This article is written by Ramanuj Mukherjee, CEO, LawSikho.
How to make something better? Modern business gurus suggest continuous testing and implementation of lessons is the key.
We started online education back in 2009, and it has been almost a decade since then. It started with CLAThacker community, for CLAT aspirants followed by BarHacker, an online training program for AIBE 2010, the first bar exam in India ever.
We had numerous lessons, some learnt the hard way, through trial and errors. And the others from various tests, surveys, interviews and actively seeking out critical insights. Some are learnt from pure observations, of success and failure both, either of our own or even of competitors.
I will share some of those lessons with you today. These lessons will definitely help you to make the best of online law courses you may ever undergo or have already taken.
Most people who buy a course never finish, and we must change that
Don’t get me wrong, a lot of students will give the exam and get certificates. But a vast majority do not even bother to read all the material or watch all the videos.
I am fundamentally a lazy person. I understand their predicament. I accept it as a reality.
So we initially tried to make our course material more interesting, thinking that will make people go through the entire course. It worked to a small extent, but not quite satisfactorily.
We thought maybe if we increase the number of videos it will work. But no, it didn’t. It made a difference, but not enough.
Then we found a solution. Constant engagement! Now we engage people week on week through activities!
Don’t leave them alone to study the material at their own pace. If we do that, there are about 10% of people who actually study. These are disciplined people with good habits, initiative and more success in life.
Rest of the 90% never finish reading the course or watching all videos. They lose steam midway.
So what we did next was a game changer. We started giving people weekly exercises. We put the focus of the courses on these exercises. Most of the marks to pass the course was allocated to weekly exercises though we retained an exam at the end of the course too.
The weekly exercises are all practical tasks that a lawyer would have to do in a law firm, litigation chamber or an in-house legal department. We make people conduct due diligence on realistic data (sufficiently changed from original transactions) and then ask them to write DD reports. We ask them to draft contracts or come up with litigation strategy. We ask them to what company policies or court applications.
The final exam also contains questions that deal with practical applications only and not things one have to memorize. The exam is open book. We don’t mind even if you look at google search, any book or study material when you are giving exams. That is only because we know you will not find the answer anywhere.
You will have to apply your mind and use the skills to find the correct answer. That’s the point of an open book exam. They are just MCQs, but you have to think things through to get to the correct answer.
This is how we significantly increase the level of engagement in our courses. People solve weekly exercises, so they have to read up the material. They have to google. They have to research the law and figure out other things. Then they get feedback on what they submit usually within the same week, but at most by the next day.
When you see the feedback, you want to improve. You can see what you learned and where you are struggling. The impact is evident. Then comes the live weekly class.
Our students have consistently rated these classes very highly. They enjoy the interaction, the learning, the opportunity to clarify the doubts.
We even ask our students to write an article every month and publish. That way they get appreciation and recognition. And appreciation is like a drug. Once you get a taste, you want more! So they write more, better and frequently.
As you can see, interaction is the key. Since we have implemented these few measures, student satisfaction has gone through the roof and very few people drop out any more.
And when people slack off, they know clearly that they are slacking off. There is no scope for maintaining any delusions. Then we call them up and enquire why they are missing classes and assignments. At that point, they have a clear choice. There is no fooling oneself that one will do all of it later.
Or that you will study last moment before the exam.
We are clear, the weekly exercises are critical. If you do not do those, you do not qualify for the certificate.
Sure, you can do them later. But until you do, you are not eligible for your certificate!
This is why we do not focus on non-interactive canned courses these days. We have realised how much amazing value is created by regular interaction, weekly exercises and writing/publication assignments. All our Diploma and Executive Certificate courses follow this pedagogy.
Spoon feeding is terrible, we must get the students to take an initiative
Most learners want us to spoon feed them. But it does not prepare them for the real word.
Let’s say we have given you a contract to review as an exercise. Let’s say it’s a corporate lease contract. Now some clauses we have intentionally skipped in the template given to you. We want you to identify and add those clauses.
Now let’s say you have a list of important clauses in your study material. You also have a template where those clauses are provided.
All you have to do is copy-paste.
I don’t want to give you such a simple exercise. I want to give you something that will make you wonder, spend 2-3 hours scrambling, and trying to figure out things.
Clients will not come to you with easy questions. You need to be able to do difficult things you have never done before. We want you to learn how to deal with such assignments that nobody prepared you for.
