The focus of this research is to amplify the usefulness of LinkedIn Learning as an available resource for the professional development of students and employees in the Ontario post-secondary sector. In the professional experience of the lead investigator, he has facilitated the professional development of work-study students and part-time employees by curating specific content on LinkedIn Learning when a gap in their knowledge or skill set has been identified as a potential challenge to their ability to complete a project. Such instances of just-in-time learning have proven to be the most efficient and current option for problem solving and the expedition of challenges. More than a pedagogical tool, our use of LinkedIn Learning highlights exemplary practices for managers responsible for the onboarding and career advancement of staff members. By providing a blanket license to LinkedIn Learning for all post-secondary students and employees, the Ontario government has promoted a culture of lifelong learning and helped provide curriculum and training resources in fields that are constantly evolving.
LinkedIn Learning, employee development, lifelong learning, onboarding, just-in-time learning, professional development, career advancement, technology adoption, web design, web development, WordPress, project management, andragogy, non-direct entrant
This chapter seeks to examine the use of LinkedIn Learning for the professional development purposes of employees in the Ontario college sector. The purpose of this autoethnography and case study is to explore the use and perception of LinkedIn Learning for professional development purposes. It was expected that the data generated from this inquiry would inform new understandings and exemplary practices for future LinkedIn Learning promotion and use within the Ontario post-secondary sector. The lead investigator describes observations from past part-time and work-study employees and compiled survey data from three work-study students who currently work in web development related positions .
According to Statistics Canada (2017), in 2017, 5.6% of employed people had more than one job…Of all workers with multiple jobs, 10.3% [had their main job] in educational services.” Given the continuing climate of precarious employment, there is a need to analyze and strategize best business practices to train and retain employees. Cultivating a culture of lifelong learning and enhancing the learning experience of employees is a key component to buttressing Ontario’s labour economy. By prioritizing the question “What benefits does the use of LinkedIn Learning provide for employee development in technology-related positions?” this report offers primary research to support the advancement of LinkedIn Learning as a prime resource for managers in digital industries and beyond. Specifically, the range of audiences who find LinkedIn Learning beneficial is wide: participants in this study who self-identify as “hands-on learners” and are typically “not fans” of online learning reported that LinkedIn Learning is useful for its engaging content, while employees who are more geared toward learning online or asynchronously explain that LinkedIn Learning saves them “time and money.” Accordingly, the scope of this analysis broadens the notion of universal designs for learning to include the experiences of those who are learning while also working, as well as those who are teaching while also working in other fields. For employees, managers, teachers, and students alike, LinkedIn Learning is a resource that supports learning and upskilling in a wide array of economic contexts. This finding is additionally beneficial as researchers draw the conclusion that LinkedIn Learning is a resource that can be further optimized by pairing it with LinkedIn to continue advancing users’ professional networks and skills, which employers have the opportunity to endorse. Especially in a Business Communications setting, resources such as LinkedIn Learning and LinkedIn are twin forces for preparing students and prospective employees for success upon graduation, upskilling for second careers, and marketing their additional credentials and interests.
Additionally, primary data offered in this report suggest student/employee satisfaction with LinkedIn Learning in their professional development. Participants in this study make a case for why LinkedIn Learning , as a method of up to date and ad hoc retooling, is proven to be constructive to their experiences as lifelong learners who recognize Ontario’s competitive employment economy. Having access to and existing in a culture/department that encourages their professional development is a desirable asset with a measurable return on investment (ROI).
Emerging trends in higher learning suggest that there is an increasing number of “non-direct entrants.” In the Access and Equity section of Durham College’s 2017–20 Strategic Mandate Agreement, it is stated that Durham College’s student population is comprised of “non-direct entrants, including a growing trend of university graduates entering DC following their university degree” (Durham College, 2017). Accordingly, there is an increased need to focus on pedagogy as holistically as possible, including andragogy (the method and practice of teaching adult learners; adult education) (Oxford English Dictionary). In such an educational climate, it becomes increasingly important to consider and develop strategies focused on best leveraging and developing skills for adult learners. Included in this cohort are employees in technology-related positions. Henry Giroux, a leading pedagogical critic, states that “First, in what way do we have to learn how to engage digital technology, so that it is not constantly engaged in a kind of endless erasure of informed judgement that is no longer present in the most immediate of moments?…Digital technologies carry the inherent promise of reclaiming public memory. They develop archives, they offer huge amounts of knowledge, and they control access” (Jandrić, 2015).
