Better tax training: Your brain or mine?


“Pssst, I know something about international tax that you don’t. The same with you? Why not have our brains meet? Both will be enriched.”

Now multiply that enrichment by the amount of peers in a learning group. And you just calculated how social learning can dramatically widen and deepeneach participant’s expertise.

The MOOC on international taxation exploits the brain’s interacting faculties to improve learning outcomes. By (1.) reflecting on our own progress and by (2.) collaborating with peers, we strengthen our learning … without a teacher in sight.

Let’s finalize the MOOC’s instructional features: Assessment, social learning, and evaluating the work of peers.

Assessment: judge yourself in the mirror

Assessment during learning is vital for advancement. It provides both learners and lecturers feedback on their respective performances.

Reflecting on the feedback is like a debriefing: it points the way towards what needs to be adapted to achieve one’s learning goals.

The MOOC contains:

  • weekly quizzes
  • written assignments
  • a final quiz.

The MOOC offers ample support to enable learners to succesfully conclude the final quiz. The MOOC provides both human and built-in assistence to move learners along the path between confusion and understanding.

You are not alone

This MOOC contains attractive social features. Learning from and with each other can be powerful. Examples: Discussing controversial issues, defending your position, questioning the arguments of your peers, building solutions together.

All such activities have shown to strengthen learners’ understanding, analyical skills and critical thinking. This facilitates a professional’s capacity to translate a real life situation into relevant international tax language.

The MOOC’s social forum is lively thanks to its participants; moderaters and peers provide each other support and facilitate learning pieces gradually falling into place.

Meeting peers on line (2015 MOOC: 11,000 peers from 174 countries) can also be fun. During last year’s MOOC people decided to meet each other in cafe’s from Leiden to São Paulo to jointly work on MOOC issues.

Note: those who do not like social learning can participate in this MOOC perfectly well on their own.

Evaluating your peer’s work

In a former blog I discussed the effectivenes of evaluting activities for attaining deep learning.

By studying, comparing, and commenting the work of others you develop thorough understanding and critical thinking. By putting yourself in how the other thinks, you strengthen the ability to appraise your own thinking. By having to create appropriate judging criteria, you become aware and deepen you understanding of what is relevant and what is not. And that faculty is critical in real life tax practice.

This MOOC offers a nifty application of this idea: Learners assess the written assignments of three of their peers.  Each assessment involves two phases of actively and conscientiously using one’s brain.

First, judging the work of peers forces learners to focus on understanding and to think critically. They focus not only on their own understanding. They also focus, through interpretation, on understanding the thinking of their peers. You can almost hear the evaluator-learner’s cracking his/her brain.

Next, learner-evaluators produce a self-reflection on their evaluatory acitivity; this adds another (meta-cognitive) layer to their fiscal expertise development.

Together these two learning phases are what real learning is all about! Brain activities of processing, consolidating and practicing information.

Apart from better learning, this smart idea also creates efficiency: it relieves the course staff from time-consuming assessment tasks.

The new kid on the block is good

The course might be further improved. Suggestions: the hilariously brief 10-minute time slots allotted for reading loads of complex material. A more significant improvement would be to increase the number of authentic cases/ tasks; such increase would further strengthen both integrated learning and fiscal problem solving capabilities.

But in comparison to what existing legal course providers offer, this course is disruptive. Its quality is outstanding; it provides an innovative, effective, efficient and engaging learning experience. In addition, this six-week course is offered for free and is 24/7 available from any location. This makes it the best value-for-money offer for those wanting to acquire a robust basic expertise in international taxation.

This course is also a game-changer in that it shows that teaching is not just about pushing content. It is not just about technology for its own sake. It is not just about putting subject-matter experts in front of classes.

Instead, this course integrates. There is a clear pedagogical design (how people acquire expertise). On this instructional basis, it builds, with the help of IT, a course using both conventional and unconventional components (what people should learn and be able to do). Chapeau!

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