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Online Learning

Online Learning

The now and next of global digital education

Learn with Facebook

Facebook jumped on the online learning bandwagon in November with their new elearning platform, Learn with Facebook. Blink and you might have missed this, for the launch seems to have been somewhat under the radar –  Google “Learn with Facebook” and their site comes up top in the search results but it took a bit more digging for press releases to find more about the social network’s motivation behind this.

Facebook pledge

Why are Facebook entering this space? In short, they say they want to help people land their next job and recognise that there will be a skilled labour shortage in the future. They’ve made a pledge to equip people with the skills needed to succeed in the modern workplace.

People often tell us is that they don’t have the digital skills they need to succeed at work. That’s why Facebook made a pledge earlier this year to train 1 million people and small businesses in the U.S. in digital skills by 2020.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer

Learn with Facebook is free and features tools such as case studies, insider tips and resources from industry experts including, of course, their very own Facebook staff!

Of course it makes sense for Facebook to get into this space – they are all about digital and have billions of users – potential customers – at their fingertips. So they could pretty much jump into any new product and have a ready-made market to sell it to. But for now they have cleverly chosen a product/service that people actually need and as it’s all free and has a nice interface, I’m trying not to be too cynical about their motivation to enter the world of online learning.


I took it for a spin. The free courses so far are mainly about digital marketing (cynic alert: how to use Facebook to your advantage in your marketing!) or how to excel at work.  You can for example “Unlock the power of digital storytelling”  or “Become an effective team player.”

Screenshot of video on Learn with Facebook

I did the “Digital Marketing: getting started” course. It took all of 10 minutes. Obviously there was nothing I didn’t know in there 🙂 but I tried to imagine what a business owner with no experience in marketing might make of it and actually I think Facebook have pitched this really well.

Initial thoughts:

  • nice clean interface – text easy to read with short points
  • simple to navigate, with calls to action to take you to the next course or step
  • good mix of simple quizzes and videos
  • indication of time needed for each component
  • lots of encouragement to keep you motivated

What can universities learn from Learn with Facebook?

The main takeaway for me is pretty simple, but not one I think universities are necessarily very good at: ask your customers (alumni, current students, staff, local citizens) what product they need, make sure you are well equipped to deliver that (partner with others if need be) and provide it for them! The course content and interface is obviously pitched so it is accessible to all but I still think there are things to be learnt from this. Even though I’ve done online courses before, I quite liked the words of encouragement and the ease of navigation through the content – in many online learning interfaces you find yourself jumping about to work out what you should be looking at next or where the tutorial link is (although I’d caveat this with the point that a postgraduate learner is required to consume much more content and dive a lot deeper academically than a Learn with Facebook learner doing a quick 6 minute course).

Where next for Learn with Facebook?

While it appears to have had a soft launch, I reckon this is just the start for Learn with Facebook, and while there aren’t many courses available yet, they talk of longer-term ambitions of working with partners to deliver more learning skills:

We do intend to build out the content to make sure we are evolving with market economy and job skills. For us it’s about meeting the needs of jobseekers. At this point in time we’re working with partners but we’re open to all possibilities to meet this need. 

Fatima Saliu, head of policy marketing at Facebook

With only 13 courses, they’ve a long way to go to compete with LinkedIn who, through its acquisition of, now has around 13,000 courses on its site. But I think this is one to keep an eye on; universities can tap into their alumni networks all they want, but are never going to be able to compete with 1.69 billion Facebook users.


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