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Leandro Nuñez for Digital Pollution

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The Illusion of Expertise: A Critique of Modern E-Learning's Superficial Certificates


E-learning has changed the game.

Nowadays, anyone with a good internet connection thinks they can learn anything. And they’re not wrong—to an extent.

Here's the catch, though. The market is absolutely flooded with certified programmers. Too many for the few jobs out there. Recruiters keep adding more and more to the list of required skills. Now, just to tweak a single-page app, you might need to show you can practically build a spaceship.

Platforms like Udemy churn out courses with catchy promises: Become a Full-Stack Developer in Just 6 Months! Sounds great, right? But let’s get real. Loads of these folks have certificates that really don't mean much. Some courses are so simple, my niece could breeze through the quizzes and earn her "diploma" before bedtime. I've personally snagged a few certs for courses I never even looked at.

Should you ditch these quick-fix courses for a YouTube bootcamp? Maybe. But even those bootcamps, while they pack in a lot of theory, often skip over the real struggles that seasoned programmers face daily. They don’t teach you about the bugs that take days to fix or the client demands that make no sense.

This is what we’re up against. A pile-up of credentials that say very little about true ability. Stick with me. We’re diving into this mess to find out how deep it goes and how we’re planning to clean it up.

Credential Inflation in E-Learning

So, what’s really going on with all these courses popping up everywhere? Every time you log in, there's a new batch promising career transformations overnight. You've seen them. Certificates dangled at the finish line, supposedly qualifying you for high-paying jobs.

But hold on. It’s not that easy, is it?

These courses are everywhere because the demand is huge. Everyone wants to boost their skills fast. Problem is, when you prioritize accessibility, you often sacrifice depth and quality.

If a course promises to turn you into a data scientist in three weeks, ask yourself: what kind of scientist will you really be? These platforms aren't just being generous. They're capitalizing on the desperation of folks eager to pad their resumes in a cutthroat job market.

The result? A flood of credentials that many employers are beginning to ignore.

Why? They’ve seen too many candidates who boast about their fast-track certifications but can barely code their way out of a paper bag.

Here’s the real kicker: the biggest cost of this credential inflation isn't just to employers. It’s to the learners themselves. Believing you’re job-ready because of a speedy online course sets you up for some harsh realizations. When you hit the job market, suddenly, you’re not just unqualified—you’re out of your depth.

And so, as these courses keep multiplying and e-learning platforms profit off their appeal, we’re witnessing a growing bubble of underqualified hopefuls. It’s about to burst.

That’s credential inflation for you

It’s not just about the number of certificates out there. It’s about what those certificates truly mean.

Misconceptions About Programming Expertise

Ever met someone who claimed to be a programmer after just a few weeks of online courses? It’s a common scenario these days.

So, what's the real deal?

No-code platforms and fast-track programming courses make it look easy. But is it really that simple? No, it’s not.

Real programming? It requires a deep understanding of complex concepts—things you can't just learn by dragging and dropping blocks on a screen.

If a course claims you can become a full-stack developer in six months, be skeptical. These courses often just skim the surface. They might show you some syntax or how to piece together a web page. But mastering the tech stack? Understanding how to integrate complex databases, manage state across an application, or ensure your code scales? That's another story.

The misconception? That programming is just about learning a language. It’s so much more.

Here's what many don't see:

It involves critical thinking, problem-solving, and continuous learning. The tech world evolves daily. Keeping up requires more than just a basic understanding of code.

Programming isn’t just typing code; it’s about thinking logically, optimizing solutions. Sometimes, it means spending hours, even days, fixing a single bug that breaks everything.

It’s about understanding user needs, system limitations, and crafting code that works efficiently and securely.

And the reality? Many e-learning platforms sell the dream of quick expertise without the struggles that real programmers face. This not only misleads learners but also devalues the profession.

Bottom line:

Being a programmer isn’t about holding a certificate that claims you know Python or JavaScript.

It’s about the journey of continuous learning and real-world application. It’s about the late nights, the problem-solving, and yes, the occasional joy of getting something right after countless tries.

That’s what it means to truly be a programmer. It’s not just about the number of languages you know. It’s about what you can do with them.

For knowledge's sake, there are memes flooding the internet about this stuff:


The Vision for a New Kind of E-Learning Platform

A Fresh Approach to Learning

Imagine an online learning environment where every course undergoes rigorous review. Here, content isn’t just uploaded; it’s scrutinized for depth, accuracy, and real-world applicability. This isn't about ticking boxes—it's about engagement and meaningful interaction.