Sure we will give you some easy exercises once in a while. Especially towards the beginning. But if we don’t give you tough exercises how will you really get better?
And some students just fail to understand why we teach things after they have already done the exercise and note before. They are like if you told this to us earlier we could score more in the assignment.
Genius, are you doing this course to score some more useless marks? Most people already have enough certificates, accolades and marksheets in life. I hope you are doing this course not to accumulate more such useless junk.
We want students who are focussed on improving their skills and lawyers. We want people who want to become amazing lawyers or business leaders, not people with a mountain of marks. What do you think clients and recruiters want?
Being good at this kind of work requires you to think. If we spoon feed you about the next exercise in the class, that will not make you a better lawyer or strategist. Trust us on that! We have seen enough.
We want you to figure things out on your own. In the beginning, it may feel weird. If it does, call us. We will guide you. Soon you will get used to researching independently, structuring your answers and begin to get things right effortlessly.
This training to be self-sufficient is what makes the course most valuable. And this is why employers love our graduates.
They know how to take responsibility for their work and for the outcome they produce.
We cannot offer good courses if we join the price race to the bottom
Gareema Ahuja from sales recently pinged me. “Another cyber law course” she typed with a smiley and sent me the link. “Haha” I replied, “how much are they charging?” “2500”. “Well, then we have nothing to worry about.”
We sell our cyber law, fintech regulations and technology contracts diploma for Rs. 25,000. We know the amount of value we provide in that course. We also know that a competitor which charges Rs. 2500 will never be able to match us.
However, if they were charging Rs. 30,000, I will get worried. I will investigate more.
Why is that?
Because that would mean there is a competitor that believes that they can give more value than us and is ready to charge a premium for that. That’s a serious player I need to figure out. I need to know what they have found that I have missed.
Lucky for me, that has never happened.
Our competitors have been dropping the price year after year. What they used to sell for Rs. 5000 a year back is now just Rs. 1000. I am sure this cheap price gets them a lot of students initially. However, how many will repeat? How many are happy about the course at the end? How many will buy another course from them year after year? I doubt.
They are charging according to the value of their courses, which is very little.
We have students who have taken one course every year for the last 3 years. We have people who have enrolled in 5 different courses, one after another. We have students who referred their batchmates, employees and family members. When that happens, we know that we are on the right track.
There is not only a single competitor who tries to compete by reducing the price, but there are also many. They give big discounts. They drop the price again and again. They offer more courses for less money. During festivals, they give even bigger discounts. When their course does not sell enough, they resort to giving steeper discounts.
This means they have to reduce the money they spend per capita for every student over time. It leaves them with very little room to provide something good.
And I really don’t get this reduction in price and discount business. I think charging different prices to different people is cheating. If I charge you Rs. 5000 for a course today, and sell the same to your friend for Rs. 2500, how will you feel? I want to charge the same fair price to all, and therefore in the history of iPleaders, we have never given discounts.
We charge the same price to all, and only increase price, never decrease it.
So what do we do when a competitor copies our syllabus (we cannot stop them from offering the same subjects or lessons) and offers the same thing for one-third of our price?
We just ignore. We know how difficult it is to offer a good course. We require to keep stuff of 20+ people working full time, apart from half a dozen others working part-time, and always have to stay in hiring mode to properly service our students. Can a company which charges very little give the same amount of value and good service? Can they invest in developing new technology? Can they upgrade their material every time the law changes? No way.
We decided long back that we will never join this race to the bottom. We will only try to figure out how to give more and more value to our users, make the best courses ever, and be the most premium player in the market.
And I dare say a decade down the line, that decision has paid off quite well.
Tell me, would you prefer us to offer valuable, well researched, thought-out, interactive courses that are constantly being upgraded and evolved for a fair price, or cheap canned courses that never change and involves no work from our side once sold?
That’s what I thought 🙂
After all, we charge just about what a private tutor may have charged for college-level tuition.
Recently I asked our toppers from various online courses to tell me what was their reason for success and what made them use these courses so well. I will share with you all what they said tomorrow.
So keep an eye on this space.
Btw, just 4 days left to enroll into some of our very popular courses. Don’t miss this.
- Diploma in Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment laws
- Diploma in Cyber Law, Fintech Regulations and Technology contracts
Executive Certificate Courses
- Certificate course in Advanced Criminal Litigation & Trial Advocacy
- Certificate course in Companies Act