LinkedIn recently acquired Lynda.com in a $1.5 billion deal that marked the largest acquisition by the professional social network. The acquisition gave LinkedIn access to 5,700 classes and 255,000 video tutorials, as well as Lynda’s 4+ million users. Furthermore, the deal has huge implications for the direction of the site, as well as for the direction of education technology (EdTech) in general. But we’ve heard all about what this means for the company; what does it mean for the users themselves?
First and foremost, there is going to be much more content. As it stands, LinkedIn doesn’t really offer much to keep users on the site for very long, though Pulse was a step in the right direction and the expansion of posting ability to all users gave them more chances to actively participate in the community. But there’s still work to be done to entice users to spend more time on the site and make it a much more regular part of their lives;Lynda will be an instrumental part of that mission. LinkedIn has already redesigned its home page to be more blog-like, encouraging users to stop by for much more than networking. It therefore seems very reasonable to expect that they will begin to include Lynda content in this feed, either as links or as teasers/samples, in order to get people hooked.
But this content will come with a price – Lynda.com currently costs between $25 and $37.50 per month, and it is unlikely that LinkedIn will want to significantly mess with that direct source of profit. Like Amazon Prime and its video streaming service, these courses will make LinkedIn worth spending time on, but also like Amazon, it is likely that the users who will benefit most are the paying ones. At the moment, LinkedIn Premium does not provide much for the money, but access to increased resources will give it a large boost. However, some of the more basic courses may be available for free in order to entice users to take the plunge for Premium.
LinkedIn is working hard to provide practical tools for career development and expand its role in the corporate training market. In a recent interview, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner told recode.net that “Our mission is to connect the world’s professionals, to make them more productive and successful. Only a very small minority of people on LinkedIn at any given time are actively looking for work.” The company does not intend to operate as a direct job board, but rather to provide resources to expand its users’ skillset, thereby increasing their marketability and attractiveness to employers in their respective industries. The wealth of material from Lynda.com kickstarts LinkedIn’s push towards micro-education, a strategy which would have been extremely difficult to build from the ground up. Instead, users will have a tried-and-true source of material from Day 1.
This emphasis on professional development comes as LinkedIn increases its focus on the younger generation of users. A large complaint from this demographic was the site’s relevance to people who are just leaving college and entering the workforce – LinkedIn did not really appeal to them or meet their needs. But with the addition of Lynda, LinkedIn has become much friendlier to those just getting their careers started. Instead of looking at LinkedIn as a place to get hired, they can now see it as a place to become hirable. Lynda is already highly active on the college scene – they are work with 40% of US colleges and universities – and their relationship with these schools will prove invaluable to students bridging the gap from college to white-collar job. Students will be able to provide tangible evidence of their proficiency in these courses, helping demonstrate their readiness for the workforce. A common complaint heard from new graduates is that companies are only hiring those with 1-3 years of experience, which is mostly a way of making sure that applicants are capable in standard industry skillsets. These courses allow recent grads to circumvent that irksome process, proving their readiness through a carefully selected collection of corporate training courses.
So how can users make the most of this acquisition? By using Lynda to fill in the holes in their résumés and round out their LinkedIn profiles, maximizing their attractiveness to companies. Course certification will give users the ability to minimize potential shortcomings and showcase the kind of skills they will be bringing to a potential employer. They can directly appeal to listed skill requirements, tailoring their course selection to the market they intend to enter or the job they intend to apply for. This sort of unbundled approach to education may very well end up being standard practice in the future, with prospective employees expected to prove their proficiency in hard skills such as Photoshop, HTML, or CSS. Completion of certain Lynda courses will ensure that employees have at least a basic understanding of necessary prerequisites, and it will probably not be uncommon for such courses to become part of new employee training. Lynda sells subscriptions to entire businesses as well as schools, providing a standardized method of employee development.
As for current Lynda.com users: they won’t be affected, since LinkedIn is content to let the site operate independently for the time being. Implementation will most likely be very gradual in order to reduce resistance from current users of both sites, and LinkedIn will want to carefully map out its strategy over the coming months. One question that many have is how this will affect the price point. Lynda’s $25-37.50 per month charge provides a lot of content, but it does seem steep at a glance, especially for Internet users who are not used to paying significant fees for content. To compare (somewhat shamefully), one might consider the fact that it is about four times the monthly cost of Netflix. It is doubtful that the majority of LinkedIn’s users will be willing to pay that, and different levels of membership may emerge. Additionally, one likely benefit for current Lynda users will be an expanded range of courses and a large increase in new content, as LinkedIn’s massive scale creates a higher demand for varied subjects.
So what are you going to see that’s different when you visit the website? Not much, at least for now. You won’t see Lynda.com videos all over your homepage next week, and there has been no indication of timeframe or level of embeddedness in the actual LinkedIn UI. Over time, you will probably start to see targeted ads for certain courses, and it will grow from there. Course certifications will take prominence over endorsements, and so on. But that’s just the beginning. This acquisition was not only LinkedIn’s largest by a wide margin – it was the largest acquisition of an EdTech company, ever. All evidence points to LinkedIn using Lynda as much more than just a companion site, and it will be very exciting to see what they have in store for their users.