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If D2L Built Desks, This Is How We Would Do It

  • 4 Min Read

Why D2L built a desk

John Baker
John Baker

CEO and Board Chair

Recently, you may have seen this video on your social channels featuring a one-of-a-kind school desk that D2L created.

As you know, D2L doesn’t make desks. But we made this one. And I’m going to tell you why. 

It’s been over 20 years since I started D2L as an undergraduate at the University of Waterloo and built a team to help make learning better for learners across the world—to help break down the barriers that can get in the way of high-quality learning experiences and inspire people to achieve more than they ever dreamed possible. Learning has a wonderful ripple effect—from one person to another—across our campuses, communities, companies, countries and even from one generation to another. I set out to build a learning platform that could bring that vision to life.   

In much of the world, many aspects of education, whether in school, at university or in the workplace, haven’t changed much since I was in school. In many cases, learning still isn’t designed to respond to individual learning needs—learners still get the same instructions, tests, and are expected to complete everything all at the same time. It’s a one-size-fits-all approach—a bit like a traditional school desk. 

The desk’s design hasn’t changed much since I was at school—or for many decades before I sat in one. In fact, I have a one-room schoolhouse desk in my house today—one that my kids’ grandmother sat in when she was in elementary school—and it’s practically the same as the ones you can see at the beginning of our video! The form and function of the school desk is assumed to be good enough for everyone, whether you fit into it comfortably or not—just like how learning is sometimes still conventionally delivered. There’s no way to make it your own. 

But we know that one size doesn’t always fit all, whether it’s a desk or learning activities.  

Now, D2L doesn’t build desks, but we asked ourselves: what would one look like if we did? What if we could rethink the school desk to be more like D2L Brightspace, our learning innovation platform? What if we could make a desk that could adapt to each person’s unique needs? What kind of impact would that have on the learners who use this platform every day?  

As you can see and hear from the kids in our video, the reimagined desk that we created in 

partnership with creative agencies Zulu Alpha Kilo and Dystil, had an immediate and positive impact. Not only did the desk pique their curiosity, it also suddenly made learning seem more accessible and fun—not to mention more comfortable. It’s inspiring.  

I think more aspects of our learning environments should be like this. The right platform can inspire and help to enable learners and educators to be more creative and to build more human connections—that is at the core of a better learning experience. 

This is what a learning innovation platform like Brightspace can do. It can help educators create better learning experiences backed by learning science—even if they don’t know how to animate or write software. It can help to make learning more accessible and meaningful to each one of us by captivating our natural curiosity, harnessing our individual talent and opening new avenues of enlightenment that connect learners to the activities, and foster better collaboration and feedback. Far from removing the human element of learning from classrooms or other learning environments, the right tools or technology can help to enhance those personal relationships. They can create more space for educators to engage with students in ways that can help address their individual and collective learning needs.  

This desk exemplifies the shift we are making in traditional education and corporate learning.As we help clients move up the adoption curve from digitizing what happens in the classroom, to optimizing for better learning outcomes and personalization, to truly transforming the learning experience our goal is to make learning more human, inspiring and engaging. 

At D2L, we believe in the power of learning to help change people’s lives. And for over 20 years, we’ve created products that can help people design and deliver more accessible, meaningful and engaging learning experiences. Our track record of innovation is built on the simple idea that is embodied by this reimagined school desk: that everyone is unique—and their learning platform should help equip them for the future and inspire them to dream bigger. 

Written by:

John Baker
John Baker

CEO and Board Chair

John founded D2L in 1999, at the age of twenty-two, while attending the University of Waterloo. D2L is a global software company that believes learning is the foundation upon which all progress and achievement rests.

A strong believer in community involvement, John devotes both his personal and business efforts to supporting young entrepreneurs who are developing and applying technology to improve society worldwide.

He was appointed to the Governing Council of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Member (Entrepreneurs’ Circle) of the Business Council of Canada, Business Higher Education Roundtable, Past Chair of the Board of Communitech, and is a board member of Canada’s National Ballet School.

John was awarded the Meritorious Service Cross, the EY Entrepreneur of the Year (Ontario for Software and Technology), Young Alumni Achievement Medal from University of Waterloo, and Intrepid Entrepreneur of the Year in Waterloo Region Hall of Fame.

John graduated from the University of Waterloo with an Honours B.A.Sc. in Systems Design Engineering, with First Class Honours and an option in Management Sciences.

Twitter: @JohnBakerD2L
LinkedIn: John Baker
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