When Laurelle Jno Baptiste was growing up in Dominica, an island nation in the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean Sea, she had a chorus of strong, motivational women who inspired her to live out her dreams.
One such woman was her mother, a passionate advocate for education. The other was Dame Mary Eugenia Charles, a lawyer who served as the Prime Minister of Dominica for 15 years.
“Imagine this kid, in this village of a few hundred, but we have this great Prime Minister and she’s educated at the University of Toronto,” she says. “So I’ve got it in the back of my mind that I want to go to the same university that this Prime Minister went to.”
Jno Baptiste has an undergraduate degree in Computer Information Systems, a Masters and a Doctorate in Education. She followed in Charles’ footsteps by completing her Doctorate at the University of Toronto.
Even though Dame Eugenia Charles wasn’t there physically, she was there in a portrait.
“Her picture is at the university and very often, when I was having a hard day, I would walk by her picture for inspiration. That was very motivating for me.”
For the last 12 years Jno Baptiste has worked in the innovative field of e-learning, building online universities for companies.
In 2009, she co-founded ScholarLab with Robert Taylor, a technologist with a deep interest in the transformative potential for technology in education.
“There was synergy,” she says. “At the time, we were both involved in the open education movement and saw an opportunity to revolutionize online education through digital multimedia.”
The ScholarLab learning platform brings together a virtual classroom with real-time collaboration and a single easy-to-use toolset. Learners can instantly snap together multimedia apps and centralize content. The platform covers everything from live webcasts to short self-directed presentations and sophisticated semester-long online courses.
“I did a lot of work on the digital divide [in university] and how different disadvantaged groups within society lack the technological expertise to successfully compete because they don’t have access to information and access to knowledge. Increasing access is an important goal for ScholarLab.”
Since 2008, Jno Baptiste has chaired the membership committee for the Open CourseWare Consortium. The OCWC is an international community making information more accessible by providing educational materials free and open digitally.
“I disrespect stereotypical limitations that are placed on individuals based on gender or race,” she says. “I do believe that access to education and online learning is playing a very vital role in promoting equality in society”.
As a successful woman in technology, Jno Baptiste is still a minority in her field.
“I’ve always been the minority in my technology classes and therefore I advocate for more women in Science and Technology.”
This fall, Jno Baptiste will be releasing the book Learning in the Digital: Disruptive Technologies and the Future of Education.