Dr. Laurelle JnoBaptiste: I'm still just a Dominican girl with big dreams
Your past does not dictate your future
She dreamed of increasing access to education for individuals on-line and one day, over breakfast, she told her professor about her dreams. You cannot do it, the professor said.
"She stopped and she looked (now that is a true story); she looked right at me and she said that there are four reasons you will not succeed. One, you are a woman in technology; two, you have an accent; three, you are black and four, you are young."
Dr Laurelle JnoBaptiste, the Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Scholar Labs told her audience at the opening of the Ministry of Education's National eLearning Symposium at the Fort Young Hotel today that after hearing that statement from the supervisor of her PhD programme she lost her appetite and went home.
"That's right, I had to literally drag myself from the floor and I decided that I was going to build great technology and be so good that I would not be ignored," she said. "Years later I am proud to say that despite the many challenges, our successes have shown that though the obstacles identified by my professor although they are evident in society, your past does not dictate your future".
Dr. Laurelle Jno Baptiste, who was born and raised in Marigot and later migrated to Canada, has been described as a foremost expert on digital e-learning. She is the Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of ScholarLab, a leading edge provider of online learning and conferencing solutions.
Dr. JnoBaptiste said she believes access to on-line learning saves lives, transforms communities and revolutionises countries.
"Let me be clear, I am not saying replace classroom education with on-line education," she said. "However I advocate for a balanced approach, using on-line education to supplement and enhance classroom interaction. There are times when complete on-line solutions are sometimes needed."
She said Scholarlab has not only changed how people learn, "we have changed the world." The system has been accessed by 60 countries and one million learners and even the United States Government is listed as one of her clients.
She said her achievements were partly due to her teachers at the St Andrews High School, once located at Londonderry and her mother.
"She used to say I have big ideas," Dr JnoBaptiste said. "The other day she reminded me that when I was 12 or 13 somebody had given us a business jacket and I would wear that business jacket everywhere I went-even with short pants, I was wearing my business jacket".
Dr. JnoBaptiste said she has become an advocate for on-line digitalised learning because "on a personal note access to education in general changed the economic and social direction of my life."
She added: "I believe that the potential for Dominicans is truly limitless with the right access to the right educational resources on-line."
However Dominica and other developing countries may have to deal with issues such as affordable internet access, improved broadband connectivity and the availability of computers. In addition the correct pedagogical approach is also important.
"It is not only going on-line," she said. "It is providing sound educational resources and also providing ways to measure key performance indices."