Michael and I have made several specific criticisms of D2L’s marketing claims lately culminating in this blog post about examples based on work at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) and California State University at Long Beach (CSULB).
I understand that other ed tech vendors make marketing claims that cannot always be tied to reality, but these examples cross a line. They misuse and misrepresent academic outcomes data – whether public research-based on internal research – and essentially take credit for their technology “delivering results”.
This week brought welcome updates from D2L that go a long way towards addressing the issues we raised. As of Monday, I noticed that the ‘Why Brightspace? Results’ page now has links to supporting material for each claim, and the UWM claim has been reworded. Today, D2L released a blog post explaining these changes and admitting the mistakes. D2L even changed the web page to allow text selection for copy / paste. From the blog post:
Everyone wants more from education and training programs—so it’s critical that our customers are part of the process of measurement and constant improvement.
At Fusion, our customers came together to share new ideas and practices to push education forward. They like to hear about the amazing results, like U-Pace, which we post on our website. In our excitement to share the great results our customers are seeing through their programs, we didn’t always provide the details around the results. When we make mistakes, it’s our job to fix it—as we are doing now.
U-Pace is the specific program at UWM (course redesign from large lecture to self-paced / mastery approach), and D2L now links to a documented case study and quotes this case study in the blog post.
We have a Customer Success Program in place where approvals from our clients are acquired before we post anything about them. Stories are revisited every six months to make sure that they’re still valid and accurate. However, a recent customer success story was mistakenly posted on our website without their permission or knowledge. We will be doubling down on our efforts to help ensure that this doesn’t happen again, and we will work harder to provide citations for all the facts.
This "without their permission or knowledge" paragraph refers to a claim about CSULB.
Make no mistake, we’re extremely proud of what our clients are accomplishing. Our customers’ innovation, dedication, and just plain awesomeness is making a huge difference—and we’re proud to be a part of it. We will continue to measure and improve our offerings, listen to our community for suggestions, and when warranted, share their results. Here’s to them!
Kudos to D2L for these admissions and changes. Well done.
Notes and Caveats
While the overall change is very positive, I do have a few additional notes and caveats to consider.
- The blog post today should have come from Renny Monaghan (Chief Marketing Officer) or John Baker (CEO). The blog post was written by Barry Dahl1, and unless I misunderstand he is their lead for community engagement - building a user community that is mostly behind-login and not public-facing. The “mistakes” were made in official marketing and company communications. The leader of the department in charge of official messaging (Renny) or the company leader (John) should have taken ownership of what happened in the past and the corrections they are making.
- In the blog post section describing the U-Pace program at the UWM, I would have included the description of moving from large lecture to self-paced / mastery approach. That change should not be embedded as one of "many factors that came together for UWM to achieve the results that they did, and that the increases in student success are not all attributed to their use of Brightspace." That change to self-paced / mastery was the intervention, and all other factors are secondary. The case study describes the program quite well, but such an omission in the blog post is misleading.
- The blog post only references UWM and CSULB examples, yet the ‘Why Brightspace? Results’ page added links to all claims. Changing them all was the right move.
- Apparently, specific criticisms do not carry a CC-BY license.
These are welcome changes.
- For what it's worth, Barry does great work for the company [↩]