Galt, V. (2010) How to bake agility into corporate DNA Globe and Mail, May 20

In my blog on Six Priorities for Canadian e-learning in 2010 I wrote:

Canada is a leader in mobile technology (Research in Motion, Nortel’s merger with Avaya, etc.), the Canadian mobile networks have just been opened up with a new carrier (and possibly more to come) and there is a massive market in mobile communications in countries such as China, Brazil, India and South Africa that also have huge unmet demands for education. This represents a great opportunity for Canada to become a leader in mobile learning. The proposal then is to develop a partnership between industry and education for the development of educational applications of mobile learning.

I have also given this a fairly high probability ranking (50%), mainly because it is not dependent on (but would be facilitated by) government spending, and the market is there. My probability ranking would have been even higher if I had confidence that the right educational partner could be found in Canada. Without the right partner I fear that the initiative would be largely technologically rather than pedagogically driven.

I was pleased to see therefore the above article on Desire2Learn, a Canadian company that develops e-learning software such as its learning management system. It is one of the few commercial learning management systems to survive Blackboard’s predatory tactics. Desire2Learn’s CEO, John Baker, won the Globe and Mail’s designation of ‘the intrepid entrepreneur of the year’.

Furthermore,the Canadian company that makes Blackberry smart phones is working with Desire2Learn to develop an e-learning application for mobile devices, as I hoped for in my blog. Now do they have the third part of the equation – the right educational design and application partners – to make it successful on a global basis? We will have to wait to see. Desire2Learn is just one of many Canadian companies in the e-learning business. Both Desire2Learn and Research in Motion are based in Waterloo, Ontario, and are spin-offs from the University of Waterloo.

The University of Guelph, just down the road from Waterloo, developed one of the first online asynchronous conference systems/discussion forums, CoSy, back in the 1980s. I used this to teach online for the first time in 1988, at the British Open University, predating the WorldWideWeb.

Smart Technologies, which is the main manufacturer of Smartboard electronic whiteboards (1.6 million sold worldwide), is based in Calgary, as is Elluminate, the developer of web conferencing software.

Blackboard Inc., based in the United States, bought WebCT, developed at the University of British Columbia by Murray Goldberg, and still runs a (substantially redesigned) WebCT version.

Vancouver has one of the top video game clusters in the world, with the presence of major publishers, including Electronic Arts, Nintendo, THQ, Vivendi/Activision, Disney and Microsoft. digiBC is the latest incarnation of an industry-wide association in Vancouver that includes a consortium of media companies, post-secondary educational institutions, and corporate e-learning companies. E-learning is one of seven special interest groups in digiBC. However, we have yet to see an international ‘winner’ in e-learning emerge from this association to match the success of the other companies listed here.

Although there are pockets of excellence in Canada in the development of e-learning programming in the public sector, it has not matched the international success of Canada’s corporate e-learning companies, although there is an obvious, if indirect, synergy between the two sectors. For this reason, I would like to see more and closer partnerships between the education and corporate sector in e-learning in Canada. There are potential wins on both sides.

I’m wondering if others have views on this – and have I inadvertently missed any other globally operating e-learning companies in Canada?


  1. Thanks for the link to digiBC! Yes, as long as you ask, I might as well make a shameless plug for friends of a friend.

    A few recently graduated UBC students are starting a e-learning company called Matygo. They’re basically going for a SaaS CMS, focusing on making the core, necessary functionality ridiculously easy.


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