This article is written by Ramanuj Mukherjee, CEO, iPleaders

When I tell people that I teach law through online courses – I can always see the question marks on their face: Online? Is that as good as learning face to face? How would you teach all the practical aspects you claim you would teach? Why don’t you just go and teach in a law school?

I tell them that online education, sometimes called e-learning, is way more effective than classroom teaching for multiple reasons.

Think of a typical class – a teacher lecturing, at best trying to engage the students, asking them questions etc. While a handful of students interact energetically – most others sit there, some trying to stay awake, others distracted, still others texting their friends (if there are no jammers) and some even falling asleep. I myself always found it difficult to remain awake in majority of my college classes.

Here are the 5 major drawbacks of a traditional class

Limited Attention and Engagement from teacher

Engagement and interaction in a classroom is a finite resource and usually there is not enough for everyone. In most classes, it is distributed unequally and randomly. The teacher cannot give personal attention to all the students at the same time. Each person in the class cannot constantly engage with the teacher at the same time while a class is going on. Some students, especially the attention seekers, will engage more and usurp more of the attention of the teacher. The rest will participate only when compelled to participate. Usually in a classroom lecture, students are attentive in sporadic flashes – if what is being taught when the student is attentive is connected to something taught previously to which some learners did not pay attention (or could not understand), they fail to make important connections.

One size does not fit all when it comes to education

Different students have different learning and grasping ability. Conventional classroom education fails to cater to the variation in learning ability of different kinds of students. Students cannot learn at their own pace in a classroom – the same teacher is too fast for some people, and for others he’s too slow. Similarly, some students may remember new idea if it is discussed with them once, while others may need to hear it multiple times with several examples and case studies. We all have our own pace and way of learning – in a classroom the teacher cannot cater to these requirements.

Time to learn

Not everyone has the time to go to classes or colleges. There are people working, people who are very busy, people with day jobs who would still like to learn. They can’t go to brick and mortar colleges – they need online education. Even a student who is enrolled in a full time course may want to take up additional courses of her choice – e-learning is a perfect solution for this.

Education is costly!

Classrooms are costly. To start with, real estate and overhead costs of running a brick and mortar establishment are very high. Also, limited students can sit in a classroom. Hence, classroom education is not scalable. This makes cost of traditional classroom education high and out of reach of many people. Even those who can afford it, can not afford it forever or as often as they want.

Does the government know what you need to learn?

Classroom education is highly regulated. The government tells what is to be taught in classroom – through the UGC, school boards, college service commission, NET and so on. This is not limited to determining the quality of education or quality of teachers – the government of its representatives often go on to determine what is important to learn for the students and prescribes a syllabus. The government determines the quality and the pay of teachers as well. This makes teaching unattractive for many good teachers. Even the teachers who join can not teach what they can teach best, or what they think will be important to teach – they must stick to the syllabus.

So how does online education solve these problems?

Technology for more engagement

E-learning entails that you learn from a computer. Technology can be used to ensure that the computer constantly engages you and requires you to interact – thus keeping you learning actively throughout a lesson. E-learning technology can ensure that every person who enrols in a course gets to learn what they set out to learn – as the computer being used as a medium is capable of giving instructions, taking tests, clarifying doubts and calculating your grade in real time – and you are the only one working with the computer.

Learn at your own speed

You can speed up or slow down as you wish. It is as personal as reading a book – some people take days to read a mystery novel and others finish it in hours. You can learn at your own pace with e-learning. E-learning also supports a wide variety of media to learn from – graphs, pictures, articles and videos, which helps students in absorbing new ideas and information in a richer and more holistic manner.

Timeless Education

If your excuse to stop learning is that you do not have time because you are working – e-learning slaps you squarely on the face. No matter where you are located, or at what part of the day you have time to spare – e-learning enables you to learn, irrespective of your location and at your own chosen time. Even students who are enrolled in full time courses can use e-learning to acquire additional skills and qualification.

It has never been so cheap

Online education is cheaper – and more efficient. There are no constraints of a real classroom – so thousands of people can participate in online education courses. There is no limit on how many people can sign up for the classes of a great teacher – look at Khan Academy! Also, there is no real estate and overhead costs to make education costly.

Free-market for online education, finally!

Online education represents a free market – where only those service providers who are making relevant and useful courses will survive in the long term. Courses which are weak and not effective will die out. Online education will also create millions of choices for the learners to choose from. Imagine the difference between Doordarshan and the current options of satellite TV channels. That’s how different e-learning and classroom education is going to become.

I am in good company – who else thinks e-learning is the future

I am not the only one who is saying this, nor am I the first one to say it – the US Department of Education has published an elaborate study (with a lot of documented evidence) which concludes that e-learning is at least as effective as traditional methods of learning, if not more effective. In other words, the study has established a minimum threshold for e-learning, leaving it upon e-learning service providers to take its potential much further. In fact, Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy had initially started teaching maths through conventional methods, but was himself surprised when learners gave feedback that they preferred him on video as opposed to real-time classroom teaching (you can see his video here)!

In the United States, e-learning has turned out to be very effective for students in higher secondary medium (i.e. of schooling age), who may not be mature enough for self-paced study and require mandatory instructions to be able to sit down and learn. If it has worked so well even for school kids, can you imagine its effectiveness and potential (and its necessity) for an audience which is more mature, demanding, and requires more customization – that is, for professional training and vocational courses?

To bridge the gap between the legal industry and academia, learn the practical aspects of law, Lawsikho  has started various online courses which has benefited over 15000 individuals and many of our corporate clients. The study material consists of interactive videos, text based material which covers all the recent developments in law, templates, checklists, mind-maps, drafting exercises and self-assessment tests. Faculty/ contributors consist of lawyers from top law firms, practising advocates, entrepreneurs, judges and bureaucrats. The faculty/contributors take live online classes. Students are also given weekly exercises and personalized feedback on each exercise is provided so that you can improve on the next exercise. From drafting, strategizing to compliance, you learn the actual real life tasks you will face, not just memorize a bunch of concepts, sections and case laws.

I promise you, this is very different from anything else you have experienced so far.

To know more about the online courses and law, click here.

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