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Learning2030: The Blog of John Baker

This is my personal blog that looks at the future of learning and skills - featuring some of the world's leading thinkers in education and business.

In a fast-changing world, education, professional development and training are changing, too. Discover the ideas and meet the people who are helping companies and educational institutions adapt to change, and helping learners seize new opportunities.

group of D2L employees

Don’t Learn to Swim in a Flood: How One School Dealt with the COVID-19 Crisis

Higher Education institutions have been dealing with the disruptions of the past year—from their students being unable to attend classes in person to an unprecedented drought of international students and its subsequent impact on revenues to the challenges of maintaining and expanding a technology infrastructure to manage a massive amount of change. Today’s schools – no matter where they are in their own journey – need to create resiliency and sustainability.

group of D2L employees

D2L Sweeps Awards in 2020

For many of us, 2020 was a tough year. I think it’s safe to say that the last few months have affected all of us in ways that we won’t fully appreciate until we’ve had some time to process it all. But as a D2Ler, it’s gratifying to end it on a high note. To end it with the recognition that you contributed and a difference in the lives of learners everywhere, and that you truly lived up to the mission and vision of the company.

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Supporting Mastery Learning in a Pandemic, and Beyond

In a pandemic, particularly, we can’t afford any gaps in learning. Students are especially at risk of falling behind right now, and we need an effective and efficient way to identify the gaps in their learning and give them the targeted help they need to get back on track. Mastery View is the next way that we are helping to bring order to a complex activity, to empower teachers and learners, and support the journey toward continuous educational improvement and student mastery.

asian woman smiling

Growing Our Future Talent Today

Goldy Hyder, President and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, discusses where we’ve been, where we are now, and most importantly, where we’re headed – both as an economy and a society. He emphasizes the need to get better at upskilling and reskilling to overcome the fast approaching talent gap.

Virtual Fusion 2020 Celebrates Heroes

D2L held our very first virtual Fusion – which saw six times the number of participants of previous Fusions! This year we celebrated the world’s teachers, faculty, and instructors that have inspired hope and change — and put the tools to achieve that change in the hands of those who need it most. In keeping with this year’s Fusion Theme — “Heroes Unite,” thank you for being the heroes that our world needs right now.

Arming you with the Right Information — Presenting D2L’s Complimentary Course on COVID-19

We’ve created a science-based online course on COVID-19 to anyone who wants to take it, at no cost — built by educators and is based on the science behind. The course helps you understand the global pandemic, its risks, and how to effectively manage them.

Together we can Save the School Year

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.

Every Bit Ethical in a Digital Age

Over the last 20 years, while the technological tools we use have evolved constantly, the values that guide how we apply them to learning have not changed a bit. But staying true to those values is an ongoing challenge – particularly with the almost daily advances we’re seeing in areas like data analytics and artificial intelligence.

In a time of change, D2L stays the course

Recent changes in the industry have made me pause for a moment and reflect on where D2L is at today, how we got here, and why we’re in the learning business in the first place. We continue to stay the course.

Is Bias Baked Into AI?

AI has been making the news a lot—though not always in a good way. I recently spoke with Dr. Jutta Treviranus, one of the world’s foremost authorities in the field of inclusive design on the critical work that remains to ensure that AI accounts for diversity and achieves true inclusivity. Read this blog to learn more.

group working together

In 20 years, all students will participate in work-integrated learning

At this year’s Fusion Conference—I made a bold prediction: in 20 years, all learners will participate in at least one kind of work-integrated experience in their academic career. Why am I so convinced? I explain this and more in my latest blog post.

four students looking at computers

Digital transformation in higher education — the road ahead

In the early days of online learning, digitization wasn’t a transformative or revolutionary development, even though some may have thought it was. Much of what has been counted in the last few decades as “digital transformation” in education really isn’t transformative at all — and we have a lot further to go. In speaking to Dr. Grajek, Vice President for Communities and Research for EDUCAUSE, I learned about her perspective on digital transformation, what it means today and where we need to venture next.

What can Mastery Learning teachers do now that they couldn’t do before?

Mastery learning is a pedagogical philosophy that—for decades—has been practiced by some of the most innovative educators, but it is not without its challenges. Jon Bergmann, chief evangelist of the Flipped Learning Global Initiative, recently shared his views on the progress he has seen in the classroom when it comes to implementing mastery learning. Join me in discovering some of that exciting progress that has been made.

Protecting Student Privacy

When several United States Senators asked us to share with them our practices and values on protecting student data, we were more than happy to contribute as an example of good stewardship. We believe firmly that student data is priceless and its purpose is for education. Read more for our response to their letter and D2L’s privacy practices.

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Why I’m Blogging: A Blog Post

I’ve been asked why I started this blog. It’s about the conversations that are happening right now, all around us, in businesses, in schools and in the halls of academia, about the future of learning as we approach the one-third mark of the 21st century. Join me in this journey of discovering where learning is going.

