Beware of the Online Course Pyramid Scheme

Be wary of the course creator scheme.

Sylene "SylJoe" Joseph
Age of Awareness
Published in
4 min readJun 7, 2021


Photo by Mikhail Nilov from Pexels

Now, before you draw the daggers, hear me out.

The internet is a helpful place filled with endless resources. But let’s be honest. During the last few years, especially during the pandemic, there’s been a resurgence of the get-rich-quick money-making scheme.

It’s reared it’s head in the form of blessing looms, MLMs and my personal favorite: the online course that keeps on giving.

I respect the hustle.

I do.

But most importantly I respect course creators who provide value — who’s initiatives don’t teach you how to teach others to make money by teaching them to teach others to make money (you see the issue here?).

I’ve been to some of these workshops. They provide generalized information and promise to offer more if you purchase an additional course.

The resources they suggest are mediocre and the presenters aren’t really teaching any vital skills. For example, they tell you it’s necessary to find your niche. They don’t teach you how to harness tools and resources to find a niche that is profitable.

I don’t believe in spoon-feeding. But I do believe that if I pay you to teach me how to do something, you’ll teach me how to do it. Not just give me a life raft and leave me flailing. I’ve come to you BECAUSE I’m flailing.

It makes me question their competency. Furthermore it reinforces what I’ve known all along — success in the marketing realm is equal parts preparation, opportunity and luck!

These course creators have harnessed the gift of gab! Which is great — for them.

But during the pandemic I noticed that there were vulnerable members of our society who were targeted for their naivety: seniors.

We’re all accustomed to seeing ads before our Youtube videos play. Last year I observed ads depicting seniors shyly asking us to click the link to learn more information on how to make extra cash.

These videos were obviously done on cellphones, poorly scripted and had little enthusiasm. It was clear that someone convinced these retirees that their smartphone was the portal to the world of additional income. Which is true. But all the ads were the same, the setup, the product, the script.

A course creator had found the perfect niche in pensioners.

These elders aren’t the only ones being swindled.

I’m forever wary of online courses teaching broke college kids and desperate millennials how to grow our following, build our brand and make a living from blogging.

You know the ones.

Ads that pop up before YouTube videos trying to convince you to click on the link to learn more. They all have similar undertones. Which makes me wonder if it’s an endless pyramid scheme of broken information laden with somewhat useful information.

Is the product really valuable if it always ends with someone teaching you how to teach someone how they can make money teaching someone the way they taught you? There’s no unique product offering.

I’m always left wondering: if these courses worked so well, would the need for me to buy this course from this particular teacher exist?

Does the information they provide only work if I sell a money-making scheme instead of teach an actual skill?

My father always taught me to question everything. Every helping hand, every smile. He never said not to take it. But he always taught me to look beyond the surface.

I recently attended a free online training on how to build my blog to make five figures in a month.

The information was good. Not revolutionary, but solid.

I may not have the gift of growing my instagram following or earning money from my blog. Heck, I barely make $5 a month here on Medium.

But I do have a knack for reading people. It’s linked to my gift of empathy and I’ve finetuned it over the years to hear what someone is saying beyond the words they speak.

The lecturer was desperate. And my heart ached as I realized that this was either an attempt to hustle in a few extra dollars by selling information that worked in the past that had either stopped working for her, or wasn’t working hard enough now.

She sounded just like the people who popped up on my Youtube ads. With the onset of the pandemic, both young and old are attempting to sell courses on something they think they have a niche in. Clearly, they clicked someone’s course on how to sell a course. They all looked and sounded alike!

They all recorded with their phones, in dimly lit rooms and started off with similar scripts.

A few switched it up a bit from how to lose weight to how to make money they all confidently tried to finesse me to purchase something I had no interest in. But that doesn’t mean that someone out there won’t.

It also doesn’t mean that someone else wouldn’t be able to tell the copy-paste nature of these videos.

Someone had been selling these people a get-rich-quick scheme and now — arguably — this person was also more wealthy.

My point is — be wary of the social media pyramid scheme. Be wary of the course creator scheme.

If someone can’t clearly define what they can teach you and not just parrot what it is you want (ie I can help you earn $60,000 a month) then it’s more than likely too good to be true.

Finally, don’t be that person. If you do end up creating courses and guides, at least offer your subscribers value for money. It’s the only sustainable method of retaining an audience and generating long term income.