Applying the Cube to Desire2Learn

Desire2Learn is the Learning Management System adopted by The Alberta Distance Learning Centre (my employer). A venture analysis of its market niche, based on the Cube, follows.

Market Focus

Desire2Learn’s primary market is Higher Education but it does have markets in the K-12 and Training sectors.

Types of Offerings

Desire2Learn’s onus is providing infrastructure to learning/training organizations. Its primary infrastructure tool is its Learning Management System (LMS) which includes the ability to manage content and communicate via various technologies.

They also provide services and content. Services include hosting, training services, and support to facilitate the implementation of the LMS.

Who is the Buyer?

In the K-12 sector, learning is bought centrally at the district level, typically a coordinator or superintendent in charge of learning technologies for a district. Marketing strategies may be to include the district coordinator and lead technology teachers from each school in the district in a showcase of the product with the onus in providing equal learning opportunities for all students in the district. Another strategy may be to build a “provincial” school delivering K-12 services to all Albertans, thus generating greater CEU funding.

In the Higher Ed setting, decisions on which LMS to adopt are typically made by the Computer Services Department, so they can support it campus-wide, coupled with techno-savvy instructors from the various programs of study that will be using the LMS. Moneys to purchase the LMS can come out of various budgets including computing services and/or a combination of departments that will be using the LMS. Higher Ed recovers the invested dollars on a cost-recovery basis so e-learning is typically more expensive for students than regular on-campus instruction.

The Training sector is very similar to High Ed in most ways except one, learning is bought for the learner. Companies typically do not charge their employees fees for training, since the training is specific to the company’s needs.

Global Markets

Desire2Learn’s market is currently within the boundaries of North America so it would be classified, based on the Cube, as wired Anglophone countries which mean excellent Internet infrastructure and English as the first language.

Development of the Market

The Learning Management System market is very competitive with other tools like WebCT  and Moodle. Both WebCT and Moodle have similar tool sets as Desire2Learn. What distinguishes these LMS’s is the fact that Moodle is freeware. However, it is not supported but there are learning venture businesses out there specializing in providing support and other services provided by Desire2Learn and WebCT.

The Desire2Learn platform supports import of content from other vendors, provided they produce a SCORM-compliant IMS package based on the current standards. Desire2Learn also provides content development for a fee.

Learning Technology Competing with Other Forms of Learning

Desire2Learn’s market niche is working with existing well-developed learning systems synonymous with the K-12, High Ed and Training. These sectors will have existing learning systems but are using a LMS to extend their reach to service student learning needs wherever they may be living.


In conclusion, Desire2Learn is in a very competitive Learning Management Systems market, whose buyers are typically removed from actually using the tool on a daily basis. Costs to provide the learning systems are typically recovered from the student (High Ed) or by provincial (CEU) funding.

A market approach could be to sell the perspective buyers on its ability to reach out to all students within their local area (if attending a bricks ‘n mortar school is not appropriate) and/or to extend their reach to other students in the province (K-12) or other provinces (High Ed).

It seems the Training sector hasn’t been fully appreciated so there’s a market approach to explore.


1 David Wees { 09.29.08 at 3:20 pm }

It looks like they have an interested product, though as we all know the e-Learning market is pretty flood right now.

Their website has a ‘nice’ look to it, as if they’ve hired a professional graphics artist to make it look nicer. I notice they are using index.asp as their default file to display, which suggests the site is running on IIS6, a gutsy move on their part.

They are relatively small still (as far as e-Learning platforms go), they seem to have 5 major customers right now assuming all of their major customers have submitted ‘success’ stories.

Their description of their web services leaves a lot to be desired, they just use a bunch of jargon to try and persuade you that what they have works. I’m not sure why they are using SOAP to communicate between their clients and their online servers, it’s known to produce much more overhead than another standard, Json.

Anyway, interesting find, thanks for sharing it with us.

2 davidp { 09.29.08 at 7:05 pm }

Thanks for this analysis, Doug.

My organization (BCcampus) is a customer. You’ll see us listed as a higher education consortium client of D2L.

We operate D2L as a shared instructional service in British Columbia, with virtual instances branded for individual institutions hosted in Ontario by D2L.

One of the attractions of D2L was its ability to provide this kind of unique service in the higher education sector, an approach that other LMS providers were unable to do or even offer.

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