We have never lived through a moment like this. The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down the NBA and the NHL. It has shut down Broadway plays. It’s even made everyone from Google work from home.
The pandemic is closing schools—at least for a while—and I expect that roughly half a billion students worldwide will need to find new ways to learn or risk falling behind.
This is a moment that many of us working in online education had predicted would come. And for years, many of us have been working with boards and schools on smaller-scale projects to prepare for mass closures. In these times of disruption, I am astounded by all the great work that has been done by the educational community.
In the US, we at D2L worked with Gwinnett online to create a comprehensive snow-day plan for their students. We did the same for a school board in Canada. And those small-scale projects proved what we already suspected—that lost days in the classroom don’t have to mean lost educational days. Not if you’re prepared. Not if you have a plan.
With the arrival of COVID-19, a lot of schools are now playing catchup to what I believe will be the new global normal—having the ability to switch from classroom-based learning to exclusively online learning at the drop of a hat.
Certainly, that’s what we’re hearing right now. D2L serves millions of students each day in 40 countries and is working hand-in-hand with schools all over the world to get students learning using everything from supporting live-streaming courses to helping clients with online exams that incorporate artificial intelligence to proctor. We are doubling our efforts to help clients move rapidly to a fully online model.
To do that, our D2L team is working nonstop to support worldwide requests from higher education institutions and school districts to move some or all of their learning online. In Asia, D2L has launched hundreds of online courses and programs for students in the past couple of months that have not been able to return to campuses in Australia or other countries. In North America, institutions have given the company less than 24-hour notice to switch from classroom learning to online learning.
Now—let’s be clear—this is not a normal scenario. We hope this will be a once-in-a-hundred-years scenario. And in this defining moment in history, I am proud of the leadership our team is demonstrating, and the care they are putting into the interactions with our clients, partners, and community. I’m very proud of how we are pulling together as a company to tackle the issues, communicate, solve the hard problems, and remove bottlenecks.
Right now, there are 300 million students out of school already—and we can’t even begin to count the training that is suspended in corporate learning environments. And I’m proud of how our clients and D2Lers are coming together to do their part to help make sure the education response to COVID-19 is just as robust as the medical or economic response.
We will do everything we can to save the school year, to keep students learning and schools functioning, and to prevent what I am calling an “education recession.” Let’s work together to move the school year forward.
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.
LinkedIn: John Baker
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