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Cohorts: The Latest eLearning Variant

Cohorts: The Latest eLearning Variant
Summary: It is now possible for professionals and course creators to defeat dismal completion rates and boost their students' success while increasing their monetization potential and price points by shifting their training to cohort-based eLearning.

Cohort Based Learning Is The Way Forward

Just like everything else does, online education is undergoing evolution, and we are currently in the midst of a new wave. If you're an online course creator and interested in being something other than a relic in a dusty old museum, read on. Known as "Cohort-Based Courses" or CBCs, they are the next generation in online education courses, where interaction with the course creator and fellow students is a key component of the learning process. Think Team Work. Accountability. Community. Think Profit.

Over the past few years, a ton has changed in online learning. There were universities that were pushing course content online. To reach students who wouldn't otherwise have access to university-level education, they offered people around the world the chance to learn online for the first time, but completion rates were very low. Making educational content freely available online has only attracted the same highly educated people who already had a college degree.

As part of the efforts to normalize education, course marketplaces began to take shape and empower anyone to monetize their talents, create a course, and become a teacher. In exchange for a percentage of the sales, they provided exposure to thousands of "instructors" and took care of finding students and referring them to the courses they might be interested in. No committed enrollees, no control over pricing, and no direct relationship with their students have made the industry stars realize they were giving up far too much. They had the original content, the passion for teaching it, and devoted students who wanted it, so they started real businesses on their own terms.

Facilitating multiple payment options, doing marketing the way they wanted, capturing leads, and building their email lists, course creators finally had the tools to directly communicate and sell to their audiences without needing permission from a gatekeeper. Some even pioneered the path and built affiliate marketing programs, podcasts, subscriptions, and events, making a whole portfolio of digital products and services instead of just a narrow career track. Instructors' problems were solved, but the vortex now shifted to the students' problems.

Unsurprisingly, self-paced courses demanded too much time, effort, and accountability, meaning only a relatively few people were able to make their way through the episodes, exercises, and quizzes all by themselves. The false promises gave the industry a scammy reputation, with completion rates not better than the MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) that preceded them.


It's become clearer over time that more content access does not translate into more engagement. Today, we flip the script on what eLearning could be. Instead of being self-paced, there are fixed and scheduled times when students have to meet with their group. Instead of it being mainly a do-it-yourself exercise, it is group-driven and community-driven. And instead of being free or relatively cheap, it is expensive enough that students feel like they have some skin in the game and feel accountable for needing to show up.

This is exactly what has inspired a whole cadre of courses that are now what we call cohort-based courses, that have this blend of both the efficiency of live-online courses and the convenience of extended learning. Individuals looking to supercharge their careers can get the chance to network with industry experts and seek their direction every step of the way. Designers looking to excel at UI/UX can benefit from real case studies, fortnightly design challenges, and live videos to strengthen their portfolios. A 2019 Harvard study proved this approach to be effective when students in an introductory physics class scored higher on tests following active learning sessions.

So, cohort-based courses offer an enhanced community-driven learning experience, support from peers and instructors, a structure that ensures the work gets done, networking to build relationships, and more focus on learning the how than the what and why. But what does this mean for a course creator? From the professional's standpoint, the real value that CBCs bring isn't just in the content but in the community. Building industry micro-communities helps support and sustain them beyond the program or course.

CBC Ecosystem At Large Is Net Positive

As opposed to one-way learning, CBCs are bidirectional. This exchange of knowledge between the instructor and students forces the instructor to be more accountable and motivates them to make their material more actionable for students, leading to a higher quality of educational experience. Learners of CBCs are those who are willing to (and can) pay a premium for the perceived quality of content and follow-through, making expertise monetization with no existing following/networks possible and easier. In fact, CBCs are immediately becoming the biggest stream of revenue for many creators. Keep in mind a course is about bringing your student to the desired outcome in the least amount of steps, and what can be a better and more impactful transformation than one using an active, hands-on learning approach?

Survival Of The Fittest

If you are an online course creator, making the move from a MOOC to a CBC has many benefits for your students:

  • Improved engagement
  • Real-time active and collaborative learning
  • Community-driven classrooms
  • Increased rates of completion
  • Skills-building outcomes
  • Set start and end dates
  • Accountability

And for you as a course creator there are some advantages too:

  • Higher monetization potential
  • More free time
  • Reusable assets
  • Decreased need for unreasonable volumes
  • Limitless opportunity to scale
  • Increased price point

The online education landscape is evolving, and businesses need to adapt if they are to stick around and thrive—this involves more than just switching up a few upper case letters.