Learning through experience and error

Why Do I Pay For Courses If Knowledge Is Freely Available?

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If it’s not clear from the subtitle of this blog or many blog posts, I like learning. In fact, I love learning. A lot of that learning has recently been in the form of paid courses and nano-degrees. Most people I know ask me why I prefer paying for knowledge that is freely available in other ways. Let me share my side of the story and let’s see if it makes sense to you.

Why Do I Pay For Courses If Knowledge Is Freely Available?

Back when I was in eleventh grade, I pursued a course called, Competitive Strategy from LMU, Munich on Coursera. It’s still there on the website. I did the course. I even made notes and took it seriously. It wasn’t part of a full-specialisation then as it is today. I didn’t pay for the certificate, and I continued to the Advanced Competitive Strategy course. I didn’t complete that one. Over the years, I forgot about the class yet most basic principles of Game Theory stayed.

My full-time course at Amity University offered Game Theory as a small topic during my fourth semester if memory serves right. I knew game theory, and somehow, I couldn’t be confident in knowing the subject.

A course I pursued recently called Introduction to Philosophy offered a lesson that was about “what it is to know something”. I learned that knowing could be broken down into two central premises. The first is that you have an awareness of something being the way it is. The second is that you believe in it.

My Game Theory problem came from the second one. I didn’t believe that I knew the topics and so, I felt a bit dejected. I had done the course diligently back when I had done it. All that time I spent learning concepts felt wasted somehow. Not having confidence in something you’ve learned, especially if it’s theoretical isn’t a great feeling.

You could argue that if I forget once, I can forget twice. Yes, that’s true. I’m human, and we have limited retention, but a lot of it also stems from confidence. For example, I wouldn’t have quoted a course about philosophy and used a principle from it if I didn’t have faith in my knowledge of it.

I couldn’t care twice about my LinkedIn profile; I just want the certificates so that I can tell myself, “No, you gotta complete this one. It’s not that hard, and also, you know, you kinda paid for it already”.

That is part of why I pay for certifications.

The second is also included in the story of Competitive Strategy. Although I began pursuing an advanced version of it, I didn’t follow through, and that was because I didn’t pay for it. The way I see it, had I paid for the course I would’ve had the incentive which in turn would have pushed me into completing it.

That is also part of the reason I pay for certifications even though every piece of knowledge is available for free and the certifications carry little to no weight in themselves anyway.

In fact, I do get knowledge from other sources as well. However, I don’t mind paying about 3000 INR for one, getting an incentive to finish and follow through with the course and earning certification for it. I spend about 2000 INR if I go out for lunch and dinner on the weekend.

A friend recently quoted one of her friends.

There are very few people who spend on making themselves. We spend on food and clothes recklessly and for courses and other learning, we think so much.

I couldn’t agree more with this statement, and I don’t know which friend of her’s said this, but I think they hit the mark. I can tell this with certainty because of the trouble we had while selling passes for our university’s TEDx event during its first year.

TEDx And The Expensive Passes

The pass was set at 2000 INR, and we thought it was a fair price for the quality of event that we were aiming toward. The passes didn’t sell very quickly, and it was tough to get the hall even filled to its three-fourths. It did fill up eventually. However, the reason most people didn’t buy a pass was that it was “too expensive”.

Now, I understand that 2000 INR is a considerable amount for a student to shell out. However, these students are one, studying in one of the most expensive universities in one of the most expensive cities in the country and two, most of them enjoy a considerably good lifestyle. I can say this because I know who I approached for the passes personally and I failed to understand why a pass to TEDx at 2000 INR was expensive while a concert at 10,000 INR was justified. I’m not against shows. In fact, I love spending on experiences but I also, won’t mind spending for some great talks and possibly meeting like-minded people.

I guess a lot of it comes down to the quote I have above. It’s about what gives people value and what is a justified cost. For many people, spending on food for thought or knowledge isn’t something they would do and yet, drinking overpriced booze in a bar is alright and if that is where your priorities lie, then more power to you. I can’t say anything about it. I have no right to say anything about it.

As an individual, however, I love learning, and I love seeing things through until the end. Paying for courses lets me do both. That is why I don’t mind paying for classes and nano-degrees. You’re free to disagree and learn your way. As long as you learn, I like you.

About the author

Deepansh Khurana

Blogger and writer from Dehradun, India. I'd say I love coffee but don't we all? I find stories, people and experiences. I blog about them.

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Learning through experience and error

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There are two kinds of blog posts here as of mid-2018 – The Journal and The Words.

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Deepansh Khurana

Blogger and writer from Dehradun, India. I'd say I love coffee but don't we all? I find stories, people and experiences. I blog about them.

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