Resources such as LinkedIn Learning are necessary tools in response to our educational and economic environments that see students who are also employees. Creating and nurturing opportunities for open access allows for supervisors to adopt management styles such as directive, participative, or coaching. Under such conditions, the hypothesis is that employees (who are likely also adult students) will experience increased autonomy, and therefore confidence, yielding better performance in their vocations. As outlined in future sections, participants expressed their interest in lifelong learning due to the helpfulness and their ability to access open, asynchronous resources such as LinkedIn Learning. The future of andragogy is deeply rooted in learners’ opportunities to build on their skills, which is cultivated by a democratized educational environment.
Observations of Past Employee Development
Throughout the principal investigator’s time at Durham College, he has led the onboarding of several part-time employees in technical roles that required a web development skill set. The employees were required to perform front-end and back-end coding and use the WordPress content management system to update content and develop customized websites that met the user requirements of a variety of institutional stakeholders. As new employees have joined at multiple times throughout the year, onboarding became resource-intensive for the author. A new solution was needed to provide introductory training in WordPress and back-end programming languages with which employees lacked experience. The initial training model consisted of individual or small group training, ranging from 10 to 14 hours in length. This training would occur multiple times throughout the academic year and take the author away from his regular workload. Through the use of LinkedIn Learning, the author has been able to decrease training hours to two to three hours of in-person training and 10 to 15 hours of training using LinkedIn Learning. This method has allowed the new employees to receive fundamental training from industry experts, along with coding exercises and pathways to continue their learning in more advanced topics. Upon completion of the fundamental training, student-employees are able to receive individualized training on specific customizations to the WordPress multisite platform at Durham College to ensure their success. This new approach has reduced face-to-face training time, improved department efficiencies, increased productivity, and promoted the importance of lifelong and self-directed learning to new employees.
The following section presents the findings of the qualitative data analysis from student feedback on the use of LinkedIn Learning for professional development and lifelong learning purposes. The responses are aggregated into subsections, and significant statements by participants are included to illustrate the findings.
Staying Up to Date in the Field of Web Development with LinkedIn Learning
All participants viewed LinkedIn Learning as an excellent tool for staying up to date with programming and markup languages, as well as content management systems such as WordPress. The participants used LinkedIn Learning to refresh knowledge they acquired from previous courses and to learn new tools and languages that they would leverage in their roles as part-time employees through the guidance of their supervisor. LinkedIn Learning not only helped employees learn new concepts, it also allowed them to build on existing knowledge and become more well-rounded web developers. In the large library hosted on LinkedIn Learning, features such as release date, course feedback, and level of expertise helped students browse through the library and find the suitable videos and courses to match each employee’s needs. The participants noted that web development is a difficult field in which to find up to date content because of how quickly information can become inaccurate due to technological changes. LinkedIn Learning’s library resources for website design and development included the latest changes in programming languages and the most up to date major releases of content management systems.
Response 1: “The main issue with traditional in-class learning for me, personally, has been the inability to know exactly what the professor said during the lecture. When learning WordPress specifically, there is a sequence of steps needed to get started or complete an installation. So if you miss a step, you’re in trouble. With LinkedIn Learning, it’s easy to rewind a couple seconds, verify if you did the step correct, and go on your way.”
Response 2: “Seeing that LinkedIn Learning has a library of courses that is constantly growing, I find myself always adding to my playlist. Their courses always keep me engaged and wanting to learn more. With every course, I am learning and downloading new materials in order to grow as a developer. Even if I don’t end up using them in the future, I will always be knowledgeable in the matter.”
Response 3: “LinkedIn Learning provides a couple of ways to make sure you are learning up to date information.
“Every course has a ‘Released: MM/DD/YYYY’ tag on the overview tab. This gives the student a clear indication to whether the course is up to date or not.
“In addition to the released tag, every student has the ability to give course feedback to the professor. With this tool, students can send a message to the course professor to let them know the course is out of date. The professor can then take the steps needed to update their course.”
Response 4: “Having previous experience with the WordPress platform, I was able to refresh and grow my knowledge. Since the platform is forever evolving, LinkedIn Learning provided me with the most recent tech videos. I was able to gain new strategies on how to organize my project all while getting the most out of the platform. To my surprise, LinkedIn Learning integrated skills I was seeking (example: learning how to use Gulp) into the WordPress platform. My biggest takeaway is that LinkedIn Learning not only helped me learn a new skill but now allows me to build on that skill.”
Quantity and Quality of Educational Resources Listed on LinkedIn Learning
The participants found LinkedIn Learning to be a robust library consisting of a significant quantity of educational resources superior in quality to what they previously experienced in an online setting. From a quality standpoint, one participant discussed the benefits of formative exercises to test their coding knowledge and appreciated the transcript option to match their learning preference. Considering how quickly information in the web development field can become out of date, the participants also found that the up to date videos allowed them to feel ready to use the latest version of WordPress and apply their new-found skill set in industry through freelance work or other employment opportunities.
