The Industry that Could

New Brunswick, in the great scheme of things, is a small player on the world stage. There are only 740,000 of us, split up in three urban centres and many rural areas. For the most part, this province, established in 1785, has produced hewers of wood and drawers of water.  Forestry and fishing are still big.

But back in the mid-1990’s NB was re-branded as “the” place for the new information highway and especially for online learning. Dozens of companies sprang up and several more from out of province set up shop here.  However, the subsequent dot com bomb saw many companies close shop. A few chugged along, especially in Fredericton.

Last night I attended the opening of Bluedrop Performance Learning’s  Fredericton office. What caught my attention was that Bluedrop (head office in St. John’s, NL) had not really intended to open another branch office. Bluedrop was looking for a couple of people for the St. John’s office and just happened to be in Fredericton at the time of Provinent’s bankruptcy protection filing and office closure. As a result, many experienced people were looking for work. Bluedrop seized the opportunity and hired an additional 7 employees (all from Provinent) and found office space in Fredericton. The company says that they plan more controlled growth.

The NB learning industry now has a certain competitive advantage in this business. Where else can you find a significant number of instructional designers with over 10 years experience? Ten years ago, many of the people in attendance last night were employed by a different company. Several, myself included, have changed employers more than once. These people, with different business cards, have remained and grown an industry. This was a different crowd from the large NB contingent that attended OnlineLearning 1998 in Los Angeles. These were seasoned, experienced and maybe even battle-scarred professionals.

The core group that remains in this field is doing some pretty amazing stuff. For instance, the team from Red Hot Learning was also there, following the successful launch of a unique online game, The Redistricting Game. RHL headed the programming and development in collaboration with USC’s Interactive Media Division. This is a fine example of using gaming theory and technology to create a tool that can explain the complexities of drawing electoral boundaries in the US. As the opening video says, “When I, as a mapmaker, have more of an impact on an election than the voters – the system is out of whack.” Try it out, it’s free.

Serious games, serious people, serious business. This is what’s happening in New Brunswick today. [I’m also supposed to get some pictures of the serious party, too, which I’ll post here.]

10 Responses to “The Industry that Could”

  1. Karyn Romeis

    From where I sit New Brunswick looms large (and I still have no idea whether to pronounce it phonetically the way they would in the US or to drop the W the way they would in the UK). There seems to be a lot coming of/happening in Canada in general and NB in particular. After all, you have Downes and Jarche, to name but two!-)

  2. Dave F.


    On Cape Breton (the Nova Scotia island I come from), we say “new-f’n-LAND.” The last syllable gets almost all the stress, and the middle one’s just there to keep the first and last apart.

  3. graham Watt

    On my lawn I have a great 100 pound cast iron kettle from Newfoundland. It’s called a ‘barking kettle’ and I always thought that would be a lovely name for a tavern or tea room. A barking kettle was used for
    boiling nets with a mixture of coniferous bark and buds to ward off
    whatever rotted out nets on dry land and underwater. Newfoundland
    is a world of its own, mysterious, rollicking with wonderful distinctive
    expressions. When an old Lister diesel fishing boat engine rotted out
    I heard a fisherman say; ‘Well there, m’boy, the arse is gone right out of her’.


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