Why is this tax director smiling? – She is talking to her peer in the world’s most innovative international tax course

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I found a surprisingly state-of-the-art legal training course on international taxation. It is innovative in both its learning technology and in its instructional approach. This course fills a gap within the fiscal education spectrum. Finally, it could raise the quality of legal training by serving as a fine example.

Two basic choices

These days, if you want to upgrade your expertise in international tax law there are basically two choises: take a short course at a training institute or follow an LLM program at a university.

Short tax courses lack impact on performance

Short in-class courses (1- 10 days) typically suffer from a critical deficiency: lack of time. This affects two vital succes features:

  1. Learners need to process and consolidate new information for it to turn into knowledge. This does not happen because lecturers must cram large amounts of complex information within a short teaching period. Learners struggle to cognitively process the “tsunami” of complex information heading their way.
  2. Learners must learn by applying the new information. This does not happen sufficiently; usually there is no time left to adequately practice. No practice means no learning occurs.

Another shortcoming of the short course is the legal lecturers’ lack of instructional expertise. Consequently, these legal specialists follow their default “traditional” teaching style: Talking for hours on end to passively listening learners. Complex information follows complex information, follows complex information etc.

One effect is that learners’ concentration fades during these monotonous stretches; boredom and demotivation set in. Glazed stares appear. Another effect is that useful legal information passes through the learners’ brain like water runs through a pipe, leaving no traces.

Financial costs are nonetheless substantial: tuition between 500 – 1000 Euros a day + expenses are regular.

Online learning alternatives are somewhat cheaper. But these suffer from similar ills. Learners are buried by tediously presented monotonous information and appropriate learning support is absent. Poor learning design and the absence of learning technologies prevent learners from developing intended competences.

Conclusion: (fiscal) legal short courses do not yet achieve effective and engaging learning outcomes. Consequently, these courses fail to deliver intended performance improvement. Given their relatively high costs, such courses result in a negative return on investment. Although such courses might be good for networking or for a pleasant break away from daily routine, they fail to achieve desired impact on post-course job performance.

Long programs cost an arm and a leg

There is another option. If you seriously want to gain international tax expertise, you might consider entering a good LLM program. In such programs there is less shortage of learning time and the need for instructional expertise is addressed.

One of the best LLM programs is provided by the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. The problem is that you have to go and live there for a full year and break your piggy bank only to pay the tuition of 19,000 Euro.

So here is the best of two worlds …

There is now a kind of alternative to the two above options: Spend six weeks part-time from any location to participate in an excellent international tax training program. It is provided by the very same LLM teachers from the university of Leiden.

Meet the international tax MOOC from Coursera. It contains a beginners track and an advanced track for professionals (smart cookies pick these sequentially!). Oh yeah, it is 24/7 available and tuition fee is an unbeatable … zero Euro.

Instructionally innovation stands out

The wide range of topics and accompanying documentation in this MOOC is excellent. There is sufficient time and support for learners to absorb the material. However, what makes this course really stand out is its impressively high level of instructional design.

This legal training is effective, efficient and really engaging, It is worth every minute spent on it. Obviously, its creators have invested a lot of time and money in this program to make it a worthwile investment for participants.

In the next blog I will discuss what exactly makes this MOOC so attractive.

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