Lynda and Link get married; LynkedIn and skills training

The news that LinkedIn acquired Lynda.com (for a cool 1.5 Billion) has been full announced and increasingly expounded upon, but there’s always room for additional perspective, right?

First, congratulations and kudos to Lynda Weinman (and her team) on a great American success story; a small site started in 1995 to help teach her own college students, expanded to assist a wider audience, wrote a few books, grew the company, and sold for $1.5 billion 20 years later.
Well done!

LinkedIn’s mission is to “connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful. When you join LinkedIn, you get access to people, jobs, news, updates, and insights that help you be great at what you do.”

So I guess they’ll be updating that access with “skills training” too, moving toward a wider professional development platform than simple networking and job-seeking.

Lynda.com offers over 5,700 courses on a huge variety of topics, making them a well-positioned portal to assist LinkedIn’s members improve their resumés and skillset; whether adding training and skills to move up in their current role, advance their career to the next level, or even move to an entirely different industry.

There’s no shortage of current methods for folks to obtain such additional skills and training – from traditional colleges to a variety of online resources (EdX, Coursera, Skillsoft, Udemy, Khan Academy, etc.) – but integration with the leading social-professional platform could be an extremely effective new approach.

LinkedIn added an Interests > Education section to their site last year. I’m not sure how popular it is compared to their older features, but it’s a great start to connect college students and alumni to job opportunities and a way to continue their social networking beyond college…on a professional level.

I imagine that one likely example, or so I hope, of integration between the two sites would be a badging system; take and complete a Lynda course, earn a badge, and that badge automatically displays on your LinkedIn profile. This is something I’ve briefly looked into trying to do on my own with other eLearning providers and I was very surprised no one seems to have such integration in place (please post in the comments if you know of any).

This sort of feature, and not only with Lynda.com but across all accreditation organizations, would be a great way for employers to evaluate and verify the skills within their network of contacts as well as a helpful method for finding qualified contractors. Soon I may be able to search for freelancers based on completed courses I know would fit well with my requirements…though restricted to Lynda-specific completions at first.

And consider another of LinkedIn’s properties, SlideShare, with 100% user-populated content. Lynda.com usually hires outside experts and works with them to create higher-quality presentations. Can existing SlideShare presentations be tagged and appropriately connected to related skills training? Is SlideShare’s free environment in trouble? Or will Lynda start accepting user-developed content? If so, I hope they continue to implement strict quality controls…

While I have mixed feelings about how useful ‘social learning’ is (it certainly depends on the context), LinkedIn’s current forums would lend themselves well to integration with the Lynda courses. As it is, there are plenty of skills-specific forums (I participate regularly, for example, in a couple Captivate-related forums to assist users). Imagine being able to discuss specific courses, with direct links to examples or problem areas! That’s a solid integration possibility.

As a social platform, LinkedIn may also offer an opportunity to see who among your network, and perhaps beyond, has taken a specific course and allow you to ask for their feedback. Did they find the time and commitment worthwhile?

While all this could lead LinkedIn to be *the* platform for skills training, there are certainly challenges and concerns along the way:

  • Could we see corporations outsourcing their L&D departments entirely to LinkedIn? Or would they hesitate putting their stable of talent on, essentially, a job-seeker platform for their competitors to see and poach? That hasn’t seemed to happen to a significant degree with the SumTotal/Skillsoft merger, so maybe there’s little chance.
  • TOO much access to member data? I like having the option to tailor my resume to a specific opportunity. If my entire professional detail is available on LinkedIn, could that *hurt* my chances at a prospective job?
  • Could usability, quality, and reputation suffer under a heavy focus on marketing to both audiences? Will the actual learning advantages be lost under the marketing strategy?
  • It would seem likely that LinkedIn would match Lynda course recommendations to current positions. “People like you have taken this course to be more effective/marketable.” What if I don’t want to take that course? What if I disagree with the value? Could that lack of following the suggested for-profit path be seen as a negative by my professional peers or prospective employer?

Overall, I am almost always enthusiastic about new ways to help people learn. Charter schools were an interesting approach and in many cases are working out well. Traditional universities will always have a role to play, though they’re needing to adjust their offerings to stay competitive and effective. The MOOC movement has shown flaws and growing pains, but is being refined to address those concerns and still has a bright future. Initiatives like Khan Academy are fantastic and show lots of opportunity for growth and wide audience accessibility. And I believe there will continue to be a place for small, local providers who can bring in an expert for a half-day corporate classroom session.

Aside, I wonder if LinkedIn will look toward xAPI to integrate user course completions with their profiles. Could LinkedIn make this xAPI data available broadly, beyond their own platform? Companies that use their own internal LMS (or whatever skills management application) tap into this database (for a fee?!) to ensure their employee’s skills are current within the organization’s own HR system? Hmmmm….

This is definitely one of the more high-potential mergers in our eLearning world and it will certainly be interesting to see what this marriage spawns.

 

 

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