Why might LinkedIn’s acquisition of Lynda also be a seminal event for the K-12 world?

Why might LinkedIn’s acquisition of Lynda also be a seminal event for the K-12 world?

Why might LinkedIn’s acquisition of Lynda also be a seminal event for the K-12 world?

An opportunity of narrowing the gap between learning and employment through the non-consumers of the educational system

In January 2015,, a veteran player in the field of online courses, received an investment of 186 million dollars. For Lynda, which had grown up as a family company, and had brought in its income in an organic manner, the entry of investors into the company was an extraordinary event. For the developing EdTech industry this was a major investment, yet it paled in light of an even more dramatic development that took place when, in April, LinkedIn announced the acquisition of for the incredible sum of 1.5 billion dollars. There is no doubt that this was a dramatic event in the ecosystem of EdTech investments, and it is undoubtedly also a dramatic event in terms of platforms for employment training. What is harder to discern at first glance is that, apart from these two areas, it is also a seminal event for the K-12 field as well. To explain why, we first need to understand the considerations that, apparently, lay behind this acquisition.

One of the challenges that had been of concern to training organizations from time immemorial has been the gap between the world of training and the world of employment. We constantly hear of how universities are disconnected from the employment market, and how schools do not prepare us for the “outside world.” The problem of the relevance of training becomes even more acute in our own age, in which the employment market in the “outside world” is changing at a rapid pace. For schools to really be able to prepare us for such a market, they have to orient themselves toward a market in which many professions do not yet exist. Given this challenge, the connection between LinkedIn and Lynda offers an interesting potential: one could imagine how the connection between these two companies would create a kind of closed system in which there is no boundary between the world of training and the world of employment. Through the network offered by LinkedIn, a potential employee can aim at the specific employer for whom he wishes to work. Through Lynda, he can assemble for himself the exact training he requires in order to get himself hired. The employer, for his part, can obtain exact data on what the candidate has learned: What did the course that he took actually cover? What was his final grade? And where did he rank in comparison with other students? In this unique LinkedIn-Lynda universe, there is no gap between learning and working. Such a shift poses a certain threat to academic training – there are employers who would prefer a software person who can point to completion of specific courses, such as PHP programming, over a general degree in software engineering which does not reveal exactly what the student was trained in. It may well be that the efficiencies offered by this union (as well as other developments in the field of online training) will, over time, lead to a transition by students from the institutionalized academic world to the world of LinkedIn. However, we can potentially take this further: let’s imagine that our potential employee is a high school student. What will convince such a student to remain in school when, only a click away, there is a domain that offers learning that is aimed directly at the world of employment?

Such a vision is not so unrealistic as it sounds. And unlike the celebratory tone of what we have written so far, this is not necessarily a positive scenario, for three important reasons:

  1. School is not intended solely to prepare us for the “outside world.” It has many other functions, with outcomes that we would find it difficult to obtain from Lynda courses.
  2. There is also something problematic about too great an efficiency. An important part of the process of adolescence involves bewilderment, functioning inefficiently, and activity that does not directly lead to a precise outcome.
  3. It is doubtful whether it is truly possible to prepare us, completely and exactly, for a world of employment in which 10 new professions are born every five years. Effective training, in this sense, needs to provide broad tools, tools that offer flexibility, ongoing learning and behaviors that will allow the individual to adapt to a changing world.

Six decades of technological education have not brought about a substantial change in the education system. The technology that has disrupted almost every field and industry around us has not led to significant changes in the education system. Educational technology has always been a phenomenon that remained subject to the constancy of the school experience, and which was not in a position to propose an alternative to this system. The creation of the “LinkedIn-Lynda universe” perhaps portends a disruptive revolution – for the first time there is a phenomenon which, as in Christensen’s disruption theory, may begin with non-consumers of the education system, but will gradually move to the audience that constitutes the education system’s principal client – young students. The entry of a such an alternative carries within itself a threat to schools and to the values that they represent, as well an opportunity for those institutions to change from the ground up, in order to respond to this challenge.

For More stories about EdTech trends in 2015 download EdTech Mindset #3