As LinkedIn’s Video Library Grows, Company Says It Has No Plans to Compete With Colleges

As LinkedIn’s Video Library Grows, Company Says It Has No Plans to Compete With Colleges

It has been just over two years since LinkedIn  shocked the industry by buying Lynda.com, a library of video courses, for $1.5 billion. The move made clear that the professional networking platform wanted to play a broader role in the future of employment (and it raised the eyebrows of some college officials who wonder how big that role might get).

To check in on how the Lynda courses fit into the LinkedIn strategy, EdSurge sat down with Mordy Golding, director of content for LinkedIn Learning, at the ASU+GSV Summit last month. A graphic designer himself, Golding argued that professors can’t teach effectively these days without instructional designers, especially when video lecturers are part of the mix.

The conversation was part of our Thought Leader Interview series on the future of education. Below is an edited and condensed version of the conversation, or watch the complete interview.

EdSurge: A couple of years ago LinkedIn bought Lynda.com for a whopping 1.5 billion dollars. What is the philosophy behind joining a library of video courses with a professional-networking site?

Golding: I joined Lynda.com in 2011. Our focus was always helping people learn. You learn because you want to learn and the results of that learning will help with jobs or whatever opportunities are out there for you.

Then you have LinkedIn, the site that everyone associates with work and with getting jobs. There’s this vision behind LinkedIn about bringing economic opportunity to the world. It’s great to be able to show people what jobs are available, but then how do they actually acquire the skills they need in order to get those jobs if they don’t have those skills? Put those two things together—data and learning—and you have true economic impact from taking that learning and actually getting work because of it.

By that logic can you imagine the creation one day of a LinkedIn University? Should colleges be worried that you’re going to compete with them?

No, I don’t see us competing with colleges. I like to say that the learning that you acquire inside tradition education is just-in-case learning. You try to get a broad base in your learning. The data that we see today is that people actually will have 15 [jobs] in their lifetimes. How does college prepare you for 15 different [jobs]? Especially when probably eight of those careers don’t even exist, the skills don’t even exist for those yet. So, it’s really the understanding that when you come out of college, that’s not when you stop learning. You’re always continuing this idea of learning.

Where LinkedIn is really focused right now is taking that education you have inside of college, and then doing the just-in-time learning—learning on the job, learning a little bit every day, a little bit every week, [or when] new technologies come out.

I understand part of your role at LinkedIn is picking what classes to put up next. How do you decide what to add?

We use a tremendous amount of data. We can look at what jobs are being posted. We can see what recruiters are looking for, what are the skills that are necessary, what skills are trending, and not only across the world, but within specific demographic areas or regions. If you live in New York, you really don’t care what’s trending in Silicon Valley.

Does LinkedIn’s ownership of Lynda.com mean that you essentially block out other providers of video courses?

Today on LinkedIn Learning it’s only Lynda courses. But in the future we can definitely envision where there are other providers available. We always look for partnerships. People don’t realize today that about 15 percent of our content in our [Lynda] library is third-party content. So, we are already bringing more content into our platform, and we see that as a trend that’s going to continue in the future.

You taught courses at Lynda.com before LinkedIn bought the company. What lessons have you learned over the years in teaching in this manner that might benefit other teachers, even if they teach in person?

Probably the biggest lesson is that when you take your knowledge and you transfer it into a digital course, you have to find just the right amount of things to put into that video. As a graphic designer, we learn that the way to design is not to keep adding more things to make this page look better. Your challenge is, how to remove more things? That’s what Apple always tries to do—they have a plain white page with an apple in the middle, and that’s it, nothing else. The more you can remove from the page the better. And, I think it’s the same thing with learning. What do you want somebody to walk away with? What’s that key point? We like to refer to it at LinkedIn as: what’s the so-what? What did I get out of that particular lesson?

We see people start a video, then after two seconds, if they’re not engaged or interested, they’ll stop watching that video and skip to the next one. So it’s getting to the point of understanding that things like course design are important. It’s very easy now for anyone to pick up an iPhone, record some video, or even invest in a large amount of production to stand in front of a screen. But unless you partner with an instructional designer, and you think more about what’s the educational concept that I’m trying to convey to the learner, [it’s not as effective]. I have a team of 50 people that are focused on concept strategy. But, behind that team are 200 instructional designers, motion-graphic designers, people who are skilled at the craft of storytelling through the method of video who work with the experts that we find in the world and make them the best teachers.

What’s next for you all, now that a couple of years have passed since LinkedIn bought Lynda?

I think the biggest challenge is around discovery. You’re motivated and you want to be able to do things, but you don’t know what the steps are in order to get there. You may aspire to be a digital marketer, but you don’t even know what are the tools that a digital marketer uses, or how should I begin to think about, “What if we were like that website?” Even if you knew what to search for, there’d be a million results. I think that’s the next challenge we have to figure out: how do you take the rich data that exists and find out what are people’s aspirations? What are the skills you already have? What are the skills that the industry at large has?

How do you handle keeping your courses up to date so they don’t go stale?

I have 50 subject matter experts on my team that are deeply embedded in the industries that they serve, and their goal is to put the right courses in the library. But it’s not just to acquire new content, it’s to ensure that the content in our library today is always up-to-date. If we’re at a conference and a big software company announces a new feature, we’ll have a course up on it, that afternoon.

I’m hearing a lot these days about a trend that employers are thinking differently about their HR and professional development functions, and making that a more strategic part of their company. Do you see that change?

We see data that show that 40 percent of millennials leave companies because they are not getting the professional development that they would like to have. We see that the cost of losing employees is enormous. Our data shows us that anywhere from 50 to 250 percent of an employee’s annual salary is what it costs to replace that employee. And companies cannot afford to do that. That, to me, is the challenge. If you’re in a company, and you’re not thinking about that as a manager, you’re going to fail.

GET THE LATEST HIGHER ED NEWS.
Be the first to know, with our weekly newsletter.