Lynda.com is an online training web site that provides training videos that can be
viewed on the web as well as training videos on CD-ROM for purchase. The training
videos are all about computer tech subjects, such as Final Cut Pro, DVD Studio Pro,
and Photoshop. This review will focus on the online service that provides access
to the training videos on the web.
From the Vendor
"Learn the latest tools and techniques in digital media design and development
from experts in the field who share a passion for teaching in a generous, caring,
honest and unbiased fashion. Discover over 10,821 professionally produced Windows
and Macintosh compatible QuickTime video tutorials from over 157 topics available
24 hours a day, 7 days a week with a subscription to our Online Training Library
starting at only $25 per month."
How it Works
Using the Lynda.com online library requires membership. You can try it out on a month-by-month
basis for $25 per month, or pay $250 per year for training only. In addition to training
videos, Lynda.com also provides exercise files for download. In order to get access
to download these files, you would need to sign up for premium membership, which
is $375 a year.
Once you are a member, you can access any of Lynda.com's online training video topics.
The topics are broken down by chapters, and within each chapter there are several
video clip segments. Most topics also include exercise files available for download
to premium members.
You can watch the training videos as often as you like, any time during the day or
night, on any day of the week. You are not limited to how much time you have, or
how many topics you can view. The sky is pretty much the limit, until your membership
There are a number of topics currently available in the online training library,
and new topics are added on a regular basis. For example, the following new training
videos have recently been added to Lynda.com:
- Final Cut Pro 5 Essential
Editing (8.25 hours)
- Final Cut Pro 5 Essential
Effects (6 hours)
- InCopy CS2 Essential
Training (5 hours)
- Flash User Experience
Best Practices (4.25 hours)
- Paint Shop Pro X
Essential Training (9.5 hours)
- InDesign CS2 Professional
Typography (7 hours)
- iMovie HD + iDVD
5 Essential Training (12 hours)
In addition to the
new releases, the library consists of a huge variety of topics, ranging from Photoshop,
to Illustrator, to Maya, CorelDraw, DVD Studio Pro, Dreamweaver, and so much more.
They cover products from Adobe, Apple, Macromedia, Microsoft, and others. The best
way to see what they have to offer is to view the online library catalog which is available to the
public. The website even offers non-members some free video clips to give you an
idea of what the training is like. For example, under Final Cut Pro 5 Essential Editing,
the website offers the Troubleshooting Basics video segment for free.
As a member, once you select a specific topic, the web page displays an outline of
the topic by chapter, then by video segments. Next to each segment is the time that
the video clip runs. At the top of the page is also a link for downloading exercise
files if that training video has exercise files (only accessible if you are a premium
member). As mentioned earlier, the video segments are generally categorized by chapter
headings. For example, under iMovie HD + iDVD 5 Essential Training, the first two
chapters are outlined as follows:
First two chapters of "iMovie HD + iDVD 5 Essential Training"
For the iMovie HD
+ iDVD 5 Essential Training video, there are actually a total of 28 chapters, and
over 100 video segments, for a total training time of 12 hours. Note that the links
in the sample above are all live links, meaning that all the video segments in the
first two chapters happen to be available to the general public for free.
How it Rates
During our limited membership over a few months, I employed some help to really put
the online training videos to the test. With two people helping, we were able to
tackle a wide range of topics, and cover them extensively. The topics that we covered
included training on products from Microsoft, Apple, and Adobe. Lan reviewed several
Microsoft videos covering Excel and Outloook. Rich reviewed Adobe After Effects extensively.
I went through Apple Motion and CSS 2 extensively, and browsed a handful of others
Lan was just learning Excel and Outlook, so this was a perfect opportunity to test
the training videos with someone new to the subject. Lan rated the video very highly,
as they were easy to follow, while at the same time they spoke to her as if she was
capable (versus a "for Dummies" book). The Excel training was straightforward,
and got Lan up to speed for doing what she needed to do with Excel. She found the
voice soothing, and the material was presented well. She wasn't sure that paying
$25 a month for just the Excel training would be worth it, since so many people know
Excel to whom she could go to for help. Also, for $25 a month, she would not have
received the exercise files. The exercise files only come with the premium package,
which is $375 for the entire year. Having access to the training was definitely a
Rich is an experienced After Effects user, and already owned a book on After Effects.
He found that the training, complete with videos and exercise files, mirrored the
book quite well. Rich thought that Lynda.com provided a good user-oriented approach.