Response 5: “The quality of the educational resources listed on LinkedIn Learning were excellent, you always find what you need without struggling to find it.”
Response 6: “The quality of courses surpassed my expectations. I like how LinkedIn Learning provides all the exercise files, the ability to view offline, and a transcript that I find myself reading through more often than not. It accommodates all types of learners. Sometimes I find myself trying an exercise before starting the video. I want to see if I can try it on my own first, and later see where I fall short.”
Response 7: “I had the same professor for all of the many courses I completed, and he was exceptional. The professor took it slow with the learning process, but not too slow. All of the information was up to date (very important for programming work), so there was virtually no errors or roadblocks while learning the course. He went into detail on several important lectures. He clearly had a deep understanding of the matter at hand.”
Usefulness of LinkedIn Learning in Preparing Students for Future Courses in Their Program
The participants felt prepared for future courses, gaining introductory and intermediate knowledge of the WordPress content management system and the PHP programming language from their roles in the Teaching and Learning Centre and use of LinkedIn Learning as part of their onboarding process. The participants had not previously completed courses in their program on WordPress or PHP. After completing the LinkedIn Learning courses, they felt they had a step up on their peers when the classes began.
Response 8: “In my opinion, the most difficult aspect of the programming industry is trying to stay up to date with the ever-changing languages, libraries, and frameworks. With LinkedIn Learning, I had the ability to find a future course outline, look at the different languages/libraries/frameworks we were working with, and start learning immediately. When it came time to actually take the course, I was ready to achieve a deep understanding of whatever we were working with.”
Response 9: “Having a CMS course dedicated to WordPress, I found myself very well prepared. Not only was I able to grasp the material much faster, but able to challenge myself and ask more insightful questions in class. For example, I’ve challenged myself to incorporate Gulp into my personal WordPress website. Since we weren’t covering it in class, LinkedIn Learning has given me a great base knowledge and I am now able to ask my instructor for additional help if needed.”
Leveraging LinkedIn Learning as a Lifelong Learning Resource
All participants viewed LinkedIn Learning as a valuable lifelong learning resource and plan to continue to use the tool after graduation by purchasing a subscription or leveraging access via their local public library. The participants viewed LinkedIn Learning as a required resource for staying current in the field of web development, a field that constantly changes with new programming languages and adaptations to current languages. One participant stated that through LinkedIn Learning they were able to continue learning more about a specific topic that their course did not cover, helping them become a more advanced user and expanding their skill set for future employment opportunities.
Response 10: “You must be a lifelong learner if you want to stay in the programming industry. As of now, a junior developer, I do not have a deep enough understanding to teach myself everything. LinkedIn Learning gives me the ability to learn every single day without enrolling in a post-secondary institution. This saves me time and money.”
Response 11: “Being a hands-on learner, I’ve always wanted to be in a classroom where I can ask questions and test what I’m learning instantly. I was never a fan of online learning, finding it boring and repetitive. Having all the resources LinkedIn Learning provides, I am always engaged and learning at a faster pace. Being able to learn from anywhere, at any time, and with any instructor, I found myself engaging more with online tutorials and surpassing my learning expectations.”
Response 12: “Education is an investment. LinkedIn Learning is extremely cheap compared to traditional post-secondary education. If I can learn a new framework/library on LinkedIn Learning to get a promotion, the subscription is paying for itself 10 times over.”
Since using LinkedIn Learning , each learner has a new and positive perspective of lifelong learning. Participants discussed the advantages of using a tool like LinkedIn Learning to refresh their skills after not using a specific coding language for a period of time. They also acknowledged the benefits that LinkedIn Learning brings to taking control of their learning journey.
Opportunities for Expansion
As mentioned earlier, the professor of communications, with expertise in teaching Business Communications, suggested that LinkedIn Learning be utilized alongside LinkedIn to support students who are entering into a competitive employment economy. By using LinkedIn Learning to upskill, and by learning how to market those skills via LinkedIn, professors are able to supervise students who are developing their professional profiles. Focusing on LinkedIn Learning in college level business classes and/or communications classes may be an opportunity to expand the use of LinkedIn Learning , especially if the professor places emphasis on lifelong learning as an essential employability skill.
Further, LinkedIn Learning is a feasible resource for any college level course that focuses on research. In their experience as a communications professor, the author acknowledges that students often refer to LinkedIn Learning as “academic YouTube,” which is a productive colloquialism: students accept that the content on LinkedIn Learning is peer-reviewed, unlike material found on YouTube. LinkedIn Learning is particularly useful for teaching research principles and explaining concepts such as credibility.
Additionally, LinkedIn Learning yields the opportunity to be especially useful in college departments such as Continuing Education, or in any student academic learning centre that operates as a support to students.
