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Lessons From Fusion 2023

  • 3 Min Read

From the role of AI to the importance of accessibility and upskilling, here are my key takeaways from Fusion 2023.

John Baker
John Baker

CEO and Board Chair

This year, the D2L community convened in Anaheim, California, for our annual Fusion conference. To get warmed up there were group dance lessons, yoga classes, jogging and even a sensory room to refocus to be ready for the next session. There were thoughtful conversations, insightful workshops, and a real sense of renewed energy and excitement from attendees.

This year’s theme, “My Learning Moment” was centered around transformative and enlightening instances during the learning journey, often referred to as “eureka moments.” Many attendees experienced their own learning moments at Fusion by sharing and sparking ideas through formal workshops and in casual conversations. Notwithstanding the challenges our world and our learning communities continue to face, I witnessed the determination among attendees to seize this moment to embrace better learning experiences, digital transformation, and creative problem-solving.

After reflecting on what we learned together, here are my four key takeaways from Fusion 2023:

A Skills-Enabled Future: Amidst a transformative, post-COVID, AI-powered climate—there has never been a greater need for upskilling of the workforce. At Fusion, we explored the importance of a skills-enabled approach to everything from curriculum design in higher-ed to new job expectations in the corporate world—ways to see that the skills people have are valued and making an impact. Ultimately, platforms like D2L Wave that can help address evolving needs for working learners will be invaluable. That’s a message I heard time and again from people I spoke with in Anaheim.

Get Ready, the Future Is AI-Driven: Exec summit keynote speaker Matt Beane (UC Santa Barbara) opened our eyes to the role that AI will soon play (and is already playing) in skills development, predicting that the future of work and learning will be chimeric—a combination of intelligent machines and humans that forms something unlike what we’re used to seeing. That transition is underway. We should approach AI thoughtfully and carefully—making sure we get the system right—to multiply the effects of AI with the right human learning moments that will have the biggest impact.

We saw the potential of AI in Fusions Solution Spotlight as well, with a demonstration of how generative AI can help educators create images or questions in D2L Brightspace—an impressive new way to integrate formative assessment into courses that can help save educators time while still giving them full control over content.

Accessibility Is Key: Fusion also connected attendees passionate about creating accessible learning experiences and removing barriers to learning. More than ever, institutions and organizations are looking to break down barriers for students and to deliver equitable, accessible learning. And we’re thrilled to partner with them in that endeavor.

At Fusion, we heard from speakers like Kim Scalzo and Mark Greenfield, who helped SUNY System Administration streamline the process for integrating reviewing tools for EIT accessibility compliance. And we saw new Brightspace features like accessible hotspots—accessible grids in Brightspace with micro alt tags that help describe the content of each cell—providing screen readers with the same contextual information as other learners.

Learning Is Fundamentally Human, and Always Will Be: Above all, the biggest takeaway for me was that learning is, and will remain, a human activity.

In my own keynote, I noted that, “We always seem to collectively forget that not only are humans incredibly adaptable, but we are the ones who make the technology. It is a human construct. It is an extension of who we are, not a replacement for us. The fundamental truth about being human is that we all long for connection. We all want to be loved. We all want to learn and to become better, sure, but never at the cost of who we are. We shape our tools, but we need to acknowledge they shape us, too. Which is why it’s essential we humans keep our hand on the wheel to ensure that technology ultimately improves the quality of our lives.”

From the conversations I have had at Fusion 2023, and from the panels and workshops I attended, those holding the wheel of education around the world have a firm grasp on where we need to go, in this learning moment. I’m looking forward to learning even more at Fusion next year in Toronto.

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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