The most powerful aspect for Rich was the availability of current program training,
and the online training provides immediate access to visual training materials. The
After Effects presenter seemed like an expert in the field, and the tutorials were
clear, and seemed very professional.
In my testing, I spent a lot of time in the CSS 2 and Motion training videos. I also
went through a few training chapters on Photoshop, DVD Studio Pro, and Macromedia
Flash. As you might expect, the experience from one speaker to the next is not always
the same. Having went through the entire CSS 2 training, there was a certain aspect
to the speaker's voice that began to distract me more as I got into it. The speaker had a "wet"
vocal, like his mouth was always wet and his lips were sticking together when he
spoke. On the other hand, the materials in the CSS 2 training were fantastic, and
I probably retained the most from that training. I was able to immediately use the
information, which definitely helps in retention. I also found the exercise files
that were downloadable to be extremely useful, and find myself referring to them
still, months after the membership expired. Not all of the examples provided in the
video were as interesting as others, and some CSS 2 features I would have liked to
have seen discussed more. Often it seemed like an example was "invented"
to illustrate the feature, versus creating an example that would be useful in every
day use. But there were plenty of examples that did have real-world application,
and the entire set of web pages that were created in the video were also provided
with the exercise files. As powerful as CSS 2 is, this topic could have easily been
In review of the CSS 2 training, the exercise files for this topic turned out to
be just as valuable as the training video itself. As mentioned earlier, the normal
monthly or yearly membership does not provide access to exercise files. I was only
given access for the purposes of this review. Given how key these files are for following
up on a lesson, I think that all membership should be able to download the exercise
files. For some topics, having access to the exercise files is a critical part of
For Apple Motion,
I viewed the Motion training videos before I actually owned the software. I knew
I was getting the software in a few months, so I thought it would be good to get
an introduction. For the most part, the Motion training videos provided an excellent
overview and look at the product. It was a great way to preview the application,
and I was able to view it at my leisure.
The other two training videos I browsed in were Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Flash
MX 2004. For the few videos I watched on Photoshop, I learned quite a bit. I was
very impressed with the content and pace of the segments I watched. I received some
very good tips on palette management, workspaces, and keyboard shortcuts, all of
which I immediately incorporated into my regular habits when working with the software.
The one thing that I would have liked to have seen added to both the training and
the downloadable exercise files was scripting actions for batch files.
I watched more segments in Flash MX 2004 than I did in Photoshop, yet I retained
much less. This is due to the fact that I don't use Flash as often as Photoshop (although
I would like to), but mostly I think it's due to the different speaker styles. The
Flash MX videos tended to be a bit on the dull side, not as exciting as most of the
other training videos. I found a lot of the explanations repetitive and overly drawn-out.
Flash is more like Motion in terms of what the software does, and comparing the training
videos, I found Motion to be much more lively and interesting. In Flash, it seemed
to take too longer before any animation was happening. I found myself wanting to
see examples that were interesting, but most of the Flash animations demonstrated
were quite boring.
Overall, the training videos were very informative. You did get a sense the that
instructors were well versed in the topic they were teaching. For the most part,
the videos seemed unscripted, which may not be a good thing even if you are an expert
in the subject. I recalled one instructor putting a spin on unexpected happenings,
comparing it to real life. Although it's true that in real life you do experience
unexpected situations, it's unlikely that you would experience the same one as in
the video. A more carefully laid out script would have provided more focus and probably
introduced some more interesting examples to look at.
For the most part, the assumptions the instructors made on the experience level of
the viewer was decently balanced. Sometimes it felt a bit slow, while other times
some terms got thrown at me that I was unfamiliar with (e.g., I didn't know what
"Alpha" channels were). Trying to appeal to a wide range of experience
levels in a training video is no easy task, but I do think that Lynda.com does a
fairly good job of covering that range.
The big difference between any kind of static training materials and live classroom
training is that with a live instructor, you can ask questions about how to do something,
request the teacher to cover specific topics more in-depth, or have them explain
a term that you aren't familiar with. This kind of live interaction is simply not
possible in pre-recorded training videos, and that's simply something that the viewer
should understand before choosing this route for training. That said, it would be
a very useful compliment to the training videos to have some portal on the Lynda.com
web site for asking questions related to a topic. Having training presented on the
web opens the doors for more possibilities like these, and I would like to see them
take advantage of that. It makes a big difference to be able to ask that one begging
question that wasn't covered in the video, and get a good answer to it.
