Several colleges that subscribe to the online education provider Lynda.com are seeing double-digit increases in subscription costs, leading many to wonder if its acquisition by LinkedIn (which in turn was acquired by Microsoft) is behind the price hikes.
Chaminade University of Honolulu recently renewed its contract with Lynda.com, agreeing to a 20 percent increase. The University of the Arts, in Philadelphia, which has yet to decide whether to renew its subscription, is facing a 37 percent increase. Emerson College in Boston saw licensing costs go up by 57 percent over the next three years.
The increases are forcing some of the colleges, including long-term customers, to restructure their contracts with Lynda.com or consider other online education providers that provide skills-based, noncredit online courses that professors sometimes integrate into their curricula.
Indiana University is one of them. The university, due to its size and longstanding relationship with Lynda.com, earlier this decade signed a deal under which it paid less than many other institutions. When the contract expired last year, the company offered the university a one-year contract with a more than 60 percent price increase, said Anastasia Morrone, associate vice president of learning technologies.
“We simply could not justify increases like that, so we made the decision to discontinue,” Morrone said in an email. “In my view, they really are pricing themselves out of the higher education market, and that could be part of their strategy.”
Chaminade University, a liberal arts college with about 2,500 students, may soon face a similar decision.
“We’ll decline to renew next time if the increase is more than the percentage of our tuition increase,” Kyle Johnson, dean of information technology at Chaminade, said in an email. “I’ve grown frustrated with vendors thinking it’s OK to have 10 percent increases a year for the same service when my budget for renewals only goes up by around 6 percent.”
Lynda.com, an established entity in the online education market, went from being a successful start-up to becoming part of Microsoft in little over a year. LinkedIn, the professional networking site, in April 2015 acquired the company for $1.5 billion. Fourteen months later, Microsoft acquired LinkedIn for $26.2 billion.
Thousands of Lynda.com courses are now offered through LinkedIn Learning, a professional development platform the company launched in September. An enterprise version of the platform launched in December.
Colleges that subscribe to Lynda.com sometimes use its courses for professional development, and their faculty members often use the video lectures to supplement their own teaching. Its courses cover subjects ranging from animation to K-12 education, though its most popular categories include business and web production.
Kenly Walker, a spokesperson for LinkedIn Learning, said the company last raised its prices last summer at the same time that it added more courses, features and video lectures. Emails the company sent to the University of the Arts, which were provided to Inside Higher Ed, shed some light on its rationale for doing so.
“Just in the last 12 months the Lynda platform has seen a lot of changes, as LinkedIn has really started to take an active part in the Lynda side of the business,” the company said. “One thing that has come with that is an overhaul and adjustment to the pricing structure of the LyndaCampus program.”
The company went on to say that part of the price hike can be explained by recently added features such as learning management system integration and offline access, as well as its ongoing push to expand its course library. Lynda.com added about 1,000 courses each in 2015 and 2016 and now offers more than 5,000, it said.
“The proposed single year cost … is a 30 percent increase from the rate [the college] paid in 2012,” the company wrote. “This equates to a 6 percent increase each year, which [we] feel is fair given all of the product enhancements that have been rolled out since 2012.”
Not all colleges give their IT offices annual budget increases to keep up with rising licensing costs, however.
News of price hikes spread quickly on Educause’s Listserv for chief information officers, with half a dozen colleges reporting increases ranging from 20 to more than 60 percent. Some CIOs suggested several colleges should band together and negotiate a consortium deal with Lynda.com, which could offset some the price increases.
The company hasn’t always been open to consortium deals, however. In 2013, the company was sponsored by Indiana and Princeton University for participation in Internet2’s NET+ program, a package of vetted cloud services that schools, colleges and other education or research institutions can subscribe to. Lynda.com withdrew from the program after it “determined that working on individual campus subscriptions was a better financial model for their business,” according to Shelton Waggener, senior vice president of Internet2.