April 25, 2023: A Q&A with USDLA Sponsor D2L — Meet CEO John Baker

Welcome to the 4/24 issue of USDLA News

Introducing our members to one of our sponsors is always an honor. This week, we have the privilege of interviewing John Baker, CEO of D2L (pictured right).

“We provide a cloud-based learning management system (LMS) that provides a platform for creating, delivering, and managing educational content and online learning experiences,” John explains. “It offers a range of tools and features for instructors, such as course creation, content management, assessment and grading, and communication and collaboration. D2L also provides students access to course materials, assignments, discussions, and tools for tracking their progress and engaging with peers and instructors. D2L is used by K-12 schools, higher education institutions, and corporate training programs worldwide.”

Scroll down to learn more!

And don’t forget to sign up for our July 17-20 National Conference in Orlando, FL, which is just three months away. In the coming weeks, we’ll introduce you to our fabulous presenters — including today’s feature on Cheryl Dowd, Senior Director, SAN & WCET Policy Innovations, and Kathryn Kerensky, Director, Digital Learning Policy & Compliance, State Authorization Network.

Their topic: Federal Groundhog Day? Another Federal Rulemaking Affecting Distance Education. Scroll down for details. Click here to view the entire session schedule.

This just in: We have completed our Member Election. Stay tuned for details!

We’ll be back next Tuesday with another issue of USDLA News. Thank you for your continued support of the association, and if you are not a member, be sure to join us: https://usdla.org/membership/level/.— Pat Cassella, USDLA Executive Director

D2L: Driven by the belief that everyone deserves access to high-quality education

Q&A with John Baker, CEO of D2L

USDLA: Tell us about your company. You have a long history. Share that with us, and please tell us about the need it needs to be fulfilled in the industry.

John: I started D2L in 1999, at twenty-two, while attending the University of Waterloo. Inspired by a class project, I started to think big. I asked myself: “What is the most important problem I can help solve that would have the biggest impact on the world?” Since both my parents were teachers, my thoughts naturally turned to education. Back then, the internet was brand new, and it struck me that we could use this revolutionary tool to improve access to education. Delivering better learning experiences to as many people as possible worldwide could have a massive impact – not just for K-12 or higher education students but adults charting a lifelong learning course. D2L grew steadily by creating a leading platform, Brightspace, that offers a more personalized and meaningful learning experience – and then Wave, which streamlines workplace talent development and makes building skills and empowering growth easier.

USDLA: What have been your organization’s biggest challenges?

John: The COVID-19 pandemic was difficult. Even though, by that time, D2L and Brightspace were well-established and leading in the LMS space, there were significant pressures to demands to deliver quickly on what was a significant and immediate demand. That said, we rose to the challenge, and I think it helped confirm that fully online or hybrid learning, supported by the right technology, can be as impactful (and in some cases more) as in-class learning environments. That said, because of how online learning was implemented in many places – quickly, with poor technology, or simply not learner-centric – some may have come away with the opposite impression. That presents us with a new challenge as we look to grow and reach more learners worldwide.

USDLA: What are your company’s big wins?

John: Over the last couple of decades, we’ve put together a great company filled with talented engineers, designers, educators, builders, and creators. That’s how D2L has succeeded as a learning company – we focus on solving hard problems for our clients, and we all love to learn! We have a lot to be proud of at D2L. Here are three recent things that stand out for me:

  • Recognition as one of the world’s best learning platforms with a long list of awards. The innovative product and our client satisfaction is driving our momentum across all our markets globally.
  • Expansion into corporate learning: We created D2L Wave to help businesses prepare for the future of work by tackling the skills and talent gap. Wave takes the friction out of workplace talent development, making it easier to build skills, ignite engagement and empower growth.
  • We just launched a new product called Creator+, an authoring system helping educators of any skill level create beautiful, highly interactive, and accessible learning materials with no coding required. Supporting the creators of inspiring learning experiences is important to us.

USDLA: Who is your ideal client, and how has the business grown in recent years?

John: Our ideal clients share our values and our vision to make learning more accessible, personal, and meaningful. Any school, campus, or company that understands the importance of the learning journey is one that we love to work with to help them deliver great outcomes and achieve their learning goals.

USDLA: How has USDLA been helpful in your efforts?

John: USDLA has been helpful to D2L in building relationships with clients and potential clients, including understanding their goals – and struggles – within the online learning sphere. We’ve learned a lot, as we do from all our relationships, and we’ve continued to build tools that help solve those problems and help organizations and clients attain their goals – and help reduce the struggle.

USDLA: What does the future look like for your organization?

John: The future is bright. I am grateful and proud to work with an incredibly talented group of people passionate about learning, technology, and making the world a better place.  We are spending a lot of time with clients today to address gaps in learner engagement, supporting growth in enrollment, and helping clients implement better learning experience to meet the needs of today’s learners.

Lately, I’ve been thinking the future is going to include a lot more lifelong learning. If employers are willing to trust people with big projects with tight deadlines and high stakes, they should also trust people to choose their own ongoing training. We need everyone at their best in order to compete in the high-paced world we live in – and it helps us build more productive and smarter companies. Plus, career growth and skills development are big factors in retention, and that’s particularly important right now.

That’s why I hope we’ll see more support from governments and employers to create the conditions where this learning can take place. At D2L for example, we created “Wave Days” so our team could spend time learning from all the academic partners we have signed up. We also offer $4000/year towards professional development that aligns with our business goals.

To learn more, visit:

Federal Groundhog Day? Another Federal Rulemaking Affecting Distance Education!

Cheryl Dowd, Senior Director, SAN & WCET Policy Innovations,  and Kathryn Kerensky, Director, Digital Learning Policy & Compliance, State Authorization Network

Institutions must be aware of and plan for compliance with Federal regulations that will affect the implementation of distance education courses and programs, including activities across state lines.   Attendees will learn about the ambitious U.S. Department of Education plans to hold another rulemaking to develop new and revised regulations in addition to recently released proposed regulations for which compliance is tied to Title IV Federal Financial Aid. Issues likely to be addressed include the definition of distance education (regular and substantive interaction), working with third-party service providers (such as OPMs), state authorization and reciprocity, and the release of proposed regulations addressing programs that lead to a license or certification.   We will discuss strategies to plan for advocacy and plan for change.