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What might Microsoft’s $26.2 billion acquisition of LinkedIn mean for higher ed?

It is clear that LinkedIn views higher education as a key vertical.  This strategy became apparent with the $1.5 purchase of in 2015.   

So what might the Microsoft acquisition change about LinkedIn through a higher ed lens?

LinkedIn and Higher Ed:

Being owned by Microsoft should allow LinkedIn to focus on its core strengths - and to leave the technology back-end to Microsoft.

It would be good if LinkedIn could spend less time and resources worrying about their digital platforms, and more time in conversation with higher ed people.

There have been signs that LinkedIn wants to have bigger mindshare in the discussion about the future of higher education, but these signals have been weak and fleeting.  LinkedIn is still viewed more as a utility - a digital rolodex - than a key building block of what comes next in higher education.

One could imagine a much bigger role for LinkedIn as a competency based education (CBE) goes mainstream.  The switch from time-based to skill-based credentialing will be hugely important for some (although not all) sectors of higher education.   LinkedIn has the potential to combine professional networking with just-in-time training and alternative credentialing.

Employers could recruit prospective applicants based on the data contained in the LinkedIn profile.  This data could include current and past job histories, educational backgrounds, the strength of one’s professional network, as well as demonstrated competencies and skills based on online and open educational accomplishments.

For those of us with LinkedIn profiles (really everyone that I know), we could use LinkedIn to strengthen our networks and to connect with professional opportunities.  The opportunity to share demonstrated competencies and alternative credentials will be increasingly important in an Uberfied (and insecure) gig economy.  (Not that this is a good result - just the likely result).

I’ve long thought that Microsoft should buy Coursera - and now this LinkedIn purchase may create a compelling reason to explore that deal.

Microsoft and Higher Ed:

I’ve been confused for a few years now about what Microsoft is trying to do in higher education. The potential seems to be so huge, but the reality so limited.

Many of us in higher education use Microsoft platforms each and every day.  My e-mail and calendar is still Outlook - and my school’s cloud-based productivity suite is Office 365.

Even if your school is a Google Apps for Education Campus (does anyone have recent data the percentages of Google, Microsoft, and other cloud higher ed customers?), there is a good chance that you touch some Microsoft product every day.  

The Microsoft Office Suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) has stubbornly hung-on - even if nobody seems to be very enthusiastic about using this software.  (And everyone I know uses Google Docs for any collaborative writing).

My guess is that Microsoft enterprise (administrative, backend - think SharePoint etc.) is in use somewhere on your campus.

Microsoft’s higher ed mindshare does not match its higher ed footprint.  Folks in higher ed, as near as I can tell, don’t think about Microsoft all that much.

Could owning LinkedIn make Microsoft culturally relevant in higher ed once again?

Could Microsoft leverage the data about networks and needs from LinkedIn to provide better solutions (and communications) to higher ed customers?  (Or does Microsoft data mining our networks to sell us advertising or services give you pause?).

What do you think the impact of the Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn will be on higher ed?


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