LinkedIn is to acquire online learning company Lynda.com for about $1.5 billion, as the social networking platform expands its services for professional users.
LinkedIn will host Lynda’s courses on its platform, which include instructional video tutorials to develop business, technology, software and creative skills – in what could be the latest push by technology companies into online business education.
The acquisition will allow the social network to move into the rapidly growing digital teaching market. For example, a jobseeker could use the network to discover what skills are needed for open vacancies in their sector, and take a relevant course – all on the same site.
California-based Lynda has created 6,300 online courses, in addition to 267,000 video tutorials. Users pay a subscription of up to $375 a year to gain access to courses created by more than 1,000 authors.
Top universities and business schools including Harvard, McCombs School of Business, and Johns Hopkins Carey Business School have signed up. LinkedIn is already a widely used job hunting tool by MBA students.
LinkedIn also allows users to display digital learning certificates on their profiles from online course providers such as edX, Coursera and StraighterLine.
Last year, the publicly-traded company unveiled a college ranking system based on its users’ career success, and expanded with graduate school rankings in 2015.
The acquisition will also give LinkedIn a foothold in the potentially lucrative corporate training market, with Lynda’s base of business clients that include Time Warner, the US-listed media group, and outdoor clothing company Patagonia.
More than five million licences have been sold by Lynda to enterprise and professional users, with customers including half of the Fortune 50, and all of the Ivy League colleges.
Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, said that Lynda’s library of premium video content helps people to develop the skills needed to accelerate their careers.
He added: “When integrated with the hundreds of millions of members and millions of jobs on LinkedIn, Lynda.com can change the way in which people connect to opportunity.”
Eric Robison, chief executive of Lynda, said LinkedIn shares the company’s passion for empowering people to make change in their lives through access to learning and professional development.
Online learning has exploded as educational technology firms have teamed up with top academic institutions to deliver segments of their content on the web. The biggest group, Coursera, has more than 12 million users.
Lynda’s online business education courses range from leadership development and data analysis to project management and social media marketing.
Lynda was founded in 1995 as a small school in Pasadena, California, but has grown into a thriving learn-by-video business, securing the vast majority of its nearly $290 million of funding in the past two years.
Its investors include Silicon Valley venture capital groups Accel Partners and Meritech Capital Partners, as well as US private equity firms Spectrum Equity and TPG.
The company has grown about 40% a year since 2001 and it has more than 500 employees worldwide.
Its revenue last year was around $150 million, with two-thirds coming from individual subscriptions and one-third from enterprise customers.
Where platforms are poised to grow in particular is in the enterprise market – worth $70 billion in the US alone, according to Deloitte research.
Udacity, for example, runs a business unit that works with Google, Facebook and Capital One, the financial services group. Telecoms giant AT&T recently paid Udacity $3 million to develop a series of online courses.
EdX recently struck a deal with Microsoft to offer IT development courses, and has an agreement with the IMF to offer courses in macroeconomics and finance to governments.
LinkedIn’s acquisition of Lynda is expected to close in the second quarter of this year.