[Welcome to “500 Words”, the section where I share unedited, off-the-cuff musings about—whatever—in 500(ish) word chunks.]
It figures I would return to Twitter—well, return to paying attention to Twitter—just in time to be hammered with links to Dennis Keohane’s epically shitty piece of click-bait “journalism” AKA “Did LinkedIn’s acquisition of Lynda just kill the ed tech space?”.
First, the answer: no.
Second, the honest headline: “LinkedIn Buys Lynda.com and I’m Now Going to Dump a Bunch of Names of Companies and Education Terms Into my Blog Editor and Blather About Them”
Or, maybe: “LinkedIn Purchases Lynda.com; There Continue to be Multiple Companies Streaming Technology Tutorial Videos”
I won’t even try to guess what Keohane’s definition of “ed tech” is because I don’t think he has one. The world where—without a wisp of explanation—video purveyors like Lynda and Pluralsight, MOOCs and MOOC providers, LMS platform companies and significant LMS platform users, and the efforts of publishers that have diversified into scores of other areas, are all lumped together without even a pretense of understanding or connective tissue isn’t the world I live in.
Even at its most literal, Keohane has it precisely backward. This isn’t big news in educational technology; it is a bit of news in technology education.
But in classic “that does not mean what you think it means” style, the acquisition is fascinating for reasons Keohane completely misses.
First, LinkedIn wasn’t just buying market share in a niche of tech ed, it was buying Lynda’s users…or, more specifically, the spectral figures composed of those users’ data. In that way it’s not different from the constant acquisitions being made by the aforementioned publishing companies, it just looks different to blindered geeks because suddenly one of the biggest names in the world they are able to see through their technological haze is involved.
And even there Keohane misses the significance. Thus, point two: LinkedIn is different. The very characteristics that make it laughable as a social network of the Facebook kind make it interesting in this context. For all the data that Facebook has about its users and their habits, and for all its sometimes creepy methods of obtaining and using that data, when it comes to the world of education, credentialing and online learning—that turbulent and chaotic environment where shit is seriously going down right now—LinkedIn is a wholly different animal. LinkedIn isn’t just a big market, it’s a gigantic database with a social veneer. Where Facebook’s data is traditionally social, LinkedIn’s is significantly professional. Where Facebook’s data is mostly derived/intuitive, LinkedIn’s is structured. And all this not merely because of LinkedIn’s different purpose, but because its users are inherently motivated to enter and keep up to date the kind of professional data that Facebook (not to mention universities and other educational institutions and providers) can only dream of. We’re talking granular, current, accurate data that LinkedIn doesn’t have to intuit, sneak, cajole or buy…now potentially combined with the specifics of individuals’ goals, paths, achievements and professional networks. Even in the relatively limited areas Lynda.com focuses on, this could bring into sights a whole new consumer animal.
What will be interesting is seeing where LinkedIn goes from here. Will it go for the big game (no higher education institution feels threatened by Lynda.com), the interstitial space where MOOCs, for all their sound and fury, have signified much but changed almost nothing?