Is LinkedIn a Learning Platform?

Full confession: I spend more time on LinkedIn than Instagram. My friends make fun of me when I tell them this. It’s embarrassing because LinkedIn is easily the least exciting social platform to spend your precious internet time on. But I speak and write about emerging careers and trends in upskilling, so LinkedIn is part of my daily internet consumption routine and embrace the awkwardness of it.

This week LinkedIn popped a recommended course into the top my feed.

That action reminded me that LinkedIn has an entire catalogue of courses on offer, a fact that I’d totally forgotten. Clearly this was the intent of the designers. They wanted to remind users like me that LinkedIn isn’t just a place to read professional #inspo stories of people you don’t know.

LinkedIn: Not just for professional #humblebrags?

While I have you here, can we please stop doing this?

When LinkedIn popped that recommended course into my feed, I wondered if LinkedIn is trying to remind people like me that they’re also a learning platform. After all, they paid $1.5 billion for Lynda, a leading learning platform back in 2014 that was ahead of its time given the sheer volume of content Lynda had produced. It’d be an understatement to say a lot has changed since 2014, especially with online learning.

I’m in the midst of my own upskilling adventure. I’m learning Python through Coursera. When it came time to look for upskilling options, I never considered LinkedIn as an option. While I gave LinkedIn Learning a drive by mention in my book on upskilling for career changers, it still strikes me strikes me as a platform for professional promotion, rather than a learning platform.

I’m not so sure other people consider LinkedIn a learning platform. Obviously, an experience of one doesn’t mean it’s true for all. So I’m curious where LinkedIn fits into everyone’s professional learning experience.

But really, is LinkedIn a learning platform?

I took my question to the most obvious place: Facebook. I use Facebook groups for professional networking because there’s far more engagement around professional topics and the moderation is better than LinkedIn. These days, LinkedIn groups feel like the equivalent of a used car lot – just sales people pushing janky content. It’s easier to avoid them.

I took my question (and most unscientific poll) to 19K+ members in a Women In Tech Facebook group. The results: 58 responses, 37 no’s to 13 yes’s, with 8 answers that didn’t even answer the question because Facebook.

The most interesting data from this poll, besides the results, was the commentary. I am a qualitative data junkie and I always want the insights that numbers can’t give you. And this group provided:

They do have a learning platform full of courses but it’s very basic. Useful for beginners.

I learn a lot from my connections on LinkedIn but it’s their content, not the platform, that initiates this. LinkedIn needs a lot of work!

I think LinkedIn wants to be seen as a learning platform 😉

I use it for content in training programs.

I used to use lynda all the time but it feels burried now that li bought it.

You can find people from which you can learn but it’s not the main focus of the platform.

I know that somewhere behind a paywall there is Lynda content, as I see ads. Even the personal content published is not what I would consider instructional most of the time and more along the lines of personal branding content.

No. In a past job, my company started using it so that they could cut back on money that they had earmarked for professional development. The courses seem basic, which may be good for someone looking to learn about something but certainly not if you want to gain a deeper understanding of and actual experience in a new skill.

The last quote really resonated with me. I took a gander at LinkedIn’s offerings. It all seemed really basic, even the Python courses. It doesn’t seem like I will build a new skill from the courses I sampled. LinkedIn is mostly passive learning. I already use YouTube for passive learning, mostly to get up to speed on professional concepts I need to learn. I spend hours every week learning about programming, math, and other subjects from engaging teachers on YouTube.

How could LinkedIn up their learning game?

LinkedIn obviously targets the corporate learning market. But with over 250+ million monthly users they have an opportunity to help the individual user who’s browsing LinkedIn because they’re stuck in a medicore career and don’t know how to get out.

People need help figuring out what learning experience is right for them. There’s a difference between a learner who needs a quick refresh on a topic and one that’s investing in new skill acquisition. If LinkedIn wants more people to pay $29 a month to learn something new, they need to put more effort into helping users figure out what they need. And I mean more than popping a course into my newsfeed or automatically selecting courses based on an interpretation of my profile.

