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D2L Study Reveals Dutch Higher Education Pushes Digital Transformation, with Steps Ahead to Fully Embrace Blended Learning

Improving course quality and enhancing the student experience are the prominent drivers of the digital transformation strategy in the Netherlands

Amsterdam, 9 November, 2021 – D2L Inc. (TSX: DTOL), a global learning technology leader, today announced the results of a major global survey, which included more than 350 higher education professionals in the Benelux. While the Covid-19 pandemic ushered in a new digital era for education providers, many were already undergoing a digital transformation to meet the changing needs of students and staff. This research examines shifting attitudes to digital transformation, highlighting some of the most common drivers and motivations, and outlining post-pandemic recovery plans that put the student experience front and centre.

Digital transformation is driven across all stakeholders

The research identified, that in the Benelux, the push for digital change is carried consistently across all stakeholder groups and almost equally distributed among students, staff, technology companies, leadership, governing boards, faculty, and international agenda with numbers between 22 and 36 per cent.

Even though students are not the only agents behind the shift, they are the driving force for leadership to institute digital transformation in higher education. According to the survey, improving the quality of courses (36 per cent) and enhancing the student experience (35 per cent) are the most prominent goals of the digital transformation strategies in the Benelux.

Of those surveyed, 62 per cent state that institutions need to digitally transform to enable future growth. Nearly 38 per cent hope that digital transformation will improve student engagement, while 37 per cent want it to measure and improve learning outcomes, and another 37 per cent hope that digital transformation increases productivity.

Benelux susceptible for shift to blended learning

The vast majority of institutions in the Benelux had a digital transformation strategy prior to the Covid-19 pandemic – 84 percent prior to 2019 – pushing learning online, which is substantially higher than the totality of responses. 58 per cent report that the crisis accelerated their implementation. 41 per cent have seen a rise in the introduction of new learning technology to improve the digital learning experience, another 41 per cent have seen good use of virtual classroom tools to deliver synchronous education and 39 per cent have seen an increase in the digital skills within academia and learner communities.

“The Netherlands has one of the most innovative higher education sectors in EMEA,” says Stewart Watts, vice-president for the EMEA region at D2L. “Institutions in Benelux are trendsetting and unafraid to shake it up.”

More than half (54 per cent) are now creating their own content for flipped classroom learning or similar pedagogical methods, such as blended learning, which 6 in 10 respondents think blended learning offers educational benefits as opposed to solely face-to-face teaching.

Thanks to the first-mover advantage in the digital transformation, most higher education institutions in the Benelux (56%) found the transition relatively easy compared to the totality of responses (49%). The greatest challenge in the transition is providing support and training in the use of digital tools to deliver education (mentioned by 54% of the Benelux respondents).

“For higher education, digital transformation must be a holistic exercise that involves more than just implementing digital technologies,” said Stewart Watts. “Instead, emphasis should be placed on changing pedagogical and organisational approaches to take advantage of these new technologies.”

What does the future hold for digital transformation?

In the Benelux the top priorities for respondents over the next two years are enhancing online provisions (41 per cent), investing in online examination and proctoring tools (40 per cent) and modernising, investing, and improving universities’ online infrastructure (35 per cent).

Though it is agreed that online technology enhances the learning experience, only 32 per cent of respondents say that there is training available at their institution to introduce and support faculty and staff shifting to new technologies.

In the future, a general understanding of online tools and workflows will be of the utmost importance. Staff need to know what tools they have available and how they can best be applied, otherwise it will prove difficult to translate live activities into fully immersive online experiences.

As indicated in the EU Digital Education Action Plan: 2021-2027 improving the education sector’s digital infrastructure and connectivity is a high priority, and further investment in staff training and development is needed. The next few years are likely to herald significant changes not just in the Netherlands, but European-wide.

For further insight into the state of digital transformation across higher education in the Benelux visit D2L for the full report.


D2L is transforming the way the world learns – helping learners of all ages achieve more than they dreamed possible. Working closely with clients all over the world, D2L is supporting millions of people learning online and in person. Our more than 1,000 global employees are dedicated to making the best learning products to leave the world better than where they found it. Learn more about D2L for K-12, higher education and businesses at


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D2L Brightspace is powering smarter upskilling and reskilling of workforces around the world. It is the one place that supports all aspects of learning with better engagement and productivity through personalised learning. It gives your teams the tools they’re going to love and makes it easy to support exceptional experiences face-to-face or fully online.

D2L Brightspace is designed in close collaboration with clients around the world – building a rich set of features to improve engagement, retention and learning outcomes. And it makes it easier to give feedback. It’s worry-free with 99.9% reliability. It’s highly accessible and looks beautiful on any mobile device, making it easier for you to reach every learner.

Like many of our clients, D2L uses its award-winning Brightspace learning platform to support onboarding, compliance training, leadership development, and upskilling of its own employees. This has led to back-to-back #1 in North America awards for new hire and onboarding experiences. To learn more, visit D2L for Higher Education.


Remco Rietvink, Fabian Bais

Progress Communications

[email protected]

+31 (0)20 363 11 52