Should You Build A Self-paced Course Or Cohort-based Program?

March 11, 2021

As online course creators, you may be struggling with deciding whether you should create an asynchronous, self-paced course or cohort-based course (CBC). Picking one over the other depends on your goals as a business owner and your students' needs. To help you decide which format is right for you, consider your time commitment and course promise. As a general rule of thumb, self-paced courses offer only access to content, usually a library of pre-recorded videos and documents to facilitate learning. On the other hand, cohort-based courses have a defined start and end date where all learners progress through the curriculum together. Think content plus community. 

When to build a cohort-based course? 

Consider creating a cohort-based course if you enjoy building engaged learning communities. This model is also right for you if you want to help your students get results actively. Direct access to experts and mentors for a defined timeframe also means you can charge more. 

Read Next: How To Price Cohort-Based Courses

Since CBCs require active participation from instructors and learners, plan to dedicate at least ten hours a week to your program. Activities may include fielding questions, scheduling live classes, or meeting with learners 1:1. Unlike self-paced courses, which offer passive income (most work goes into production), CBCs require significant effort to launch and maintain.  

As a summary, build a cohort-based course if: 

  • You like building community. 
  • You're able to dedicate 10+ hours a week. 
  • You have a curriculum but need feedback. 
  • You enjoy connecting with your students. 
  • You want to deliver outcomes for students. 
  • You care about a high completion rate. 

When to build a self-paced course? 

Self-paced learning programs empower learners to take ownership of their learning. Since learners are not required to join a live classroom, they can work through the material at their own pace. Learners decide how quickly they want to complete the coursework, and they can revisit the material as often as they like. Give them access to the curriculum all at once or drip the content, so a certain amount of time passes before the next module becomes available. 

While flexibility is a good thing, the lack of urgency, interaction, and support from peers and instructors can negatively impact student retention. It’s no secret that most learners of self-paced courses fail to cross the finish line. Factors like the lack of motivation, deadlines, and accountability are all at play here. As a result, learners who do not complete the course may be unable to provide you with constructive feedback, and they are less likely to refer you to others. 

Who should build a self-based course? 

  • You have limited time to build a course. 
  • You have a battle-tested curriculum. 
  • You're looking to earn passive income.
  • You are less concerned about student completion rates. 

Overall, there are pros and cons to asynchronous and cohort-based courses; for asynchronous courses, try Teachable, Kajabi, or Podia. However, if you want to launch cohort learning programs, try Virtually. We’ll help you manage your cohort-based learning program and give you the tools to organize your content library, schedule live online classes with Zoom, check attendance, and process payments right from your dashboard. Try Virtually free for seven days, then choose a plan that’s right for you.

Next, read how Dominique pivoted to a tech career by enrolling in a 9-month cohort-based coding bootcamp. Discover the power of cohort-based learning here.

Danielle Desir

Danielle Desir is an author and the host of The Thought Card, an affordable-travel and personal finance podcast. ( Follow on Twitter: @thethoughtcard