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D2L: Reshaping Stale Learning in the Name of Quality Education


Prior to the 20th century, teachers didn’t have the use of technology available at their fingerprints. Classrooms lacked suitable educational equipment, whereas students craved for their effortful tasks to be registered and graded accordingly.

Without the rightful feedback at hand, students spent more hours at school, trying to accomplish massive assignments only using basic tools.

But when the dot-com era arrived, people derailed from the traditional way of doing business and instead, revolutionized every sector in every profitable industry. However, in the midst of this automatization, no one gave education the reform it so desperately needed.

Well, at least not until John Baker took matters into his own hands and decided to give education the technological revamp it deserved. On a mission to forever alternate the way people learn, John ultimately developed a competency-based learning platform fit for the needs of college students.

His platform, today known as D2L, became a safe nook for young entrepreneurs who could now feed on additional advanced knowledge, whilst simultaneously holding onto their job.

Learn more about how bare educational necessity, driven by intellect, pizzaz, and a never-ending pursuit of favorable change, led John to become one of the most accomplished millionaires in their 30s. Read this amazing story here:

A Desire Is Born

Born in 1977, in Newfoundland, Canada, John Baker roots from a tree of passionate educators. His mother, father and grandfather were not only zealous to reflect their knowledge to the younger generations, but also to encourage their own skill development process in the younger generation.

Growing up, John could note the power education granted to people, and the way it led them to become just about anything they desired. Visiting his parents’ home to pay their respects, many of their former students nurtured a fascination with John, which would later open him a window of opportunity to impact education in practice.

Regardless of how loyal John was to his family tree, he never thought of himself as a teacher. Instead, he urged to appeal to a generous number of people worldwide and offer them a one-size-fits-all educational solution. The only way this would be possible was through changing the entire concept of traditional teaching, and zesting up the concept with some much-needed innovation.

Not the easiest bite to chew, John double-considered his future profession before enrolling in engineering studies as a tactic of blending the best of both worlds - smart tech solutions and high-quality education!

An Epiphany Moment That Turned Many Lives Around

Being immersed in system design engineering studies at the University of Waterloo left John somewhat unfulfilled. With top-notch education still bubbling in the back of his mind, John compared his current ways of learning and found there was much more room for education to evolve. His classrooms supported no less than 60 students at once - a burdening number for those looking to stand out from the pack.

This inefficiency showed both in the way students were graded and in the amount of time given to finish their given tasks. Considering the shattered educational system, John realized that what students were lacking was expert knowledge, and an available one while at it. What he wanted to create as an answer to the problem was a platform that would make learning and time management not just possible but attainable, too.

Before he could implement all of this, John spent all his free time in the library looking for inspiration and guidance. During a period when great inventions exploded on the market, John understood that software metamorphosed whole business industries, while the educational system lagged behind.

In those days, however, the objective of applying technology in the classroom was still far-fetched. Once noting the educational system was on the brink of a collapse, John aimed for a greater, from-scratch change.

Initially, he contemplated building a software to help facilitate the grading process by instantly evaluating student assignments and providing feedback on the spot. With it, he strived to enable students to learn as extensively as possible, whenever and no matter the circumstances.

While still a student, John coded his own project website and passionately set the grounds of what was to become one of the most inspiring teaching and learning platforms worldwide - and D2L popped into existence!

A Challenging Success

D2L was first launched in early 1999, when John was only twenty-two. Thereupon, John recruited his first trio of employees - his two brothers and his sister. Even so, John still had to develop a method of paying his future employees - something he wasn’t able to do for his siblings - and build trust inside the learning community.

Not long after the launch, John went knocking on faculty members' doors, asking them to join him on a mission to change and basically save the educational system. His idea was modern, digitized, and grew high hopes for a successful reform. Yet, as a brand new concept, John’s vision failed to impress his teachers who wasted no time in declining his proposition.

Undeterred, he continued, but another challenge John encountered along the way was a lack of funds to help him advertise his company. It seemed as though many interested parties found John’s idea of mobilizing and computing education - laughable.

Nonetheless, John foresaw the future of digitalization as if looking inside a crystal ball. Fed by his ambitions and benevolent mission, John was certain a client would come along eventually - and so it happened. D2L’s initial partner of interest was the University of Guelph, soon followed by VirtualHighSchool and the University of Waterloo.

Once John signed his first contracts with universities, he wanted to make an even greater impact- making the product useful for everyone, not just university students. So, he contacted Cheryl Ainoa, at that time working for Yahoo to join them as COO.

Why her?

Cheryl was a mother of two, and a teacher's wife who had seen each irregularity that schools had, and was eager to make a change- take the off-line classrooms and move them online!

And, move they did!

The Rise of D2L

Unbelievable as it sounds, people started hearing about D2L by word of mouth and shortly after the company counted 20 employees!

Gathered together the team realized that students spend more than 60% with content, so they had to add to the website a place where lecture slides, explanations, readings and videos could be uploaded easily.

With all this content available to the learners, they didn't have to be obliged to finish a course within a certain time-frame, instead, they could master a certain skill according to individual abilities.

Once this idea was realized, the company found steady clients to work with, and was ripe for expansion.

Owing to John's desire to make studying different from preparing for exams, and focus it on pondering the big questions in life, exploring research and relationships in the community - D2L thrived even more.

By 2006, the company doubled their employment count while John developed his latest project for Waterloo, ultimately sharing a room - and his vision - with a variety of key founders such as those of MKS, Blackberry and OpenText.

However, that same year, Blackboard issued D2L with a lawsuit for patent infringement. This uneasy setback expanded shockingly over the course of four years, but after enforcing a reasonable and elaborate counterattack, the D2L team won the exhausting battle against its rival and pursued business as usual.

First Funding & Organization Acquiring

In 2012, D2L managed to raise a ravishing $80 million with a little help from New Enterprise Associates, OMERS Ventures. Just two months later, the Canadian government funded the company with an incredible $3.5 million, while in 2014, D2L received an additional $85 million during a series B funding round.

Together, the company’s eight investors managed to raise a dazzling $168.5 million, over three rounds of funding. The first one came from Capsule Technologies in 2011. During the following year, D2L snapped up Wiggio, today known LeaP, and finally making its last inquisition in 2013 by adding Knowillage to the funding party.

D2L, Today

Nowadays, D2L makes an outstanding $180.99 million in annual revenue, employing over 800 people. With headquarters based in Canada, and offices in the US, Singapore, Europe, Brazil, and Australia, D2L is a platform used by over 1,200 universities, companies, and schools, as well as over 15 million students.

From cloud nine to developing a remarkable cloud-based software intended for online classrooms worldwide, D2L did the field of education a monumental service and continues to do so, reputably, bounteously and diligently!