Lynda.com used to be an online learning site where anyone could pay a subscription fee to learn new skills. It was acquired by LinkedIn in 2015 and renamed LinkedIn Learning. In its heyday, Lynda was the go-to destination for honing software skills, graphic design in particular. If you needed to learn some technique in Photoshop or AutoCAD, Lynda could teach you. Today, you can still find some old golden oldies from Lynda.com on LinkedIn Learning, but the new site is chockablock with courses that teach business skills, everything from management training to entrepreneurship. LinkedIn Learning, which is available to all LinkedIn Premium subscribers, has an incredibly wide range of content. The quality of courses is mixed, however, and the classification system for courses could be better, because sometimes it’s hard to find what you want.
If you have a LinkedIn Premium subscription, you might as well explore what’s there to see if anything catches your interest. If you don’t already have one, LinkedIn Learning probably isn’t a compelling enough service on its own to warrant paying LinkedIn’s fee. A Premium membership only makes sense if you’ll use the other benefits, too, which include additional insights into who’s viewing your LinkedIn profile or information on potential job candidates if you’re in the hiring sphere.
There are other sources of online learning that cost less than LinkedIn Premium, although what they offer varies. Which one is best depends on what you want to learn, and PCMag has three Editors’ Choices. First, Khan Academy (free) is best at teaching academics. MasterClass is best if you want inspirational talks and specific advice from people at the top of their field about their field. Skillshare has more breadth in subject matter than the others, although it’s starting to focus more on lessons for creative types, offering classes on everything from how to sell goods on Instagram to learning the ins and outs of an electric sewing machine.
How to Get LinkedIn Learning
The way to access LinkedIn Learning is to have a paid Premium LinkedIn account. Once you have a paid account, you can access everything in the catalog. There is no option to buy access to a single course, which is a shame because there are some excellent courses for specific hard skills, particularly for learning software.
LinkedIn offers a few different versions of Premium you can buy to cater to different types of businesspeople. All of these paid tiers of service give you unlimited access to everything in LinkedIn Learning.
Premium Career ($29.99 per month or $239.88 per year) is the level meant for job seekers and applicants. Premium Business ($59.99 per month or $575.88 per year) is more geared toward people who want insight into how their company is viewed on LinkedIn. Then there are paid subscriptions for people in sales and hiring roles, sold at group rates. If you’ve never had a Premium account before, you can likely get a one-month free trial.
Keep in mind that a paid LinkedIn account includes many other benefits, such as being able to message people even if you’re not connected to them, not just access to LinkedIn Learning. We see LinkedIn Learning more as a perk rather than a draw to having a Premium account.
How Much Do Competitors Cost?
The cost of an online learning course varies dramatically. Additionally, how each site sells its courses varies. For example, with LinkedIn Learning, you get access to every class in the whole catalog as long as you pay for Premium membership. Skillshare works the same way. Pay once ($99 per year or $19 per month) and get access to everything. Sites like Teachable, however, sell access to individual courses, and the price depends on how much the instructor decides to charge. The Great Courses works like that, too.
MasterClass sells both all access ($180 per year) and single courses ($90 a pop). The yearly subscription is a much better value because even if you have your heart set on one specific class, you will invariably find additional compelling content to watch once you’re inside the doors.
Skillshare gives away a selection of video classes for free, and you can pay $19 per month or $99 per year to unlock the rest. A paid subscription also gets rid of ads and lets you download videos to watch offline. Skillshare has scholarships for those who need help paying, as well as team plans.
Khan Academy is 100% free. It’s a nonprofit organization and accepts donations. Teachable has made some of its courses free during the COVID-19 crisis.
Language learning courses are a different ballgame. They typically charge a monthly fee and give you access to only one language at a time. A few language learning companies sell their software or audio packages for a one-time fee and let you download the course to own forever. Pimsleur is one example, and it’s especially good for learning a language if you’re audio-focused.
Learning Material and Courses
Once you have a Premium account, you can log into LinkedIn and click Learning in the upper right corner. The first time you go to the Learning side of the site, a few short surveys appear, asking what kind of content you want to learn. Then, LinkedIn Learning suggests relevant material.
Another way you can find material is by browsing categories. At the highest level, there are three categories: Business, Creative, Technology. Each of them has three subcategories: Subjects, Software, Learning Paths. Below those subcategories are more themes.