Moderation is our cornerstone. Each course is meticulously evaluated to ensure it delivers both the "how" and the "why" behind the subject matter. Think about it: It’s not just about writing code or memorizing steps. It’s about understanding scalability, security, and maintainability—the pillars of professional-quality software development.

True Educators Lead the Way

True educators find a sanctuary here. They aren’t just subject matter experts; they are passionate teachers dedicated to sharing comprehensive and nuanced knowledge. Our platform empowers these educators by putting them at the forefront, prioritizing their expertise over mere content delivery. This educators first approach ensures that learning isn't just an accumulation of hours and watched videos but a meaningful journey of understanding and skill acquisition.

By supporting true educators, we change the way learning happens online. Learners gain from instructors who not only know their stuff but also know how to teach it effectively. This translates to deeper learning, with courses designed not just to pass on knowledge but to embed it in practical, real-world contexts.

Certificates that Mean More

In a world swayed by quick certifications, our platform stands as a beacon for depth and quality. We're introducing a dual certification system:

  1. Certificate of Completion: Awarded when learners finish all course modules, signifying participation and dedication.
  2. Certificate of Knowledge: This is the game-changer. Issued only after passing rigorous assessments that test real understanding and application of skills, this certificate proves that a learner doesn’t just know the material—they can use it effectively in real-world situations.

This isn't just a change. It’s a transformation in what it means to be educated. By ensuring each course not only meets rigorous educational standards but also tackles the real challenges professionals face, we’re not just teaching—we’re preparing thinkers, innovators, and leaders.

Long-Term Impact

This focus on quality and genuine expertise means our certifications will be respected and recognized by industry leaders worldwide. Learners leave not just better informed but truly skilled, ready to contribute and excel in their professional fields.

We’re fostering a quiet revolution—a shift toward valuing understanding over rote learning, long-term skill acquisition over temporary gains. It's about creating a future where education is as powerful and transformative as it should be.

Looking Toward the Future

Partnerships with Accredited Institutions

As we envision the road ahead, our commitment to excellence and authenticity drives us toward strategic alliances with accredited institutions. These aren't just partnerships; they're a fusion of tradition and innovation. By integrating our digital courses with the storied educational frameworks of universities and technical colleges, we're not just lending credibility to our certifications. We’re infusing them with real-world relevance and academic rigor.

These collaborations ensure that our curriculum not only meets but surpasses the stringent standards of higher education. Such alliances will provide our learners with the best of both worlds: theoretical knowledge underpinned by academic research and practical skills sharpened by industry insights. Our certifications become more than credentials—they are passports to professional recognition and career advancement.

Creating a Culture of Authentic Learning

In the shifting sands of the digital education landscape, our mission is clear: cultivate a culture of authentic learning. We value deep understanding over the quick fix of easy credentials. It's about changing perceptions across the board—learners, educators, and employers alike.

Online platforms can offer more than convenience. They can deliver a depth of learning that traditional settings often lack. We equip our users not just with knowledge but with the ability to innovate within their fields.

This commitment influences everything. From selecting supportive instructors to designing impactful courses. Our end goal is clear: ensure that each learner emerges not just more educated but more capable and confident.

A Pledge for the Future

Looking forward, we aim to expand our offerings and enhance our technological capabilities. But more importantly, we pledge to deepen our impact on the e-learning ecosystem. We remain committed to being at the forefront of educational innovation, continually pushing the boundaries of what e-learning can achieve.

We're not just preparing students for the jobs of today; we're preparing them for the challenges of tomorrow. This foresight guides our development, ensuring our learners always have access to the most effective and empowering educational experiences.


As we stand on the brink of a new era in e-learning, the need for reform has never been more evident. Our exploration today has shed light on the critical flaws pervasive in the current landscape—credential inflation, superficial learning, and misleading qualifications. More than ever, the industry demands a shift towards a more authentic, depth-oriented educational experience.

Our upcoming platform is poised to lead this transformation. By prioritizing rigorous content moderation, supporting true educators, and fostering genuine learning, we aim to set a new standard in online education. This isn’t just about offering courses; it’s about crafting pathways to real expertise and success.

Stay tuned as we prepare to roll out a platform that does more than teach—it inspires, challenges, and elevates. We are committed to not just changing how people learn but transforming what they achieve through learning.

