D2L founder and CEO John Baker reflects on the year that was, and what’s to come in 2017.
Are you going to remember 2016 as the year Trump was elected? As the year the Cubs finally won the World Series? The year we lost Prince, Bowie and Leonard Cohen? Or the year Brazil hosted the summer Olympics?
Those are all big, world-changing events, for sure. But for me, 2016 will always be the year that my own little corner of the world changed in a really big way. This year, my daughter was born. And ever since, I’ve looked at everything differently.
Having a baby does that to you. Suddenly, you see the world in a new way — almost like you’re seeing it for the first time. You see the wonder they see. You see endless possibility in them. And every day — in every new experience you share with them or see through their eyes — you’re reminded that we humans are all about growth and change. It’s literally in our DNA.
That’s certainly been true at D2L. As I look back at 2016, I see four major examples of growth and change in our company.
Innovating like never before
It’s really gratifying seeing early prototypes that we started in previous years mature into scaled innovation in 2016. And we’re also seeing a real impact in terms of those innovations helping people achieve their goals.
This year we invested heavily with our R&D and operations teams to make our core learning platform that much better. Customers are trying our new Daylight User Experience that works across any device and user feedback has been very positive.
We’re investing in learning analytics, game-based learning, video, and at the same time, ensuring a focus on the core tools that our clients use every day, like quizzing, intelligent agents and grading workflows — all of which improve the products our customers love. And that’s what gets me up in the morning. (Well, that and our baby demanding breakfast, of course).
Leading the way in uptime
Many of this year’s improvements – those that have made our platform more efficient, resilient and future-proof – aren’t visible. But they show up when it counts. We have had an exceptional year when it comes to uptime. In fact, our company had one of our best years in uptime ever, which is no small feat considering the growth we’ve seen across all three of our client base segments in Higher Ed, K-12 and Enterprise. Plus, we now have almost every one of our customers in our cloud and receiving regular monthly updates with zero downtime.
What that means for our learners is that, while they’re always getting the latest in innovation, they’re also experiencing a more stable, more dependable learning environment — and I feel that when they can use our products even more confidently, that translates into even better learning outcomes.
Expanding into more markets
When I look at D2L’s growth in traditional markets – and in new markets like Colombia, Finland or the Netherlands — I not only see us moving forward in numbers, but also in market segments.
We’re seeing big state-wide customers, as well as individual K-12 schools, using Brightspace to bring tech into the classroom, from kindergarten to grade 12.
Higher Ed is growing too – with new clients including Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and Universidad Cooperativa de Colombia showing that they truly care about improving educational outcomes.
And our new enterprise customers are embracing our dynamic learner experiences that are helping to increase employee engagement. This is a great accomplishment because our customers are passionate about improving learning, and together we’re helping millions of individual learners find success.
Building a culture of awesome
One of the most rewarding changes this year had nothing to do with sales or the bottom line. This year, D2L launched some amazing cultural initiatives within the company, like our brand new volunteer program that encourages our people to take two days of paid volunteer time to improve their communities.
Plus, our teams love that they are working on the latest technology with cutting edge engineering practices and design – while still having a balance between work and home life – that really unlocks creativity and energy in the company. The recent three-day creative conference for our 300 engineers and developers is a great example of the investment we are making in our people. It’s going to lead to some really great ideas that will make 2017 awesome for our clients and company.
There’s no doubt 2016 has been a big year for the history books politically and culturally. It’s been an exceptional year for our company, too. But my real hope is that this year has been one of growth and change for all of you, as well. Whether in your personal or your professional life, I hope this year has been rewarding for you — and that it’s set the stage for even bigger and better things in 2017.
All the best from our family to yours, and I look forward to working with you in the New Year!