John Baker on stage

Six Takeaways from Fusion

After reflecting on another successful conclusion of Fusion, there were six highlights that I took away. For a recap of Fusion and its highlights, keep on reading.

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Why CEOs should care about employee engagement

There’s hard data behind it that CEOs need to pay attention to — because an engaged employee is at the heart of modern business success. Employee engagement does more than just increase productivity and profitability — and does even more than raising morale and client satisfaction. It helps to avoid unnecessary costs. There are strategies you can use to get ahead of this. Learn more about how you can take action today.

Why I'm Blogging: A Blog Post image

Student data isn’t valuable – It’s priceless

Tech giants are under fire for how they handle, sell and manage user data. There continues to be fierce debate on the control and ownership of the data. With all this discussion about data privacy in the media, we want to share our overriding and simple principle on learner data. Continue reading to learn our position on this important matter.

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Fueling up:

Upskilling to grow careers

Name: Zaria
Age: 27

Policy prescriptions: Invest in a Learning-Integrated Life; Transform the learning of today with new partnerships; Accelerate the shift to skills-based learning and hiring

Zaria has five years of work experience and is ready to change jobs and enter a field that has high growth potential in her region. The national government has been investing in collecting better skills-based labour market information for years and has developed a public platform to offer individuals specialized tools to assess their skills against current market needs, and to locate employers that are currently hiring.

On the employer side, the human resources team is closely examining a recent internal skills audit done at their organization and determines that the organization needs additional digital marketing specialists. They initiate a search for individuals with the skills they will soon need and spot a strong candidate in Zaria who requires only light training on regulatory issues regarding the sale of electric vehicles, along with some formal skills development courses on social media marketing strategy. After a successful interview, Zaria is offered the job.

Upon joining, Zaria will receive an educational benefits stipend from the company, and access to a company-provided platform of curated programs for skills building from approved providers. Upon completion of a set of courses, Zaria will receive a credential from a company approved program verifying her technical knowledge and marking the end of her probationary period at the company. To ensure she continues to build her skills, she will move into a formal mentor program with one of her colleagues to receive continual peer-to-peer feedback on her demonstration of skills and knowledge. information

This affordable and accessible learning through employer-funded training has enabled Zaria to begin working while also upskilling to ensure her long-term success in the company and growing industry. The employer is investing in its employees, and company leaders are thinking further into the future about the skills the company needs, and the types of job candidates who will succeed. This match, based on skills potential, was made possible because of government investment in high-quality labour market information and a national platform that matches job candidates with career opportunities based on the candidates’ skills and the identified skill needs of a given job.

Taking the road less travelled:

A networked postsecondary education

Name: Sam
Age: 18

Policy prescriptions: Transform the learning of today with new partnerships

Sam is a prospective postsecondary student who has always been interested in pursuing a global and interdisciplinary education. Sam’s siblings have all instilled in her the importance of studying abroad, having spoken fondly of their academic exchange semesters, field research trips, and intensive language immersion programs. She is inspired, but unsure whether this pathway will be available if she chooses not to complete a four-year degree at one institution.

Sam is interested in understanding how emerging technologies can be used to modernize and improve government services—an area in need of talent not only in her home country of Canada but also abroad. She could take on a general political science, public administration, engineering, or computer science degree at the university close to her home, but none of those degrees feels like the right fit to build the skills she needs to pursue this career interest.

While researching options, Sam learns of a new degree completion pathway that allows students to take courses from a network of universities, colleges, and polytechnic institutions throughout Canada and stack them for skills-based  credentials that are recognized by major Canadian employers. A set of four of these credentials grants an individual a degree-equivalent endorsed by each institution. Sam identifies the skills and knowledge she wants to work towards and charts out four credential pathways:

  1. Service delivery design
  2. Change management
  3. Applications of emerging technologies (e.g., artificial intelligence)
  4. Machinery of government

With this customized learning pathway, Sam has full flexibility to decide how she wants to structure her courses, the institutions within the network she will study at, and the format and model of courses she prefers—whether live in-class instruction or online courses.

Cost flexibility is built in as well—students pay a standard fee based on the number of competencies they intend to learn rather than the normal standard of ‘credit hours’. The province in which Sam lives has endorsed this networked model of  postsecondary education and adjusted its financial assistance program to better support students. Grants and other non-repayable assistance take into consideration the number of courses the student is taking across all institutions when assessing financial need. Previously, Sam would have been required to be a full-time student at every institution to receive support.

Sam also has the option of starting with foundational courses or applying for Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) information so her existing knowledge and skills can be tested and she can move on to more advanced topics.

Sam completes her first three credentials in three years and uses her certifications to apply for a one-year work-integrated learning experience with the federal government in Germany where she can learn first-hand about the applications of artificial intelligence in government. When she returns home, she applies for PLAR to certify her learning on the machinery of government and is granted a degree acknowledging her four-part customized education.