Finally, LinkedIn Learning is able to expand in myriad ways, academically and professionally. All of the applications discussed in this case relate to project management, lifelong learning, career-readiness, and professional development, which are intended or implied outcomes of Ontario colleges.
Analysis of the primary research compiled from student-employees in the Contemporary Web Design and Interactive Media Design programs indicates a clear trend acknowledging the usefulness and user-friendliness of LinkedIn Learning. In departments and cultures that nurture the use of digital resources, students have identified the metacognitive experience of enjoying their learning and being inspired to continue as lifelong learners. Even students who self-identify as being more “hands on” found LinkedIn Learning to be an engaging learning platform that allowed students to learn at their own pace and to surpass their expectations for online learning.
Additionally, considering data from the Annual Review of the Labour Market (Statistics Canada, 2017), an economy of part-time employment and multiple employment is emerging. In such vocations, upskilling and training that is available asynchronously and autonomously is a proven benefit to employees with multiple commitments and various interests.
Broadly speaking, contemporary conversations about pedagogy and andragogy contribute to a culture that does not regard digital technology as a kind of erasure but instead as a tool for broadening one’s skills, knowledge, and curiosity beyond a chosen program or employment position. Rather, digital technologies such as LinkedIn Learning help to develop archives, host and make available vast amounts of information, and create a case for making or keeping access public. Advancing such a teaching philosophy, as well as such a management style, further positions Ontario’s labour force as being skilled, and Ontario’s citizenry as being supported in their curiosity.
List of LinkedIn Learning Videos
Marini, J. (2015, January 14). Learning jQuery UI [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.lynda.com/jQuery-tutorials/Up-Running-jQuery-UI/186963-2.html
Mattia, C. (2016, June 2). WordPress for Education: Multisite [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.lynda.com/WordPress-tutorials/Wordpress-Classroom-Multisite/471659-2.html
Powers, D. (2013, December 9). PHP for Web Designers [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.lynda.com/PHP-tutorials/PHP-Web-Designers/146234-2.html
Powers, D. (2015, November 20). Learning PHP [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.lynda.com/PHP-tutorials/Introducing-PHP/418256-2.html
Rand-Hendriksen, M. (2017, February 6). WordPress: Building Themes from Scratch Using Underscores [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.lynda.com/WordPress-tutorials/WordPress-Building-Themes-from-Scratch-Using-Underscores/491704-2.html
Rand-Hendriksen, M. (2017, June 22). WordPress: Custom Post Types and Taxonomies [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.lynda.com/WordPress-tutorials/WordPress-Custom-Post-Types-Taxonomies/163113-2.html
Rand-Hendriksen, M. (2017, October 23). Installing and Running WordPress: MAMP [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.lynda.com/WordPress-tutorials/Installing-Running-WordPress-MAMP/661815-2.html
Rand-Hendriksen, M. (2018, July 13). WordPress: Building Child Themes [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.lynda.com/WordPress-tutorials/WordPress-Building-Child-Themes/422838-2.html
Rand-Hendriksen, M. (2018, November 30). WordPress 5 Essential Training [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.lynda.com/WordPress-tutorials/WordPress-5-Essential-Training/651229-2.html
Rand-Hendriksen, M. (2018, December 3). WordPress 5 Essential Training: Site Administration [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.lynda.com/WordPress-tutorials/WordPress-5-Essential-Training-Site-Administration/782148-2.html
Rand-Hendriksen, M. (2019, January 22). WordPress Content Blocks: Working with Themes [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.lynda.com/WordPress-tutorials/WordPress-Content-Blocks-Working-Themes/753927-2.html
Skoglund, K. (2017, June 27). PHP Essential Training [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.lynda.com/PHP-tutorials/PHP-Essential-Training/592510-2.html
Williamson, J. (2016, January 8). Building Responsive Forms with Flexbox [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.lynda.com/Web-Design-tutorials/Building-Responsive-Forms-Flexbox/383123-2.html
Durham College of Applied Arts and Technology, & Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development. (n.d.). 2017–20 Strategic Mandate Agreement. Retrieved from https://durhamcollege.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017-2020-Strategic-Mandate-Agreement.pdf
Jandrić, P., & Giroux, H. A. (2015, June 20). Pedagogy of the Precariat. CounterPunch. Retrieved from https://www.counterpunch.org/2015/06/12/pedagogy-of-the-precariat/
Andragogy. (1989). In Oxford English dictionary online (2nd ed.), Retrieved from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/andragogy
Statistics Canada. (2018, April 24). Annual review of the labour market, 2017. Retrieved from Statistics Canada website https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/75-004-m/75-004-m2018001-eng.htm