Pluralsight is making online tech learning courses free in April

  • The online learning company Pluralsight is giving individuals free access to its tech skills courses for the entire month of April.
  • Pluralsight decided to do this to help recently laid off people learn new skills, and to encourage people to stay home during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Pluralsight CEO and co-founder Aaron Skonnard says even though the company is turning off revenue for its consumer business this month, it will still generate revenue from its business customers, and this offer could lead to paying customers in the long term.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

After the online learning company Pluralsight announced on April 2 that it was giving away free access to its courses for the entire month of April, over 100,000 people signed up in the first 24 hours, the company says.

Pluralsight offers online courses in technical skills, such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science. Pluralsight CEO and co-founder Aaron Skonnard says company leaders launched the free-access month because they wanted to do something in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Pluralsight usually charges $29 a month for a subscription to its course offerings.  With this free offer, Skonnard says, it’s “no strings attached,” and people don’t even need to put in their credit card information.

“We were watching what was happening across the rest of the industry and seeing how other companies were engaging their response,” Skonnard told Business Insider. “Then we went to the drawing board. What can we do?” 

Offering Pluralsight’s courses for free is a “subtle encouragement” for people to stay home and practice social distancing, while using that time to “skill up” – especially now that more people may be getting hit with layoffs, Skonnard says.

“We’re taking the position that this is the time to stay home for the greater good and use that time for their own good to invest in their skills and come out stronger on the other side, especially the people who are being impacted by unemployment right now,” Skonnard said. 

So far, people from 25 countries have signed up, and over a five-day period,  there were half a million new signups, the company says.  Pluralsight says users have started sharing stories about the impact on their careers. 

‘We’re basically turning off revenue from this channel for this entire month’

Skonnard says this is the first time Pluralsight has done anything like this, although it has occasionally opened free access for certain weekends. When the free-access April idea was proposed within the company, there was initially some debate, he says. 

“We’re basically turning off revenue from this channel for this entire month, but our mission here at Pluralsight is to democratize tech skills,” Skonnard said. “Doing something for the greater good will pay dividends in the longer term.”

Although Pluralsight is giving away learning opportunities to individuals for free, its subscriptions for businesses will continue to generate revenue. Plus, Skonnard says, this offer could land more paying customers in the long term if users introduce it to their companies.

“We’re going to have many hundreds of thousands of people take advantage of this offering throughout the month,” Skonnard said. “All those people are going to end up working somewhere. When you’re able to help someone out in a time of need, they remember that. They become some of our biggest champions when they get to work and get to a company.”

‘We felt that was the area we could contribute in the greatest way’

While many companies like Zoom and Google have been giving away their products to schools, Skonnard says that Pluralsight’s free offering is best suited for helping people who are unemployed, or who recently lost their jobs. 

“We felt that was the area we could contribute in the greatest way,” Skonnard said. “When we started to see the unemployment numbers skyrocketing, we felt like this is how Pluralsight can make the biggest difference.” 

So far, the most popular courses this month provide instruction on the popular programming languages C#, Python, and JavaScript, as well as the web development frameworks Angular and React.

Even if people are still employed, they’re spending more time at home, and no longer have to commute. Skonnard says learning new skills can be a positive way for people to spend their time, rather than just surfing the web or spending all day on social media. 

“A lot of people in the Bay Area and big cities commute two hours a day,” Skonnard said. “They can be using those hours to invest in those skills and come out stronger on the other side of this. We are seeing customers be proactive in that way and want to be more strategic in how they use their time.”

It’s still too early to tell what kind of impact the pandemic will have on Pluralsight, as customers will likely tighten their budgets. But Skonnard thinks that it will continue to do “fairly well” because of a rise in remote learning.

“In the end, there are still a lot of companies doing classroom training and in-person training,” Skonnard said. “I think COVID is going to forever change the nature of that. There are a lot of businesses that still spend a lot of money on instructors coming into the business. Post-COVID, there’s going to be a lot less of that.”

(NOTE: Not sure why this story is linked to another about Palantir.)

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