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D2L Wave
Helping people get a head in their career by matching them with company-sponsored education opportunities

D2 Brightspace is a global leader in online and blended learning. Since 1999, the organization has been focused on their mission to transform the way the world learns.

At the time, D2l was interested in addressing the growing challenge around up-skilling employees. The half-life of technical skills is roughly 2.5 years and organizations need to rapidly adopt. Up-skilling is preferable to layoff as organizations pivot their business.

People problem

Our research sought to understand how full-time employees search for and enrol in education. We wanted to understand their motivations and pain points. The results helped us focus the service around the following:
  • I don't have thousands of dollars socked away to spend on education. Most people don't further their education because they don't have the means. This makes it difficult for people to get ahead.
  • It's difficult to know which program is the best quality, particularly with distance education being national or even global.
  • I have limited time because I'm working full time and I don't know how much time is required.
  • I'm not sure what program is right for me. I have a sense of what I'd like to do, but I don't know what the opportunity is.


Design lead


Discovery, ideation facilitation, customer interviews, information architecture, visual design, interaction design, prototyping


0-1 web app: 2020 - 2021
People manager: 2021


Our efforts to remove the barriers and bias from obtaining education paid off when we saw utilization and outcomes spike. I'm not at liberty to speak to specific numbers due to an NDA.


I've captured the project into four key phases. This was a 0-1 initiative that began with research and a concept design. I was paired with the product and engineering directors to lead the process for the first 6 months. Each phase generally follows the standard design thinking process of research, ideate, converge, evaluate, execute, evaluate, and iterate.

I won't go through all of the detail on this site, but please feel free to reach out and I'd be happy to chat further. This was a large project with dozens of user interviews, hundreds of sketches, and plenty of coffee.

Phase 1
Problem exploration (and iteration)


  • Discovery: User interviews, persona development, competitive analysis
  • Solution: Concept modelling, sketching, service design, wireframes, visual design, prototyping
  • Evaluation: Concept testing, usability testing


We started the initiative focussing on professionals that wanted to complete degree programs. Our team learned early on that this wouldn't be enough - the market for degree progress from full-time employees is a small fraction of the market.

Through our research, we learned that people needed to take both short-form and long-form courses. This would help to support how people were learning and gave people less stress because it was less of a burden on their time and finances.

Through the process, we created prototypes, evaluated them with users and stakeholders, and then pivoted. Ultimately we landed on a solution that was different in scope from where we started, but still pointed in the philosophical direction of helping people get a head but levelling up their skills.

A screenshot of sketches, wireframes, and mockups

Phase 2
Employee: find and enrol


  • Discovery: User interviews
  • Solution: Sketching, flow mapping, wireframes, visual design, prototyping ,
  • Evaluation: Usability testing


The employee experience was core to the success of the program. We knew from our research that employees were interested in taking programs but the process was painful. Our goals was to remove the barriers from finding and enrolling in employee-sponsored education.

Prior to this work, we were focusing the program on post-graduate degrees. Once we started to meet with people, we learned quickly that we needed to pivot to a broader audience.

After meeting with the representative users, we explored a number of concepts are skills learned, institution, thetime required, and delivery (online vs in person). We also needed to find an information architecture that would could use the categorize the programs. Luckily we had a depth of internal knowledge to lean on - we were ed tech after-all)

A screen shot displaying a number of online courses.

Phase 3
Manager: approve


  • Discovery: User interviews
  • Solution: Sketching, wireframes, visual design, prototyping
  • Evaluation: Usability testing


When we started this approval process work, we had a few assumptions in mind; however, the team had some opposing views. Our product leadership wanted to challenge the norm and avoid approvals altogether.

Based on my observations with people and HR managers, we decided that approvals were a requirement. There wouldn't be a way for people and hr managers to overview the skills of their organizations if they didn't have regular interaction with the program. They needed to maintain a pulse.

I partnered with our research to understand how organizations manage approvals. We learned that there were 3 models: centralized approvals (hr managed), de-centralized approvals (manager level), and a combo of the two (the most common). We used this information to structure the approval process and validated our designs with usability testing.

A screenshot of an interface indicating that someone has been approved for a program.

Phase 5
Sponsor: usage analytics


  • Discovery: User interviews, design studio facilitation
  • Solution: Wireframes, visual design, prototypes
  • Evaluation: Usability testing


We conducted research to understand how organizations were managing their education benefits. We were shocked to learn that organizations were operating with very little data. They didn't know their utilizations numbers and they didn't know have a line of sight on their budget. This was resulting in poor utilization, which meant that some people were missing out on career growth opportunities.

I facilitated a co-design exercise with our development team, education experts, support group, and product managers. This project was critical for the team to truly understand what wave was about and why it was helpful for our partners and customers.

Our first release was a dashboard that gave organizations a high-level view of program utilization. They could filter and export data for budgeting and advocacy.

An image of a desktop computer with a web screen displayed on it.

Phase 5
Employee: finance (concept only)


  • Discovery: User interviews, partner interviews (Marqeto)
  • Solution: Wireframes, visual design, prototypes
  • Evaluation: Usability testing


This particular feature was not built while I was actively designing. I wanted to include it here because it highlights a really important aspect of the product.

When we conducted user research, we learned that most people don't take advantage of employer-sponsored education because they don't have the extra money to front the fee. Most employers require employees to pay and the employees are reimbursed when they complete the program.

D2L Wave developed a partnership with Marqeto to facilitate the payment process. In this model, D2L would front the money and would be reimbursed if the employee didn't complete the requirements of the course.

I've since learned that D2L continued to explore this space and ultimately released a solution to the market. I'm not privy to the details, but I'm told that the research and design work that I contributed helped to pave the way.

A screenshot depicting course approval messages and payment options.