDAQ:ECLG) has wanted to pursue foreign markets, which would require investments in infrastructure. That process should be much easier now, since the company has agreed to sell out to textbook publisher Pearson (NYSE:PSO). At $22.45 per share, or $477 million total, the deal should benefit both sides. It may even signal more dealmaking to come in the educational sector.

eCollege develops e-learning platforms for colleges, universities, and K-12 schools. Its Datamark division also provides enrollment marketing services.

In fiscal Q1, eCollege's e-learning division posted a healthy 23% increase in revenue, to $14.8 million, and a 46% increase in "adjusted EBITDA," to $4.9 million. Unfortunately, Datamark's been more problematic. In Q1, revenues sank 12% to $13.5 million. Not even Pearson wants this dubious division; eCollege's new parent has agreed to sell it for $41 million to investor group Oakleigh Thorne.

The Pearson deal values eCollege at nosebleed levels of 7.3 times full-year revenues, based on the company's 2007 guidance. Yet for a company of Pearson's size, the impact will likely be neutral to full-year earnings. Pearson will also be able to leverage eCollege's platform across its extensive customer base.

The deal is a bright note for others in the sector, including Blackboard (NASDAQ:BBBB). Its e-learning software dominates the U.S. market, and it can likely create cross-sale opportunities from its acquisition of WebCT. With a growth rate much higher than eCollege's, and a price-to-sales multiple of 4.7, Blackboard looks like an attractive pick in a sector gaining increasing global interest.

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Fool contributor Tom Taulli, author of The Complete M&A Handbook, holds no financial position in any company mentioned above. He's currently ranked 2,093 out of 28,784 rated players in Motley Fool CAPS.