Viewing the training videos on the web browser using Quicktime was a very effective
means of sharing information. The sound and video quality was excellent, and you
can scrub the movie (e.g., slide the playhead back and forth) to replay sections
that you might want to revisit, as well as pausing the video to take a break. During
a training session, you typically click on one segment after the other. When you
are finished with a particular video segment, you return to the contents page that
lists all the segments, and the videos you've already watched typically reflect a
"visited" color on the link. The one issue I noticed is that if you break
for the day, and come back the following day, the visited links no longer show visited.
Of course, you want to start up where you left off, so it would be nice if they would
improve the web site to keep track of watched videos so that it is apparent which
segments you've watched from day to day. You can review history on a different page,
but that is not as convenient.
The web page provides
a decent interface for browsing all the titles, by vendor, product name, or general
topic. What's missing is a search function. It would be great if you could type a
key word or phrase (such as "Photoshop Cropping"), and receive a list of
video segments that include that subject. This, of course, would require maintaining
an indexed table for searching, but the benefit to the student would be outstanding,
and a tremendous time saver.
There were a few interface
quirks, nits really, that could be improved as well. For instance, I wanted to expand
the Quicktime playback window to fill my screen, but there was no option to do that.
Also, during certain video segments (e.g., a few of the Motion segments) where the
Lynda.com watermark actually obscured a control on the screen that I wanted to see.
Lastly, after your subscription
expires, there's no way to log back in to review the titles that you've watched.
I wanted to do that for some screenshots for this review, and I can imagine others
wanting to do that if they simply wanted to summarize the training they've taken,
or possibly to determine which CDs they may want to purchase.
Online versus CD-ROM
There are a number of differences between the online service and purchasing a
CD-ROM. When you purchase a CD training video, you own it, and can watch it essentially
until the end of time, without worry of a membership expiring, and without having
to pay a monthly fee. The exercise files are also included on the CD. The downside
is that a single CD covers only one topic, and it is a bit pricey (e.g., $149.95
for the Photoshop CS2 Essential Training CD-ROM). On the other hand, the online service
allows you to watch as many training videos as you can cram into your schedule during
your membership period. If you have a free month, you could watch 200 hours of training
on a wide range of products for $25. However, once your membership expires, you cannot
go back to review any materials, and unless you signed up for a year under the premium
membership, you don't get any exercise files.
There are a number of scenarios that may lend one method being more favorable than
another. For a company, the online training premium membership is an excellent tool
for getting on-the-job training, and utilizing that knowledge in your job. For someone
trying to become proficient in a specific application, the training CD-ROM is the
way to go. Both methods do compliment one another. For example, a great way to determine
which training you may want to purchase on CD-ROM is to view the online training
videos. If you like what you see, then purchase the CD-ROM. If you don't find the
video useful, you've just saved yourself $150 (minus the monthly fee of the online
service). That's the great thing about the online service is that you get to see
whether a training video is useful to you before choosing to invest in it.
Training Library is a web portal for accessing a wide range of technical training
videos. This is a subscription service, providing you month by month, or a full
year's access to as much video as you have time to watch. It can be utilized any
day of the week, at any time of the day. The selection of training videos is huge, covering web development,
digital photography, networking, animation, Microsoft products, Adobe products, Macromedia
products, Apple products, and many more. There are a number of different instructors,
each with their own styles. Some videos are more interesting than others, and some
instructors are more exciting than others. All of the videos appear to provide a
very good coverage of the product being presented. These videos are useful as introductions
to the products, improving your knowledge of the products, or just a refresher.
Paying month by month doesn't provide the exercise files, which is unfortunate, since
the exercise files play a critical role in exploring the subject after the video
is viewed. I see two primary targets for this service. The month to month service
provides you an inexpensive way to review as many titles as you can to help determine
which titles you may want to purchase on CD-ROM, perfect if you're shopping for training
videos. If you are interested in a variety topics, and your schedule is all over
the place, the premium year membership is the way to go, giving you immediate access
to the entire library of training videos, including the exercise files, allowing
you to view the videos at your leisure.
- Wide range of useful
and informative videos on computer tech topics
- High quality video and
- Able to scrub through
videos, or pause
- Watch videos as your
leisure, and preview videos before purchasing CD-ROMs
- Useful downloadable exercise
files (premium membership only)
- Exercise files not available
for month-by-month subscriptions
- No support for asking
questions on topics
- No way to search for
a specific sub-topic
- No way to see which segments
you watched after membership expires
- A few of the training
videos are less interesting or useful than others
4 out of 5 Mice