"Let life enchant you again." - Fernando Gros
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Blog // Technology
December 7, 2018

This Week I Quit Lynda (Rethinking Online Learning)

Lynda is a high-quality online learning platform for technical, business and creative skills. I’ve relied on this for years, but, this week, I decided to end the relationship.

In the footnotes to my book, No Missing Tools, I mention Lynda.com as a great resource for online learning. It hosts excellent courses – many of which I’ve used to improve my skills, not just in music and photography, but in branding, website building, design and marketing. They were a great example of how the professional and personal development skills that used to be expensive to learn, or difficult to find a teacher for, have become accessible to almost anyone, anywhere.

So, why did I quit using Lynda.com this week?

A while back, Lynda.com was bought by LinkedIn – I was ambivalent about it.
LinkedIn is not a platform that I like. Maybe, one day, it will be the subject of another “this week I quit” blogpost. But, for a long time, nothing changed – so, it didn’t matter.

When I say nothing changed, I meant nothing changed for any users of Lynda.com. But, something was changing for this user. Lynda is one of several online learning platforms that I’ve used over the years, including Creative Live, MacProVideo, Skillshare, TrueFire and MasterClass – just to name a few.

And, of course, there is a growing number of educational videos on YouTube – maybe, there are too many or, at least, there are too many for me because I’m addicted to them.

Addicted to Learning

OK, “addicted” is the wrong word. I don’t spend every day watching. But, I do have a bad habit, and it’s a habit that I need to break.

Every time that I want to start a new project, I begin by watching a training video; or many videos; or a whole course. Launch a zine, take a course on how to use Adobe Illustrator: start a podcast, take a course on how to edit audio in Logic Pro. I do this even though I already know how to do these things and even if all I need is a little time to get familiar with the software again.

I approach learning the way that people who grew up in the Great Depression approached food – finish every last scrap of learning on your educational plate, as who knows where the next serving of learning will come from!

Putting Learning in Context

Learning is inherently good, and that’s why I devote a day a week to it. Every Tuesday, I make time to add skills and knowledge. It’s the day that I take Japanese lessons. It’s also the day I set aside to figure out answers to the questions that pop up during my week, like whether to use the marquee tool to make audio cuts in Logic Pro (yes, totally) or whether to change my recipe for mac and cheese (no, the old recipe is gold).

But, the list of things that I am trying to cram into that learning day is so vast and the backlog of bookmarked courses is so deep – I would need a few lifetimes of Tuesdays to get through them all.

I had to decide how to pare this backlog. Lynda made it easy to decide where to start. I recently got an email saying that I needed to renew my membership – this seemed odd. I thought it automatically renewed. I followed the links and I was asked to transfer my Lynda.com account to something called LinkedIn Learning.

Various emails to customer service revealed that I had no option here. But, what would happen to all my existing progress and the courses I’ve bookmarked for later? More emails were sent but no clear answers were received. So, I go ahead with the transfer and it seems like all my history is gone. More emails were sent and maybe I could get that back, with an authentication key, which didn’t seem to work. This unrequested angst makes me ask some deep questions.

A Question of Priorities

When you migrate to LinkedIn learning, you get signed up to LinkedIn premium – I don’t like where this is going. Courses are recommended based on your profile: it’s not that I don’t trust AI but creatives don’t always choose courses based on where they’ve been, but on where they want to go. And, the AI can’t know that, because my dreams aren’t online. Maybe a career-industry trend will dictate the skills required to stay competitive in the marketplace, or something like that, but my only hope of being attractive in my marketplace is to zig when others zag.

AI couldn’t have predicted my interest in calligraphy or my return to podcasting after an extended break by looking at my LinkedIN profile or any online activity, because the thoughts, conversations and overall decision-making that went into those choices happened offline.

Then, there’s the cost. Lynda.com works out at about ¥32,000 a year. Several years back, the cost of Lynda.com felt comfortable, because there were few alternatives, but, now, there are many others. And there’s the sunk-cost fallacy to contend with – the idea that we keep trying to use things we’ve paid for, just because we’ve paid for them. And, I’d like to use fewer learning videos for now, not more.

So, I’m saying goodbye to Lynda.com.

The Infinite Highway

Beyond anything Lynda has done, the LinkedIn thing, the cost or even the AI, this feels like a canary in a coalmine. A sign of the need to change my relationship with online learning, or to the problem of infinite learning.

Long ago, we left behind the idea that learning is something that we do in the early years of life – fill up the tank and drive on through adulthood to retirement. But, now, we expect to refill the tank regularly – maybe that’s better.

Travel long enough down the road of ongoing learning and the journey starts to feel unending.

Of course, you don’t have the option to get out of your car and walk, but you don’t have to stop at every sightseeing spot either.

This feels like another example of the enduring lesson from the year of Simple – weighing the true cost of digital commitments. When there are an infinite number of things that you can learn conveniently from experts in the field, there’s also an infinite number of possible distractions and detours.

Learning And Experimenting

So, along with quitting Lynda.com I’ve unsubscribed from all the emails announcing new courses as well. Of course I’ll continue to learn. But, I want to break the “take a course or watch a video” mode as my default response to needing to learn.

What I’ve replaced that with this year has been more of an experimental approach to learning. Try it and see what happens. Of course, this is much more like the way I used to learn most things. It’s fun and serendipitous. You don’t always end up where you expected.

It’s also slower. You have to work through the frustration. Live with it a bit. Maybe that’s what I was avoiding all along?

This Week I Quit is an occasional series where I share experiences of quitting apps, platforms, habits and commitments in a quest to live a simpler and more focussed creative life. Last time I quit letting people “pick my brain” and you can read the rest of the series here.

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