online courses

This article is written by Ramanuj Mukherjee, CEO, iPleaders.

Let’s say you are interested in cyber law. Now, there are lots of cyber law courses out there. Some will be sold for a few hundred. There are courses from IGNOU that sell for a few thousand. There are distance courses by universities like Symbiosis which has an AICTE approved online course, and charges about INR 15000. NALSAR also had a program but it’s kind of hard to tell when it happens, and it’s still cheaper.

Then there is our course on cyber law, fintech regulation and technology contracts. It costs 25,000 for a 50-week course. It’s one of the most expensive.

And people ask us, why?

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Good online education costs money. It’s cheaper than brick and mortar colleges but it’s not free. We still have to hire high-quality teachers and let them teach you, although through the medium of video. We still need to give you feedback on your output. Our courses are doing courses, not mere reading courses or video watching courses. We understand that good feedback is critical for you to improve your skills. How can all these be provided for INR 5000, or 10000 or even 15,000 over a year?

I’ve explained our pricing strategy in this post.

When someone charges you less, they also cut corners. If someone is charging you Rs 1000, or Rs. 3000 for a law course, you know they are going to offer some canned material and a certificate. They can’t afford to give you anything more!

When a university charges you 15,000 – you need to worry. This is small change for an institute that usually charges a few lakhs per year for their full-time students. What do you think they owe you for your paltry 15000?

A canned course, but with a university certificate. Maybe recognized by UGC or AICTE. That’s nice.

But will that cut ice? Most people have little use for a certificate. There are enough people out there with UGC recognized master degrees, PhDs and what not, struggling to land a job. According to the media, many PhDs are applying for peon jobs! You can buy degrees off the market. Pay enough, and with time you will bag the degree you want. It’s pathetic.

What really counts is the skill you have. Would you like to learn how to draft technology contracts? Would you like to know how to draft contracts that clients happily pay for? What kind of work do lawyers in tech companies like Google, Facebook or Uber do? Would you like to learn things like that?

If you are a lawyer, you have an LLB degree, you have enough educational qualification. What you now need is some useful skills, that they, unfortunately, don’t know how to teach in law schools.

Let’s see what happens when you buy the wrong courses.


You end up with things on your CV that jeopardize your interviews and job prospects

Let’s say you have done Master in Business Laws from NLSIU. Or a cyber law course from one of the myriad online platforms. Great, you have added those points on your CV. Now if you are applying for a job in a tech company for a legal, compliance or administrative position, these may increase your chances of getting selected.

However, since you claim to know the law, and have specialization in cyber law, they will expect you to know how you will solve their real-life problems. They will ask questions accordingly in the interview and eventually allocate that work to you.

Now have you learnt how to get malicious content posted against your company taken down from Youtube or Linkedin? Do you know what to do when someone else is violating your IP on the cyberspace? Do you know what to do when your company’s payment gateway is hacked and a crore is stolen? There is insurance. The company asks you to ensure that all steps are taken such that insurance company cannot deny the insurance amount on some flimsy ground. Do you know how to walk that tightrope?

Can you devise litigation strategies? Can you create policies and deploy them effectively? Can you take an unruly, unscrupulous vendor to task? Can you recover the unpaid dues from a customer who is not paying up?

If you can’t, you need to learn how to. And it’s not about just doing it somehow. How about learning to do these things with amazing quality? That’s something you have to culture and develop.

When you get a namesake certificate from a useless course that doesn’t teach you any of the above but gives you a certificate based on you remembering a bunch of sections and case laws, it compromises your ability to crack the interview itself, and the performance on the job.

You set up expectations which you do not later match, and that’s bad. 


You waste your precious time and energy learning the wrong things

Our energy, abilities, money, everything is finite. When you spend on the wrong stuff, you end up not spending on the right things.

What good is mugging up a lot of sections, when you can look them up at a moment’s notice? It is important to understand concepts, first principles, how to apply the law to the facts, how to spot legal issues from facts, drafting and many such other skills.

When all your effort goes is passing meaningless rote learning exams, you are essentially distracted from what really matters.

What’s worse, once you get the certificate you think you know it. Then you stop learning. That’s why cheap certificates are very expensive because it robs you of opportunities to learn the really useful skills. You are counting on something that has no hope of delivering. It will be a line in your CV, but do you really think that will be enough if not backed up by necessary skills?


The value of these certificates keep going down, in a spiral

To attract students, these courses easily give away certificates. Imagine that you run an institution that provides courses on M&A law. You sell M&A certificates for Rs. 3000 a pop. People read some material, watch some videos then take a test and if they pass you give them a certificate. Now people are only coming to you because you offer a certificate at a low cost. So what will happen? You will make your test easy so people do not fail.

You can’t afford to have too many people fail! If you do that, the word will go around. Then you are doomed!

So you make the exam easy, and people line up to buy the cheap certificate.

They write about the course in their CV. Over the years, recruiters hire these people. Let’s say I hired someone who had this M&A course in their CV. It turns out that the person is not very good at his job. I fire her and I forget about it. Then another person comes to give an interview. Now I will take it with a pinch of salt if I see the same certification on another CV. If I have 2-3 bad experiences over the years, I will think that this course is complete crap!

This is how bad reputations are built. Gradually. Over the years. And it keeps getting worse for those companies selling ineffective courses as people look down on those certificates. People assume that the certificate was of no value.

You would not want to keep that on your CV for too long.

Now think of a course that is actually intensive, tough, doesn’t let you pass unless you do all the coursework. This course then has to make the effort to actually teach you, and not do just a superficial job. If I am going to set a tough paper, I also need to take responsibility as the teacher to make sure you get enough learning to pass it!

When people go to organizations with a certificate of that course and get noticed for doing good work, the word spreads over time. People form an opinion about how useful it is. Then the certificate comes to be valued.

Guess which category our courses belong to! Ask around and find out 🙂

Those who save money on education, training and development without regards to what they are buying into, suffer losses that they cannot even appreciate, over a considerable period of time.

Whether you buy a course from us or not, do yourself a favour and buy only those courses of real value, where you learn useful skills, and not just to add a line in your CV.



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