8 Different Zoom Events to Host for Your Cohort-based Course

July 22, 2021

As an online educator, each day is a battle to keep your members engaged. 

Engagement starts at nearly 100% but starts declining almost immediately. In this post, we'll equip you with eight different types of zoom events that you can use to drive engagement and foster community in order to prevent “the dip”:

  • Live Lecture
  • Q&A 
  • Office Hours
  • Fireside Chat
  • Mastermind
  • Working groups
  • Ice Breaker
  • Mentor Sessions

Now, let's talk about each in more depth. 

Live Lecture

This is perhaps the most common type of live event hosted within a CBC. For a good reason too. 

If the goal of your program is to deliver curriculum to your students, a live lecture is perhaps the easiest way to do this. 

Contrary to self-paced courses, CBCs provide a space for students to engage with the curriculum. Ask questions, discuss, etc. Live lectures create a space for this type of learning. 


If you're someone who has an arsenal of async video curriculum, then a Q&A session might more apt for your learners. 

As the name implies, Q&A's allow for students to dive deep into a particular topic. 

Usually, you can host these sessions after assigning async reading or video lectures. 

The idea with these sessions is to have students explore the topic themselves and then use the Q&A as a supplementary session to go deeper. 

Office Hours

Office hours are an excellent opportunity to spark serendipitous encounters between students. 

You can host office hours in a 1-on-1 or a group setting. 

Usually, office hours do not have an agenda. They are simply a block of time where any learner who needs additional support can drop by and get personalized support from an instructor.

Any live learning program should host at least one hour of office hours each week. 

Fireside Chat

Another to boost attendance after the "dip" is to bring in guest speakers. These speakers are often renowned industry experts who can provide additional guidance for students. 

Sometimes, these conversations will be similar to live lectures. Other times, they take the form of Fireside chats. 

These are informal conversations in which one of the instructors will moderate a discussion and extract essential insights out for the audience. 

Two programs that do this exceptionally well are On Deck and Ali Abdaal's Part-time YouTuber Academy. 

Mastermind Group

A mastermind group is a collection of like-minded individuals who work together to resolve each other's obstacles. 

A standard format of the mastermind group is the "hot seat," in which an individual will spend anywhere from 5-10 minutes explaining their dilemma. The group will then collectively help brainstorm solutions for the next 20 minutes. 

Mastermind groups can either be facilitated by instructor or peer-led. 

Working Groups

A great way to foster genuine connections between your larger cohort is to break it into small groups of 4-8 individuals. 

You can then have this group regularly meet and work on projects together. 

You get two benefits from this approach: 

1. Students get to build deep relationships with a smaller subset of the larger cohort 

2. Students learn the curriculum faster by mentoring each other rather than relying on instructors

Icebreaker Sessions

When your program begins, interactions between members might feel stiff. It's your job as the instructor to help members feel comfortable with one another. 

In addition, to live sessions centered around learning, we recommend hosting a series of social events to bring the group closer together. 

These can be both 1-on-1 or done in a group setting. If you're using Slack as your community platform, you can use a tool like Donut

For group events, a tool like Gather Around is incredible. 

Mentor Sessions

The last type of live event you can use to keep students engaged is a mentor session. 

These sessions aren't too dissimilar from live lectures except that they're usually led by a teaching assistant and are focused on applying the knowledge rather than learning new material. 

These are smaller, tight-knit groups of less than 20 students which often results in more discussion. 

Mentors can be anyone familiar with the curriculum but are often alumni of the program. 

Live Event Strategy

Now that you've learned about the various types of live events, you might be wondering which ones you should use in your cohort-based course. 

The answer is... it depends. 

Use each of these events as a switch that you turn on and off as you need. As a general guideline, this is what we recommend for programs with 100+ members:

Live Learning

  • Live Lecture [weekly for 2-3 hours]
  • Q&A [bi-weekly for 30 minutes]
  • Office Hours [weekly for 1 hour]
  • Fireside Chat [monthly for 1 hour]

Live Discussion

  • Mastermind [bi-weekly or monthly for 1 hour]
  • Working groups [bi-weekly for 1 hour]
  • Ice Breaker [1-2 throughout your cohort, usually at the beginning]
  • Mentor Sessions [weekly, 1 hour]

Hosting Live Events

Another question that might be entering your mind is, "wow, this is a lot of live programming. How do I manage all of this?"

There are a few methods to consider:

Spreadsheets + Google Calendar

With this approach, you can store all the different event types, facilitators, sessions length, groups, dates/times, etc.

You can then use Google calendar to send out invites for each event. This approach may require you to copy and paste emails into Google calendar for each different segment of your group. 


While spreadsheets can be manageable for programs just getting started, you may want to leverage a tool like Virtually as you begin to scale. 

Virtually allows you to manage all your events, reminders, and student engagement data from one place. 

It integrates with Google Calendar, Zoom, Slack, and email to put event management on auto-pilot. Easily create one-off or recurring meetings and Virtually will send calendar invites, remind members when a session is about to start, and track attendance. 

You can then view all your event and engagement data in one easy-to-access location. 

Stay tuned

To get other helpful tips about running your cohort-based course and managing live events, subscribe to our weekly newsletter below. 

Ish Baid

Ish is the Founder & CEO of Virtually (YC S20).