The collaboration between universities, polytechnics, and colleges to create a networked approach to degree completion, and its endorsement by the provincial government, allowed Sam to graduate as an alumnus of multiple postsecondary education institutions. Her exposure to different thought spaces and networks was highly valuable for ensuring she was engaged throughout her education and set up for post-graduation success. In the rapidly evolving field she has chosen, she understands how important it is to continuously upskill, and is prepared to return to formal education for more stackable credentials as she continues throughout her career.

Route guidance:

Personalized professional development

Name: ZheYuan
Age: 33

Policy prescriptions: Prepare teachers for their own lifelong learning journeys; Accelerate the shift to skills-based learning and hiring

ZheYuan is about to join Marama’s school as a new secondary school teacher. He completed his professional teacher education a decade ago, and teaching looks a bit different today than it did when he was studying. With the incorporation of learning technologies in the classroom, and expectations of teachers delivering competency-based education information, he needs personalized professional development to feel comfortable and supported in this new opportunity.

The school district has been on its own learning journey since shifting to a competency-based education model, and has had some growing pains. Over time, the district has come to recognize that success depends on school administrators working closely with teachers to co-create systems of instruction, and pathways to professional development. The district has its own online learning management system (LMS) for teacher professional development, with a catalogue of content covering a range of subjects including:

  • Strategies for student-centred instruction
  • Design thinking—how to prototype and iterate on solutions to test new approaches
  • Online content—using learning management systems to advance competency-based education
  • Data analysis—interpreting student progress

ZheYuan is excited that he can take on professional learning to suit his needs on his own schedule. He recalls an earlier time when he had to spend nine hours a month in-person taking the same professional development courses as his peers who were teaching very different subjects and had varied skill levels and pedagogical needs than him, which was less than effective.

ZheYuan can also take advantage of his teacher community in the LMS, connecting both in asynchronous chats and in live discussions with other teachers and experts from across his region to ask questions and share his experiences. He sees some upcoming dialogues hosted by his school district to share learnings and signs up for those sessions, knowing he will get a valuable peer perspective from other teachers. ZheYuan is thankful that his school leaders recognize and value professional learning and provide the supports and the time needed for improvement.

D2L Whitepaper Contributors

Lead Authors:
Malika Asthana, Manager, Strategy and Public Affairs
Joe Pickerill, Senior Director, Strategy and Public Affairs, International

Jeremy Auger, Chief Strategy Officer
Mark Schneiderman, Senior Director, Future of Teaching and Learning
Brendan Desetti, Senior Director, Strategy and Public Affairs, United States
Mike Semansky, Senior Director, Strategy and Public Affairs, Canada
Nia Brown, Senior Manager, Strategy and Public Affairs

In the driver’s seat:

Owning the personalized learning journey

Name: Marama
Age: 14

Policy prescriptions: Prepare teachers for their own lifelong learning journeys; Accelerate the shift to skills-based learning and hiring

Marama is enrolled in a school with a competency-based education model information. Students are responsible for owning the personalization of their learning pathways, making choices alongside their teachers in how and when they learn.iii Teachers play a central role in guiding and validating all learning, regardless of where it takes place—offering formative assessments to evaluate a student’s mastery of skills and knowledge. Teachers use data from these assessments, gathered through an online learning management system (LMS), to differentiate instruction and provide targeted supports so that all students progress toward graduation. As a student diagnosed with a learning disability, Marama is supported in her education by this personalized learning pathway.

All students complete an assessment in ninth grade to identify their natural strengths as a learner. Their teachers use the results as inputs to design tailormade educational pathways with learning materials and activities that suit the individual students’ learning needs. In Marama’s case, this includes:

  1. Supplementing lecture-based teaching with structured but independent reading
  2. Shadowing professionals who work on the concepts she is learning about
  3. Taking the stories and lessons she’s learned and sharing it back with classmates by designing a creative and interactive presentation

Over the course of the school year, Marama spends a third of her time in live lectures (sometimes online) with her teacher alongside other classmates—but the rest of her time is spent learning in the ways that suit her best. She can log into her online LMS from her mobile device to access her school resources and complete on her own schedule before the assigned deadline. When Marama finds a concept that interests her, she can ask her teachers and counsellor for support in finding a working professional to speak to, or work alongside for a couple weeks, from the network her school has curated over time. And when she has learned something, she is encouraged to reinforce her learning by applying her skills and developing content to share back with her classmates.

Marama’s personalized learning journey empowers her to own her education by learning in ways that are effective for her, with the support that allows her to be successful. Her teachers have high-quality data about student strengths and performance they can share with her parents to show them how she is mastering specific skills, and where she may need extra support. Her school experience empowers her to embrace her subject interests very early on, and she advances to deeper topics quickly as she submits evidence of learning that demonstrates her proficiency. She graduates having cultivated a mindset for self-directed learning early in her education.