How a MOOC can change a tax lawyer into becoming Super Tax Lawyer (part 1)


Today the  international tax MOOC from Coursera started. If you are seeking to acquire expertise on international taxation, do not wait but enter the course quickly (The deadline for the first assignments is July 31).

It is an excellent learning experience. Why?  Mainly because it has everything that many conventional legal/tax courses lack:

  1. You will really acquire useful expertise
  2. It is fun
  3. It is free

Sounds too good to be true? It is true. However, being good, fun and free does not mean that this MOOC is a breeze. It demands weekly at least between three to nine hours of concentrated learning during six weeks.

In this and the next blog I will discuss the MOOC’s instructional features.

Engaged learning starts with a relevant and urgent question

Companies like Google, Amazon and Starbucks increasingly get to be known for their …. tax avoidance schemes. That should not be. Pressure is building in society for such succesful firms to start paying their fair share of tax (if only to allow you and me to reduce our fair share of tax contribution).

These firms’ tax avoidance schemes exist only as a result of the existing tax law system. Therefore,  the thread running through this MOOC is: Need we change the existing tax law system?

To address this relevant and urgent question, the MOOC uses topical stepping stones to explore vital theoretical and practical issues in international taxation.

Presentation is crisp and inviting

The boyish professor Sjoerd Douma presents the MOOC with a roguish smile and a lively style. Professor Douma is an excellent presenter and explainer. Don’t not miss his interview about this MOOC.

The other lecturers do an excellent job too in providing clear explanations of new material.

The MOOC delivers instruction and learning opportunities using a variety of media: text, audio, video and a social platform to provide access to an integrated mix of learning materials and learning activities.

The presentations exploit our brain’s multichannnel processing capacitiy: visual illustration and spoken text are often presented simultaneously. This allows for parallel brain processing: information entering through both the ear and the eye, provides adouble whammy learning effect.

Lost your way or need some help during the MOOC? Do not hesitate to ask the friendly teaching assistents (old-fashioned homo sapiens!) to provide free support.

The learning material is excellent

For a starter, the course contains clear, lively and useful directions on how to studywith a MOOC. Skipping this part means you will miss many goodies.

The tax content provides clear overviews. These help the learner to structure their learning. Structured learning facilitates achieving deeper understanding.

The choice of topics is well chosen and wide ranging. These are the topics you will find in any top-of-the-range international tax training: corporate income tax systems,tax havens, preferential tax regimes, corporate groups, withholding taxes, controlled foreign company regimes, international tax law system, double taxation, BEPS, transfer pricing  (including intangibles), arm’s length principle,business restructuring, EU taxation, state aid regimes, EU directives and tax planning.

Note: No prerequisite knowledge is required!

The modules build logically upon one another and refer back to each other. This interaction strengthens cognitive processing and consolidating of the new material.

The modules contain lively video lectures, interviews (subtitles optional), reading material, Youtube material etc.

Learners can follow basic lessons and/or choose to delve deeper into advance course material and activities.

The learning jewel in the crown

The MOOC contains an effective means to help learners make the transfer from theory to practice. At the beginning of the MOOC an authentic tax avoiding scheme is presented: a tax practice blueprint. During the MOOC this scheme is build upon and provides excellent authentic examples of how theory applies in real tax practice.

The blueprint also provides helpful additional explanations of underlying issues that are prerequisite for getting a good grip on the tax situation.

The blueprint not only explains and illustrates. Through the MOOC’s exercises it also provides a supportive training ground for solving increasingly complex tax problems. Solving authentic problems by oneself or with one’s peers provide the strongest learning effects.

Finally, this extended practice (at least six weeks) equips learners with the expertise to succesfully address international tax situations once they have returned back to their job.

To be continued in my next blog …

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