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Cash in on Video Learning Boom by Offering Advanced Instructions

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In April, LinkedIn acquired Lynda.com for $1.5 billion. Lynda provides video-based training and continuing education in fields such as web design and media production. The size of this deal—one of the largest ecommerce acquisitions in recent memory—vividly demonstrates just how valuable online video-based learning has become.

It’s no secret that video instruction has been exploding in popularity. From Coursera’s massive open online courses, each enrolling tens of thousands of students, to the countless YouTube channels offering tutorials in areas as diverse as applying makeup and repairing iPhones, learning through video is woven into the very fabric of online life.

Even with all of the content available now, there is no sign that demand will let up. While platforms such as Lynda, Coursera, and Khan Academy provide access to an almost overwhelming array of topics, no one source is singularly comprehensive, and there are plenty of gaps to fill. This is a great opportunity for producers and educators, as well as schools and enterprise learning groups.

One might think that the Lynda deal means companies should focus less on developing their own training materials, since that platform will now grow so much more quickly. Instead, it means that companies should focus on creating materials and courses that address needs that are very specific to their own business activities. For example, if employees need to use WordPress or Drupal to maintain company blogs and websites, Lynda can provide the introductory training, which the organization builds upon for aspects unique to its own processes and policies.

The same is true for schools, which can concentrate resources on creating video tutorials that cover advanced topics and disciplines in which they have expertise. Learning portals such as EdX and Coursera show how major universities collaborate to create a repository of online courseware. And because each organization contributes its best work, that repository grows exponentially in value.

Sharing video training materials across organizations is another significant opportunity. Even in education, not every online course needs to be or should be given away for free in a massive online open course. Colleges and universities can offer content subscriptions to other schools that want to expand course offerings without building new departments. Schools are also getting creative in offering not-for-credit programs that provide practical education without the complication and expense of a full-fledged degree. Companies can potentially create a new revenue line where previously there was only a cost center, by packaging the most proven programs for sale to other companies or individual professionals who want to grow their skill sets.

Of course, we can’t overlook the tremendous opportunity that exists for video and learning professionals. Just as when having a website went from being a nicety to a necessity, businesses and organizations of all types are recognizing that video-based instruction saves money by reducing both the time and labor required to implement training programs. Having production skills and a strong understanding of learning design principles puts professionals at the forefront of this exploding sector, whether working for an elearning company, a school, or an enterprise with ever-expanding needs.

Finally, there is plenty of room for new entrants in online learning, both in specific niches and in broad areas not well-covered. No time has been better for freelancers and solo-preneurs to build an audience by sharing their expertise on YouTube, while the on-demand features of platforms such as Vimeo let them easily monetize premium learning content.

This boom in online video learning dovetails nicely with online career advancement and self-improvement courses offered by experienced thought leaders who are revolutionizing an industry once limited to evening classes and weekend seminars. Video will be an indispensable part of these programs as well.

Video-based learning is becoming a big business. This is great news for video and education professionals, and for the online video sector as a whole.

This column appears in the July/August issue of Streaming Media magazine as “The Education Video Boom.”

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