CAT online course – this was always relevant, but became more so after March 2020. Well, it is March 2021 now, and the year has become just another number. From March to March, we have experienced lockdowns and ‘unlocks’, and education witnessed a huge transition towards online. CAT online course was no exception; as physical classes got wiped out of the equation for the foreseeable future, we readily embraced the ‘new normal’ (now, we have kickstarted our physical Classroom course at Chennai, with all the safety precautions in place).
Having pulled off the online rigour for a year, expanding our live online classes, we had certain thoughts and perspectives about what the CAT aspirants might look for from an online course. Just to see if our ideas are/were right, we decided to try out an online poll. While there were certain results from the poll that aligned with our expectations, quite a few inferences came as a surprise!
What is this poll you are talking about?
“What is the most crucial ingredient for an online course?“
The obvious inferences about the CAT online course from the responses
Of course, right from the time the poll was rolled out, we knew that we will have some winners and some other aspect that languishes way behind.
The #1 and #2 positions are occupied by ‘Teacher‘ and ‘Doubt Clarification‘ in some order, and that varies between Facebook and YouTube. But across both the platforms, they did not throw away the lead to some other option of the poll.
On Facebook, ‘Teacher’ trumped ‘Doubt Clarification’ comfortably by a huge margin, while on YouTube, ‘Doubt Clarification’ pipped ‘Teacher’ conveniently.
The inferences from Fact #1
Inference #1: On the teacher
The aspirants vest a fair amount of trust on who the teacher is. Which is how we think it should be. This result gives us the understanding that the aspirants are well aware of their priorities when it comes to a CAT online course.
We have always been very particular about the consistency in a teacher presence. The reason we stick with a very small group of hand-picked teachers is premised on the idea that the teacher presence is of paramount importance for an online course, especially when it comes to CAT.
Inference #2: On Doubt Clarification
The doubt clarification is an important component of an online course. Oftentimes, we hear brands screaming out loud that ‘Consumer is the king’ – the classic catchphrase in vogue for quite sometime.
What we have understood thus far, and what becomes clearer from the poll result is that the consumers – the aspirants, that is – want to be heard and answered.
Time and again, we have told ourselves that it should be ridiculously easy and straightforward for the aspirants to raise their questions – related to CAT preparation, questions on the Quant problems, DILR puzzles and VARC exercises, and anything else at all – across several platforms, most importantly within the online course itself.
The learning interface that occupies the third position also tells us a crucial thing. The package/combination of the teacher – pedagogy – engagement (actual engagement in the real sense, OR what would be called a student-teacher rapport, in common parlance) – LMS (Learning Management System) makes an online course all the more powerful.
What does it tell us?
There is immense value in the following components – the course struture, the idea of learning progression improving from one level to another, and so on. On the one hand, we did feel happy that we have put in enough effort to craft the course module. On the other hand, it gives us the nudge to further fine-tune our course to make it sharp and seamless for the students.
Moving on to the next aspect of the CAT online course poll: The SURPRISES!
The biggest surprise of the poll was the position occupied by ‘Live Classes‘; it came as the last among the options across Facebook and YouTube (Caveat: The two options below ‘Live Classes’ on Facebook have been added by the respondents).
What does this convey?
There is potential value in live classes, but that is not the most crucial differentiator, when it comes to a CAT online course.
Let’s see how this works. The idea of the online course, as viewed by the aspirant community, is centered around the aspects of who teaches, what is being taught and how it is being taught. The ‘where’ it is taught is pretty straightforward – in a robust LMS platform (the importance of which we saw earlier).
The ‘when’ it is taught – the facet that brings Live Classes as an aspect to the fore – is something that the aspirants keep as their last priority when they choose their course.
What has been going on?
For quite sometime, we have had this debate of whether a live class is a cherry on the cake OR is it the cake itself. The other versions of the same debate manifested as follows:
- Should we just keep conducting 5 or 7 or 10 live classes a day? A hundred live sessions a week? Half a thousand per month, possibly? OR, should we start slow, create a sense of routine in the aspirants’ minds, make them pick up pace and then intensify our live class regime to one every alternate day or one every day?
- When we conduct a live class, what is the key deliverable that we are transferring to the students? Is it just some information and conceptual dump? OR, are we going beyond? If we are going beyond, what is it that we have been doing, and wish to do? What more can we do?
And, where do we stand?
There are certain aspects that we deem important in something like an online CAT course – course instructor(s), course content, consistency and the community that is being developed in the due process.
Now when we combine this with those two question threads discussed above, there is an interesting inference.
What should a live class do? – Things we learn from the poll results
In the world of online courses, where pre-recorded materials are available for a cost, random irrelevant riffraff in the name of live class is unnecessary. Instead, a live class – a tangible, meaningful one at that – should provide the following.
- The sense of routine and discipline among the students
- The feel of a teacher-student interaction during the class
- An intense, interesting and fun peer-learning space, and not one where the teacher is a pseudo-influencer promoting anything and everything that is not content
- A mechanism for the students to relearn, revise and remediate
#1 – Live class as an addition
This live class regime should supplement a pre-existent, comprehensive learning module where the students get to learn their basics from. In short, like we discussed earlier in one of the question threads, it is a cherry, not the cake.
#2 – Aspirants cannot/should not be deceived by the idea of too many live classes
The poll also clearly tells us that the aspirants are smart enough to take value from the resources, and not be hoaxed by the mere idea of live classes. It is clear that the aspirants are not decrying the importance of live classes – and we shall continue to be cognizant about that always – but they come far below in their order of priority – way below when compared to the value they attach to the teacher, content, and support mechanisms.
The conclusions we are drawing, thanks to our student community
- We will stick to the most-trusted teachers, who we personally know will deliver immense value for their time, effort and money to the students
- The doubt-clarifying mechanisms should feel redundant, with the course material speaking for itself. If there is a need to raise doubts, it should be unbelievably simple within the course platform with a set SLA.
- The live classes should act as frameworks to put in place the discipline and routine a chunk of aspirants might lack, but cannot become the sole virtue of an online course. What they provide must be add-on benefits – the value of which cannot be undermined at all – to the student community.
Stay safe, stay smart (as you have been) and best wishes.
Rajesh Balasubramanian takes the CAT every year and is a 4-time CAT 100 percentiler. He likes few things more than teaching Math and insists to this day that he is a better teacher than exam-taker.