Monday, April 20, 2015

LinkedIn acquires Lynda.com and hopes to "create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce"

Early MOOCs and Internet-based classes focused on traditional university courses, but there has been a shift of emphasis toward vocational traning and lifelong learning.

Lynda.com has focused on vocational training and lifelong learning since its begining in 1995. They have developed over 2,900 video courses in English, German, French, Spanish, and Japanese and have 4 million subscribers in 150 countries.

LindedIn has 350 million users who are looking for career advancement and job opportunities. (It's currently the 14th most visited Web site on the Internet).

LinkedIn has acquired Lynda.com and one can imagine the combined company pointing users to specific courses that would help them move up in their current positions or find better jobs.

That seems to be the basic idea and they say they want to do it on an ambitious global scale. Ryan Roslansky, Head of Content at LinkedIn, says the vision of the merged company is to "create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce" and their goal is to "lift and transform the global ecomomy."

(That sounds like something you might hear in a VC pitch in the comedy TV series "Silicon Valley," but let's suspend judgement).

They hope to create an "economic graph" -- compling databases with profiles of every member of the global workforce (what they have studied and what their skills are) and the available jobs and skills required to obtain those jobs at every every company in the world. Those databases plus an inventory of courses offered by every higher education organization and university will let people find the training they need to get a specific job and let employers find the people who are qualified to do a particular job.


My first reaction is that establishing standards and definitions that would enable them to come close to that vision across a variety of industries, cultures and languages is impossible, but they might be able to create economic graphs for specific industries and countries.

I worked as a consultant to Hyundai some time ago, and the Human Resources department had a system for tracking employee skills, job skill requirements and available training classes. There are also human resources software packages like Trackstar for such systems. Perhaps LinkedIn will take a bottom-up approach, replicating this sort of system industry by industry.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post asking if there was a place for Lynda.com and other online training companies in the MOOC discussion. It's become clear that the answer is "yes" and with this acquisition, LinkedIn will be a prominent player and competitor to companies like Udacity and Coursera. To the extent that company hiring practices and societal certification change, they will also be an alternative to universities for students whose promary goal is getting a good job.

Here is a video of LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner describing the Economic Graph and their vision for the next ten years: