Leveraging the Many, Many Learning Resources of Lynda.com

I was having a conversation yesterday with a colleague about ways to market William & Mary’s institutional subscription to Lynda.com.  Lynda.com, a subsidiary of business-focused social networking site LinkedIn, is a compendium of tutorial videos which range from quick one-offs to entire multi-hour courses. The site is focused on technical, creative, and business skills, and amounts to a treasure trove of self-directed professional development. As I discussed with my colleague, though, the “trove” aspect can be a bit daunting.

Browsing Can Be Difficult Because of the Sheer Number of Videos

That's a lot of search results for Excel!

That’s a lot of search results for Excel!

Ever feel like watching something on Netflix, spend a half hour browsing through titles, and then decide that now it’s too late to start a movie anyway? (Come on, I know I’m not the only one!) That’s what it can be like browsing through Lynda.com, especially when there’s not a specific topic you’re looking for. Or even if there is: As of this writing, a search for “Excel,” Microsoft’s ubiquitous spreadsheet application, yields 99 course results comprised of 3,828 videos.

The site does offer some ability to cull through the collection by media type, skill level, and duration, and the “courses” page offers a list of “Most Popular Courses.” If you’re looking for a particular skill or set of skills, though, you’re going  to have to do some additional digging.

Using the Playlists Feature to Do Additional Digging

A look at the eLearning kit tutorials playlist put together by W&M's Ali Briggs.

A look at the eLearning kit playlist page put together by W&M’s Ali Briggs.

I think a key to leveraging the availability of Lynda.com is a combination of curating and communicating, making good use of the playlists feature.   Any user can create playlists of tutorials and resources, in essence creating a custom course. A great example is the list of tutorials that Ali Briggs put together for the eLearning Kit resource page which combines vendor-supplied tutorials for Camtasia Studio, YouTube tutorials on Open-Sankore, and Lynda.com’s training course on Microsoft’s OneNote.

Unlike courses or playlists intended for a generalized audience, the list is task-oriented and applicable to a particular activity at William & Mary; in this case, recording annotated lecture videos using the software that comes with our eLearning kit. Her Lynda.com playlist for the kits includes not only technology training videos but also material on instructional design that a user looking for a Camtasia how-to might not even wonder about.

Lynda.com’s Breadth And Depth Is Its Strength

As a professional development resource, Lynda.com’s strength is in the breadth and depth of material available.  Curating playlists targeted to specific groups would go a long way toward making the material relevant to individuals. For example, staff managers who are familiar with the specific training their team members need when they start work could curate playlists that target those topics.

Professors who need students to have certain technology skills to complete coursework — even if those skills are ancillary to the main course topic — can create playlists that address students’ needs. Not to keep harping on Excel, but almost every time I talk to a professor about a class that uses it, the topic of managing the training of a group of students that includes experts, novices, and everything in between comes up; self-directed asynchronous learning on demand is a great solution to this perennial issue.


While it does take work to cull through available videos to create a playlist, efficiency is gained by not forcing every person seeking similar knowledge to go through the same discovery process. Of course, this assumes that the existence of the playlist is communicated to those with need and/or interest — an easy proposition at the class or workgroup level but becoming more difficult and less localized at scale.

If you’ve had successes or challenges with these kinds of resources, share your experience in the comments section below.

About John Drummond

John Drummond is the Academic Technology Manager at the College of William & Mary. Originally from Mathews County, VA, John graduated from James Madison University with a BA in English in 1996 and an MS in Technical and Scientific Communication in 2002, and is currently studying for an Ed.D. in Higher Education at the W&M School of Education. He has been with W&M since 2007. In addition to working in IT, John has taught occasionally at W&M and previously at Tidewater Community College, and in other roles has been an author, a musician, a Perl programmer, a UNIX systems engineer, and a network manager. He resides in Toano with his wife Andrea and daughter Rebekah.