Stay Connected

If you enjoyed this article and want to explore more about web development, feel free to connect with me on various platforms:

Your feedback and questions are always welcome. If you like, you can support my work here:

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We’re excited about the journey ahead and look forward to having you join us. Together, let's redefine what it means to learn and succeed in the digital age.

Top comments (7)

tracygjg profile image
Tracy Gilmore

Hi Leandro, Great article.
I have been using Udemy courses over the last few months to gain some insight and familiarity with new languages and tools.
My knowledge is increased but would not say I was an expert in any of these topics but I have a better foundation from which to gain experience.
I feel the software development industry is also at risk of suffering problems from developers entering the industry with little more than bootcamp knowledge, but more importantly, little passion for the discipline.

leandro_nnz profile image
Leandro Nuñez

That's exactly the starting point of me writing this and us trying to find feedback on how to create a different kind of online learning.
I feel the same as you about the software development industry, but, as grandma used to say (it's a rough translation) "everything is going to fit back". I've lost jobs against 100-udemy-diploma-certification people, and they finally came to me after the job was not done properly. So, experience will always prevail. And I bet you think like me, discipline comes with experience too.
Thank you for your comment!

tracygjg profile image
Tracy Gilmore

Absolutely, even having a piece of paper with a fancy watermark from a university does not make you a good software engineer. Experience is the key but in these days of WFH, I fear many new developers of missing the opportunity to work alongside and learn from experienced developers. This is a big problem in the making.

Thread Thread
leandro_nnz profile image
Leandro Nuñez

Yes. I don't know how to answer as you just wrote my thoughts. It's like that. Every word. I assume it will encounter a balance between offer and demand. There will be plenty offer (not qualified offer) so the demand will change the perspective. That's why recruiters ask for a senior full-stack rocket builder for a frontend position.

saradonaldson profile image
Sara Donaldson

Junior dev and former educator here. You have some great points and express my frustration - from the other side.

In the past, I taught practical/technical skills in language and music. I'm passionate about quality practical education that builds genuine usable skills (activated knowledge) and not just theoretical knowledge (passive knowledge). I find there's a few key elements which many courses lack:

Applied knowledge

  • Learning should always be given in a "real" context - in which the student will use it.
  • This could be applied to development as learning via projects and being given real workplace scenarios to manage. E.g. bugs, blockers, client communication, etc

Experiencing the knowledge/skill in multiple contexts.

  • After the first exposure, the concept or skill should be practiced in different situations. This helps the brain to create a deeper understanding by seeing the concept/action from different angles and with connections to other concepts.
  • Many courses only cover the first exposure. Learners are likely to forget this or lack a full picture.
  • When teaching guitar, I'd get my students to practice a new chord with multiple different songs and exercises. What's the use in a chord if you can't play a song with it? The skill has a context - many contexts. Just like dev skills.

Genuine feedback and correction at multiple stages before assessment.

  • Many online courses claim this in the form of quizzes, but that's testing short term knowledge retention, not skill.
  • Throughout practice (not testing), students should be corrected so that they form good self-monitoring (self-correction) habits. Being corrected while performing a new action or immediately after, makes the concept stick.

Assessment is separate from feedback and is the final stage.

  • With any practical skill, most people stop caring about certificates and assessments when they are capable of doing their goal task which they initially lacked skill for. Assessment isn't always necessary and doesn't replace good feedback.
  • However, workplaces and various opportunities often require standardised certs as proof of skill.
  • Most formal certs require students to train so that they can show their skills effectively in that format. Imagine if the student was good at taking the exam, but performed poorly in real situations with the skill?
  • Tests and exams are not a natural skill environment, so if possible, other forms of assessment are much better for practical skills.
  • "Competency" certificates are not bad if they reflect a genuine process of skill aquisition and feedback. It's better to have a "completion" or "competency" certificate with real skills, than to train knowledge retention for an exam or accredited certificate. Anyone can cram concepts and forget later, but that will never replace real skill building.

I'm a junior dev (2yrs) and often do online certs to fill gaps. To my frustration, there are a lot of predatory courses that teach basics but claim to teach more. This includes expensive accredited (and university accredited) ones with all the same issues, which is why I disagree with you on that point about accreditation being part of the solution. I think it's part of the problem. Accreditation is becoming a joke in the education world.