In testing the site, these categories and subcategories felt confusing. If you want to learn the software program After Effects, for example, you must look under Creative, not Technology. The Technology category has courses relating to programming, development, security, and other information systems topics. If you want to learn new tricks in Excel, you can look under either Business or Technology. The same goes for Microsoft Office. Where are courses related to personal wellness? Under Business. If you’re looking for lessons about writing, don’t bother with the Creative section, as it doesn’t have any. Search for writing classes using the search bar, however, and you’ll find dozens.
To find a specific skill or type of course, you’re best off using the search bar from the get-go. There is one benefit to browsing the categories, and that’s for the Learning Paths. Learning Paths are curated series of videos about a common subject. For example, one path teaches how to become a small business owner. It has 11 courses on this topic that LinkedIn Learning displays all together.
What Are the Classes Like?
The newer material on LinkedIn Learning, meaning the videos produced well after it was no longer called Lynda.com, largely comes across as a glorified slideshow presentation. It’s especially true for the Business content. The videos have about as much personality as any boardroom PowerPoint presentation. The videos cut between a presenter, who speaks slowly and clearly (and is very obviously reading from a script) and slides. Some of the slides are animated. Some have text. Some look more like traditional cutaways, showing video b-roll or photo stills. Even though the production values are high, they come off as business-grade slideshows.
The content can still be exceptional under these circumstances. A course on plain language writing, for example, offered clear explanations for why people should write using plain language, as well as tips on how to do it. The whole presentation, however, was packaged to look so corporate that it sucked all the personality out of the presenter.
Another course on banishing your inner critic had compelling ideas, too, but suffered from being overproduced. The presenter looks at the camera and says her rehearsed lines with enthusiasm, but it feels staged. She gets her points across, certainly, but nothing about it creates a lasting memory for the learner. Compare this to a MasterClass course starring Christina Aguilera. Even if you know nothing about professional singers, it’s easy to recall her story about licking honey off a plate with her bare finger during performances to lubricate her throat. Storytelling, with Aguilera making that motion of swiping up honey with her finger, leaves the audience with lasting memories. PowerPoint presentations rarely do.
Or consider a Skillshare course with Mary Karr on memoir writing. She may say “um” and “you know” once or twice, or look away from the camera as she pulls words together, but her authenticity leaves an impression.
Some of the older courses on LinkedIn Learning are more vibrant. Ben Long, in his 2015 course on portrait photograph, might be reading his notes when he’s outdoors talking about composition and light, but he’s noticeably more present than someone following a script word for word. EJ Hassenfratz’s class called Mograph Techniques (2015) is clearly scripted, but he breaks in from time to time to whisper, “let me zoom in here,” while showing you a detail in how he uses his software. You get the sense that he’s with you, despite the script. In comparison, the newer videos tend to come off as rigid or overly corporate.
LinkedIn Learning still has some great stuff from Lynda for learning to code. The courses are plentiful and cater to beginners and experts alike. You can find classes on the foundations of programming to specialized lessons on user interface, responsive design, and mobile app development. Teachers will be pleased to know that many tutorials, including some free ones, are specifically targeted at children.
LinkedIn Learning’s coding lessons lack the helpful interactivity of a service like Treehouse, our Editors’ Choice for paid learn-to-code courses. They make up for it, however, with a much greater breadth and depth of content.
Learning Goals and Completion Certificates
You can set a goal in LinkedIn Learning for how many minutes per week you want to spend watching videos, and you can see your weekly progress in your account. The account also saves your progress in various courses, making it easy to pause Ariana Huffington when she goes on and on about meditation, and resume after you’ve had a break.
Many LinkedIn Learning courses offer a certificate upon completion, which you can download as a PDF or add to your LinkedIn profile. Certificates were common in the days of Lynda.com, too, although it’s worth noting that they don’t necessarily bear any weight in the real world. I suppose they may come in handy if your employer sponsors your Premium account and wants proof that you’re doing something with it.
A Solid Perk for LinkedIn Users
If you have a paid LinkedIn account, by all means explore LinkedIn Learning. We recommend using the search bar rather than the browse feature to find exactly the kinds of lessons you want to learn. We liked the videos from around 2015 and earlier for software training, photography, and other technical skills a lot more than many of the more recent business courses, which all too often come off as overly corporate.
If you don’t have a Premium LinkedIn account, the courses don’t have enough appeal on their own to warrant paying for one. A better place to learn specific skills, particularly for creative types, is Skillshare. MasterClass is best for inspirational content, and Khan Academy is great for academic courses. And if you need to learn how to code, Treehouse is another top choice.