Right now LinkedIn Learning’s content library is an endless sea of courses. For example, explore the Business topics section and you’ll discover all kinds of business courses but with little direction. It’s a bit unhelpful if you’re a person who needs to upskill but not sure where to start. Curation matters in a sea of learning options. Other learning platforms do this very well.

Take SkillCrush, the online bootcamp to learn in-demand tech skills. All courses are part of a path. As you explore them, you learn what skills you’ll develop and how it fits into your career.

LinkedIn was on the right track by showing me a course, even if it wasn’t quite a match. I just wrote a book and I was professional travel writer – both of which are on my profile (albiet not as titles, so harder to parse). But rather than inferring what users need, LinkedIn could actually ask users what they want so they curate a better learning path.

Udemy does this very well. While you can explore all of their courses by topic, they curate courses based on detailed learning interests.

Given the size of its user base, LinkedIn need to do something similar for their learners. They should also ask users if they’re looking to make a career change or simply learn a new skill. Ask people what they want to learn. Engage them and adapt. Then show paths that align with their answers.

They also need to add practical projects that force users to apply their new skills. The video series for Writing with Flair: How to Become an Exceptional Writer offers 5 hours of content on how to write. It’s fine as an intro but what good is a certificate that says you can write? You can’t learn to write by watching a video. You have to actually write, a lot. You aren’t building a skill with this course. You’re simply learning good writing techniques.

Lastly, LinkedIn needs more engaging content. Compare the two videos below:

Video two isn’t embeddable so follow the link :

Did you notice any difference? The first offers a more engaging learning experience. It’s also free.

LinkedIn’s courses are competing with so much other educational content, a lot of which is just better. Nothing about LinkedIn’s branding, content, or even teaching style stands out amongst the many other learning experiences online. LinkedIn’s courses remind me of the forced learning that’s common in Corporate America. It feels like the kind of learning where you show up online and click through just to get to the end so you can get on with your day and collect your certificate of completion.

Of course, I don’t actually know what it’s like to learn on LinkedIn because I haven’t tried. But I’m currently giving my subscription money to Coursera to learn and not LinkedIn because I perceived Coursera to offer a better learning experience.

LinkedIn has the potential to go beyond certificates

There are no shortage of certificates on offer in the online learning market, despite the fact that there’s little evidence to suggest employers value certificates. LinkedIn has the opportunity to differentiate themselves from other learning providers by creating a hirable pool of skilled-workers that advance through their programs. To stand out, LinkedIn could create preferred hiring groups from the graduates of their upskill paths. They could showcase people who graduate from their courses and create a qualified pool of newly upskilled workers that paying recruiters can access. That, instead of a certificate, might actually be something worth paying extra for.

The learning platform you choose matters

In my work and personal life, I’ve learned that the online learning experience you choose matters greatly. It can make or break your success in achieving your career goals. Engagement, instructor, length of video and course, ability to apply your skills to a real world project, and more affect your ability to stick with a learning experience.

If you’ve been out of college for 10 years or more, your skills need updating. Upskilling is hard. Online learning is the most accessible way to learn new professional skills. Asking whether LinkedIn is a learning platform challenges us to think through our learning choices. LinkedIn isn’t the only one asking for money to access content that’s supposed to help our career and keep us relevant in a rapidly changing workforce.

With so many online learning options, we have to ask critical questions. Will these learning experiences help me professionally? We have to evaluate whether the content we’re being sold actually helps us build new skills. We need to evaluate whether the courses will actually help us make moves in our career, whether those moves are up or out into a new career path. We need to be shown how to apply our new skills in the context of work. I’m not sure Linkedin does any of that. But they should, given their size and resources.

We don’t need to pay $29 a month to learn for the sake of learning. YouTube, Open Culture, MIT, are all examples of online learning that exist for the sake of learning. And they’re free.

But I’m still curious. For all the LinkedIn users, whether you’re a power user or a casual drive by user, do you think LinkedIn is a learning platform? Why or why not?

In my next post, I’ll explore the other side of LinkedIn: Is LinkedIn a teaching platform?

And if you’re interested in. upskilling but not sure where to start, sign up for my book out in October.

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