PAID Learning Versus FREE: Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

If something is free it can lose its value, prompting some students to cheat when given free courses.
If something is free it can lose its value, prompting some students to cheat when given free courses.

In a previous blog we talked about cheating and employing a cheater and how it can be easy to cheat in your coursework by plagiarising someone else’s work. We all know that people who cheat are really only doing themselves a disservice because they haven’t learned the coursework. That’s a big reason why we include tests at the end of each module in our MYOB training courses — to test our students’ knowledge of the coursework, like bank reconciliation.

Testing to Help Learn Properly

We don’t believe our students are cheaters, or that a test will stop someone from cheating (people always find ways to subvert the system if they really want to), but we do believe that it encourages people to really learn and understand the coursework in order to complete the test successfully.

These are the kinds of employees that companies and business owners are looking for and we try to ensure we give our students the opportunity to be the best and most successful they can be.

Free Business Courses for Unemployed Job Seekers

This raised another question for us about the kinds of courses available and the kinds of students they attract. You may already be aware that the Australian Government offers unemployed job seekers the opportunity to complete a business course for free.

This is certainly a great opportunity for those job seekers who, through no fault of their own, found themselves without work, and maybe even without the necessary skills to find gainful employment again. So the Australian Government offering courses to help people learn and develop the skills they need to re-enter the workforce is a great thing.

But in life, there are always those people who are willing to subvert the system. If these people didn’t exist, there’d be no war, we’d have no need for a police force, or a government — John Lennon’s Imagine would, effectively, have come true.

Cheating the System

But the truth is, people do try and subvert the system, everyday. Just recently we met a person who had completed a small business course, which was paid for by the government, and they told us how they had devised a plan to cheat in the coursework. Not only that, they also convinced their other classmates to do the same.

So each person copied content off the internet, or another person’s assignment, and submitted it as their own work. This defied the whole point of setting an assignment, which is to get the student to apply the work they’ve learned in class and demonstrate their understanding of it. By cheating, you’ve demonstrated nothing other than your knowledge of the copy and paste function on your computer.

Learning to Interpret Things

You’ve also missed out on a valuable opportunity to take the coursework and apply it to something yourself, and then receive feedback from a teacher. These are generally exercises that you’ll face in the real world as a business owner, and the point of taking a course is to prepare you for those situations and give you the knowledge you need to handle them. A key aspect of learning is to take in the facts your presented with and interpret them yourself.

The Problem with ‘Free’

Perhaps the reason those students who cheated were willing to do so was because they hadn’t paid for the course out of their own pocket. It was free, so what was the harm?

Steven Levitt and Stephen J Dubner are the authors of the hugely successful book Freakanomics. In the book they explore the hidden side of everything, which they say all comes back to economics because humans respond to incentives — and we’re presented with different incentives virtually everywhere we look.

For instance, there are numerous ways you are incentivised to be a good driver: you don’t get speeding tickets, you won’t lose points off your license, and your insurance company will give you a no-claim bonus. And those incentives each come with their own economic reward.

A person who cheats in a course they didn’t pay for doesn’t really stand to lose anything in economic terms — it didn’t cost them anything to attend the course in the first place, so if they don’t learn anything, they’re no better or worse off.

The Positives of Paying

For a person who paid to attend a course, however, they do have something to lose if they don’t learn anything — the money they paid for the course — and this is their incentive to work hard and make the most of the course; to get more bang for buck.

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That’s why we offer lifetime access in our MYOB training courses. We know you want to make the most of the coursework, to ensure you’re getting the most value for your money and that you’re going to work harder, as a result. For that reason, alone, that’s what makes you more likely to succeed than those people who had a free ride — because you’ve got something to lose.

We all like something for nothing, but sometimes it comes at a cost. In this instance, there is a lot of truth to the expression, nothing ventured, nothing gained. If you don’t put up the money in the first place, you’ve got no incentive to gain anything as a result.

Would You Employ A Cheater?

would you cheat in a small business courseWhen you choose to study an online MYOB training course with EzyLearn, you learn every aspect of the MYOB software and how it applies to real-life business and accounting situations. Then, at the end of each module, you complete a test to prove to yourself (and your future employer, even) your knowledge of each module of MYOB, such as payroll, for instance.

There are many people who will argue that tests aren’t necessary; that they’re just an exercise in testing how well you can store lots of information in your short-term memory, then forget it afterwards. They advocate, instead, that you’re marked on how well you performed on your overall coursework, and do away with exams altogether.

[quote]But the thing about an exam is that the better you know your coursework, the better you’ll perform.[/quote]

An exam is designed to taken be taken under pressure. They’re testing your knowledge of things that you are likely to encounter in your day-to-day, and may require you to act immediately. They’re not testing you on something that should be considered at length.

Even though EzyLearn offers lifetime access to our MYOB and Excel training courses, we still expect—in fact, we require it—that our students will pass each test at the end of each of the course modules.

There are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. The first, and this is probably the main reason, is that if you decide to, you can pay an additional fee to receive a certificate that shows you’ve completed and passed our online training courses. This can then be used to show potential employers that you actually know what you’re doing in MYOB—which for many accountants and bookkeepers is either a deal breaker or a deal maker.
  2. But an exam also forces you to study the coursework, whether it’s arbitrarily just to pass the test or thoroughly to make sure you understand and perform well in the test—and this largely depends on your own personal code of ethics. Even if you haven’t done a scrap of coursework before you go to complete a test, the mere fact that you have to complete and pass a test to progress through the course forces you to review the coursework.

It’s easy to cheat in any course by plagiarising someone else’s work. In the academic world, the ramifications involve being awarded an instant fail; in business, it usually involves legal action. But a person’s inclination to cheat and plagiarise someone else’s work raises other ethical questions that those respective punishments don’t address.

Cert IV in Small Business ManagementI recently attended a networking event and spoke with someone who had completed a Cert IV in Small Business Management at a local BEC (Business Enterprise Centre)- they had completed a Government funded course and used the excuse of having to do the course as quick as they could so they could start their own business. The problem was that this person “encouraged” many of the students to work together (which is a good thing), but they ended up handing in the same assignment and in some situations forgot to change the name on their assignment!

Working together in a group is a fantastic way to learn because everyone has their own strengths and the really smart students can often be good teachers for the slow learners, but to simply replicate another persons work and not even use your own writing style and interpretation is very sad. It’s particularly sad when the Small Business Management course is designed to help you create an individual business plan for your own specific business.

[quote]Our assessors mark every assignment and provide individual feedback to ensure you properly examine your new startup business.[/quote]

This brings us to whether or not you would feel comfortable employing someone who had willfully cheated in a training course. Personally, we wouldn’t. Aside from that person displaying very little work ethic (they couldn’t be bothered to do the work themselves, so cheated instead), it also makes us wonder whether they would behave unethically in other ways—would they take our client base and start-up a rival business?

This is why we test our students at the end of each module, and only those students who receive a passing grade do, in fact, pass the course. It’s not because we think our students will cheat; it’s because we want our students to really learn and understand the coursework, so they can excel and succeed in business.