Desire2Learn “CUBED”

I decided to “CUBE” Desire2Learn as this is one of the learning management systems I have had experience using as an online teacher.  Their corporate website may be found at

Face 1 – Market Focus

Public Schools (in particular, middle and secondary schools) and higher educational institutions.  Alternatively, corporations, associations, healthcare and government agencies may find use in D2L products to training and educate their employees.

Face 2 – Types of Offerings

Desire2Learn’s (D2L) flagship product is its learning management system called the Desire2Learn Learning Environment.  This is an educational infrastructure-type product.  D2L’s Learning Environment is a web-based system that allows administrator and instructor users to create, teach, deliver, and manage course content to potential student users.  This extensive and complex platform includes systems such as grading, internal communication, and user database.

D2L also offers other services including delivery, hosting, content, training and support.

Face 3 – Who is the Buyer?

For public schools, the buyer is likely to be a school district as opposed to a single school itself.  This is due to the relatively high cost of the system which would not make it feasible for a school to purchase it for its own use.  Upper school board management or school district e-learning staff would likely make the purchasing decisions.

For higher education institutions, since staff and student populations are generally larger than elementary or secondary schools (and therefore have greater budgets), individual faculties or the entire institution itself may choose to purchase D2L’s learning management system to deliver or support its courses.

Larger healthcare, corporations or government agencies, where there is a need to train and educate large numbers of staff members, may choose to use this learning management system for these purposes.

Face 4 – Global Markets

As internet access expands across the world, so too is the growth of online education.  Public schools, higher educational institutions, corporations, healthcare, and government agencies around the globe, where internet access is widely available, are the target markets for D2L.

Face 5 – Development of the Market

D2L’s vision is to be a global leader in providing e-learning solutions to their clients.  They have won a number of awards for technology innovation; however, these awards were presented by North American based associations and institutions.  In order for D2L to meet their global market aspirations, greater computer and internet access in regions with restricted or poor availability needs to be realized.  Though this may be beyond the scope of D2L’s line of products and services, infiltrating these markets by providing products and solutions that meet their current technology capabilities may help to develop and expand D2L’s global market.

Face 6 – Learning Technology Competing with Other Forms of Learning

For various reasons, many educators who use traditional methods of teaching (e.g. chalkboard, paper and pencil exercises) may refuse to or be afraid to integrate technologies in their teaching practices.  However, most would still agree that computer skills are a highly important component of a modern education, especially since these skills are transferable to many potential occupations.  Encouragement through professional development, training, and follow up support are necessary to assist colleagues with technology use.

D2L’s Learning Environment could be used in conjunction with traditional teaching approaches following a blended learning model or be used to replace traditional classroom teaching and learning by placing courses completely online.


1 Annette Smith { 09.26.09 at 10:32 am }

I am not sure if there is a final outcome, but I know Blackboard had originally been given a patent for its LMS and had sued Desire2Learn for infringement. I think that the patent was overturned, but the whole idea of Blackboard being able to patent ideas that were already in use by other companies and open-source communities is rather scary. The litigation is ongoing, but it would hamper D2L’s potential for growth if part of their product was covered by Blackboard’s patent. See for some commentary.

2 Ernest Pao { 09.26.09 at 3:14 pm }

Thanks for the reply, Annette! I had no idea that there was an ongoing dispute between the two companies. I’ve used both platforms before and found that they are quite different, though they really are meant to do the same thing. There are definitely some features that overlap. My understanding is that Blackboard is a much bigger company than D2L and is gobbling up many of the ‘smaller fish’ in the market. You’re right, it’s scary when companies try to monopolize the market!

3 Barrie Carter { 09.26.09 at 6:47 pm }

Hello Ernest:

You had mentioned that D2L has a grading tool included in its system. Subject to this, have you ever used SnapGrades? Apparently, this grading tool is supposed to be user-friendly.

As well, do you know why your school district chose D2L rather than, say, Blackboard or Illuminate?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Many thanks,


4 davidp { 09.27.09 at 7:08 pm }

There is another business model that works for D2L that sets it apart from Blackboard, too.

We operate D2L as a “shared service” in the British Columbia higher education sector, buying licenses and setting up virtual instances of the software that can be hosted by the vendor and provide a transparent and relatively inexpensive platform for end-user institutions. Each has a “branded” instance that it manages for its students.

D2L is one of a few vendors that supports a shared services model of collaboration across multiple institutions. Others include Adobe and Elluminate.


5 Ernest Pao { 09.30.09 at 8:18 pm }

Hi Barrie,

Haven’t used SnapGrades before (haven’t even heard of it). Any good? D2L has the grading tool right into the system and that’s the one we’re supposed to use to do all our marks so that the students can see them too. It’s integrated right into the D2L system. Afterward, the office staff transfers it over to BCesis.

As for choice of LMS, it was well-established prior to me joining the staff. From what I gathered from colleagues, the VSB had chosen D2L at the time because they were a smaller company and were probably offering them some incentives or perhaps a lower cost to get on board. That’s as far as I know!



6 Ernest Pao { 09.30.09 at 8:20 pm }

Hi David,

Forgive me for my ignorance, but what does an “instance” mean?


7 davidp { 09.30.09 at 10:00 pm }

It is short-form for “virtual instance.”

It means that a group of servers has been set up to host an application and the server space as well as the functionality of the application has been divided up so that each group using the application sees their “instance” as separately branded, even though one master application may be running, and many people may be using slices of it.

It is similar to what we experience using WordPress for our ETEC522 class. There are actually many classes running on the WP server at UBC, but each is a separate “instance” branded for a particular course.


8 Ernest Pao { 10.25.09 at 3:56 pm }

Ah, thanks for the reply, David. I, too, have WordPress set up on my school server and this is exactly what I’ve asked my tech kids to set up for us…virtual “instances”. That way, different teachers could use it for there classes as if it were there own.

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