Nothing compares to experience and exposure to the daily issues encountered as a dev. A course should aim to capture that.

I also want to claim back the word "accessibility" for education. Course providers often twist the meaning to justify low quality and beginner friendly material: "for everyone". But an abundance of low quality and low level courses isn't doing disadvantaged groups any favours. Accessibility is about equal opportunity, which means having access to quality and in depth learning, not just any learning.

If you're working to improve this area, I'd love to see what you're doing! This area really needs an overhaul, so thanks for bringing it up!

leandro_nnz profile image
Leandro Nuñez

This is the best reply I've gotten since I started writing. And if you allow me, I'll outline (as I see it) the two aspects that justify that before giving you a response, because it deserves it. You too:

  • you know what you're talking about. most elaborated comments come from people trying to show off without even trying to stay in the subject.

  • you didn't have to, but you took the time (your personal time) to explain to me why you disagree with me without trying to disqualify me or my article on mistakes or anything that could have gone wrong. (thank you. I try to improve my writing skills every day so it finally comes the day where I won't need the AI assistance for grammar, structure, etc).

Thank you!

Now, about the article's response:

To put you in context, I'm not an educator. I can't. I have 3 degrees that prove that I could be (on computer's stuff), but my personality is not in favor of that. I'm not even capable of teaching properly to my kids. I was built without patience.
So, my perspective is from the student. I'm a freelance software engineer with more than 2 decades in the gig. There's always something I want -and sometimes need- to learn.

The idea of improving the online learning experience for students began when ads started hitting my phone's screen after searching for a course to certificate on AWS (just to earn the badge to improve my cv, the experience is already there). Udemy-like platforms claim to build a career or professional skills that takes years in just a few months. And not to mention in my country (Argentina).

They sell "become a full-stack developer in 3 months" for a minimum salary paid for a year and a half in dues. That's a true story.

With that, came the idea to allow the users to certify their knowledge, their skills learned, real-life problem solving, besides the completion certifications. I will not lie, if this works I'll make money out of it. But with the clear conscience of really testing the learning. The normal stuff as quizzes will still be available, but I aim to build an extra based on feedback like yours. It's on developing stage.

By "seaching for accreditations", I meant stalk the instructor's background as much as you can. For example, a cv that is never present in Udemy-like platforms. I tried to point out the fact that you should do a research on the instructor, as, most of this platforms are just product galleries. I'm trying to build something that is the opposite of that. I really want to sell learning, not products.

I mostly work solo, so, my everyday help is an AI copilot and one of the first points to cover in AI's perspective was "accessibility". I'm trying to cover everything I gathered from doing some research to launch with the first version of the platform, but I will rely and work over the user's feedback in that post launched. Like your comment.

If you allow me, I'll try to gather an article based on your comment and quote you.

Thank you a million times.

saradonaldson profile image
Sara Donaldson

Hi Leandro,
Thanks for your reply - I don't really consider myself an expert in anything, but I love a good discussion with genuine responses.

I think we agree on most points actually, but we have different ways of wording things. We're both similarly devastated by the commodification of learning - where education is treated like a product rather than a service. And along with that, there's the false promises from courses - promising a depth of skill they don't genuinely provide.

Those ads you mentioned are the worst! I hate how many of the courses/certs flood online job boards so that desperate people looking for work are tricked into them.

I'm glad you're making sure your instructors have the right background, many courses don't include this information. I want to add that experience as a developer and skills in mentoring and teaching will make the biggest difference when teaching practical skills, though university education is a great addition. I can see you're of a similar mind, because you mention showing instructor CVs not degree titles.

And in case I came across as being against paid education - I don't think it would be hypocritical of you to make money from providing this learning service and learning platform. You're talking about offering a service that genuinely helps people. Education certainly costs money - I'd hate teachers and schools not to get paid! If you wanted to make your courses (and other educational resources, e.g. mentorships) more accessible to certain disadvantaged groups, you could eventually create scholarships and seek funding and grants. But that's a thing for much later.

I think you have some great ideas and I'd love to stay updated with what you're doing. I'm a junior dev, so I couldn't help with the teaching, but if you think of some other way I could contribute (user testing maybe?), feel free to get in touch.

You can quote me or reference our conversation if you like - but most of all, - thanks for replying to my comment. You didn't have to do that either, but I really appreciate the time you took to converse with me and share your thoughts and ideas.

I'll keep a lookout for your future posts!