D2L: Driving the Desire to Learn

John Baker, President & CEO, D2LJohn Baker, President & CEO Traditionally, every student sitting in a classroom often proceeds through a set of course material at the same pace, taking the same assessments and accessing the same content,” says John Baker, Founder and CEO, D2L. “I wanted to have a positive, transformational impact on education.” Baker was committed to change the traditional learning framework of a classroom from acetate overheads to a more engaging technology-enabled structure. “How could we use technology to dramatically transform learning?” His response took the shape of an education tech business called D2L. Taking a modernized approach toward learning, D2L greatly focused on mobile learning, which was almost an alien idea in 1999 at the height of the Dot com craze. Baker’s journey to build the business did not proceed in a standard linear path. “It was a tough go. We had to evangelize for the idea and spent the first ten years largely trying to convince people to think about a new way of education.”

The end result of these struggles was D2L’s Brightspace, an innovative and effective learning platform, built with an aim to generate an optimal effect, aligned with the major education mission metrics—such as improving learning outcomes, growing student engagement, and enhancing retention and graduation rates.“Technology is only the vehicle for achieving personalized learning. For it to have a major impact on learners, it needs to be aligned with policy and pedagogy,” opines Baker. “This is why we work closely with schools to encourage them to evolve their approach toward implementing Brightspace.”

Beyond Traditional LMS

Traditional Learning Management Systems (LMS) have been predominantly restricted to be used as content delivery systems with simple testing and online discussion functions. “Managing learning is not enough anymore, which is why we are helping move the industry to an Integrated Learning Platform (ILP) approach.” Brightspace is a thought beyond the traditional LMS and an opportunity to position itself in a learning environment that is more flexible and intelligent. It is a hub for personalized learning. Brightspace incorporates not just the LMS or the management system for learning, but a whole range of other components like adaptive learning, predictive modeling, e-portfolio, and video technology. It is designed to foster smarter learners and help eliminate the attainment gap by featuring new faculty user interface triggering adaptive learning to the masses.

Brightspace Binder is a cross-platform app that makes it easy for students to store and view all their learning materials in one convenient place

With Brightspace, learning is faster as it features ‘drag and drop’ content into courses, automates common tasks, and sends feedback quickly. The user experience is clean, simple, and designed for rapid adoption on all devices. Anything can be accessed from anywhere, counting on cloud hosting for reliable uptime. Brightspace offers the institution the flexibility to brand their courses, customize the interface, and present simple slides or rich multimedia content. It can turn raw data into real insights to quickly provide timely guidance. As a smart platform, Brightspace spots at-risk students sooner, and helps them before it is too late, using predictive analytics. Brightspace is a Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) standards-compliant LMS with a complete API set and pre-built integrations making it smarter, easier-to-use, and flexible.

“Education is positioned to shift away from a one-size-fits-all model to a more personalized approach. This idea is a dominating part of the constantly improving toolset in the Brightspace ILP,” cites Baker.

Effortless Mobile Learning Experience

Few years ago, mobile learning was all about what technology, devices, and apps should be used in the classroom. Today, the heart of the discussion is around how ‘all-the-time, everywhere effective learning’ can be buttressed with mobile technology. Working in parallel with this transition, D2L has integrated Brightspace Binder to its platform. Binder is a cross-platform app that makes it easy for students to store and view all their learning materials in one convenient place. It is an effortless way to keep track of course content. Students have the advantage of adding materials directly from Brightspace Learning Environment or importing resources from external sources. Course documents, notes, and digital textbooks can be easily accessed using Binder. Notes and bookmarks can be added wherever needed, giving students an engaging way to interact with content. The Binder app keeps students connected with their learning content so that they can access it whenever they need to—through Facebook integration and offline access of downloaded materials.

As the next move, D2L’s Brightspace Pulse, an early mobile app to connect instructors and students, empowers students to receive time-sensitive course information and prepare for it. Designed to notify students on their workload, schedules, and grades, Pulse provides students with the material that can enable them to manage their study time, priorities, and workload.

With one quick view, students can check their courses to see the readings, assignments, and tests that are coming up as well as add their own personal milestones. Using the app, students customize their workload views with weekly, monthly, or term visualizations.

Apart from Pulse, Brightspace Assignment Grader app, solely focuses on making marking faster and more effective. The app gives instructors and students on-the-go access to submitted assignments and tools for providing detailed feedback in any format. “D2L mobile solutions support today’s learners who rely heavily on their mobile devices to take their learning on the go, to access their courses, and to interact with their peer, instructors, and institutions anytime, anywhere,” remarks Baker.

"Technology is only the vehicle for achieving personalized learning"

At D2L, it is believed that mobile learning is much more than access to LMS; it involves engagement and personalized experiences that deliver real results for learners and connecting with them in ways they expect, using their phone. The company’s mobile learning solutions keep learners on track, organized, and confident that they can achieve their learning goals. It is about motivating and supporting students on their learning journey. For instance, using Brightspace, Lambton College, based in Ontario, Canada, was able to design their curriculum that features avatars and competitive components, like scoreboards, and make them available to students to access in interactive ways—right from their mobile devices.

New and Improved Features

D2L has helped over 15 million students and educators connect, using Brightspace, and is today continuing to modernize education with new products to save instructors’ time and help students graduate on the dot with tools that makes their lives easier. In the Spring 2016 Release, D2L announced ‘Brightspace Daylight User Experience’—a new and improved feature for Brightspace products that adapts responsively to different device sizes, allowing learners to focus on what is most important. The Daylight experience is showcased in Brightspace Assignment Grader for Android tablets and Brightspace Capture.

The company is also working towards introducing changes into the Brightspace learning environment which will be configurable and customizable for clients when they are ready for it. “We are delighted to see that more than one-third of the Spring 2016 Release came from the suggestions on Product Ideas Exchange (PIE), which is an area within the Brightspace Community for faculty, administrators, and other non-student roles to submit new feature requests to D2L. Our customers will continue to shape and influence our roadmap to make learning more engaging and affordable than ever,” concludes Baker.

- Akanksha Mani
    March 07, 2017