After LinkedIn acquired online education company Lynda.com in 2015 for $1.5 billion and rolled it out to all of its premium subscribers, the business-networking platform late last year integrated more than 9,000 Lynda courses, giving the content greater prominence and reinforcing LinkedIn’s move into the learning technology space.
The integration march continued earlier this month as LinkedIn took another bold step in this direction with the launch of its new Custom Content feature, which lets users of the premium service integrate custom-built and created courses into the platform.
“Whether courses are from Lynda, home made or acquired from third parties, they will now all be available via LinkedIn Learning,” said Kevin Simon, senior director of product for platform. The new feature was driven by customers who don’t want to access multiple platforms to find different types of courses. “It simplifies the learning experience for employees and administrators.”
The move appears to transition LinkedIn Learning from a content provider to a learning management system by building infrastructure around its vast portfolio of courses.
“It is an interesting move for LinkedIn, and par for the course in the new world of LMS,” said Ray Wang of Constellation Research. “The cost of content creation plagues most LMS platforms. By democratizing content creation, they can get the mix of content correct.” Wang also believes the new feature will help Linked In better leverage the Lynda.com acquisition “at least for the premium membership side of the house.”
Custom content will only be viewable by an organization’s employees. However, they will be able to access and comment on all of the courses in the same way. Administrators can also use the reporting tools to track how many learners engage with their custom content, and to recommend any content to specific learning paths.
It will also wrap in the social networking elements of the platform, allowing learners to like or comment on content as a way to alert their peers to useful resources, create dialogs with content authors, and let administrators know what adds value.
“It sets us up for a broader platform ply, and we are excited about the future,” Simon said.
LinkedIn is not the only LMS to embrace custom and informal content. Vendors like Cornerstone, Skillsoft, and Degreed all offer various customization tools that enable access to curated content and individualized learning paths. For LinkedIn, this appears to be the early stages of how it plans to evolve the platform for a more just-in-time, fast-paced learner environment.
The platform will start offering chunks of learning gleaned from its core content to engage learners on the spot. They also plan to leverage the social element of its network — and 500 million profiles — to better define the skills and knowledge that professionals need to succeed in specific roles, Simon said. An administrator will be able to see the skills of their workforce, and compare that to competitors so they knowledge what is needed to close the gaps.
“All of the data points to an extreme gap in how people learn, and what content they are using,” Simon noted. “The space is ripe for disruption.”