How To Stop a Rapid Decline In Student Engagement Within Cohort-based Courses

June 21, 2021

Did you know that students are most engaged in a program at the very beginning, specifically the first two weeks? During this time, they are excited about the program and eager to learn, but over time engagement may wean. Life happens, they get busy, and as a result, you may see a rapid decline in student engagement. To help prevent this, here are four ways you can keep your learners engaged and focused on their goals. Whether you're building your first cohort-based course preparing for launch, or you've been running an online program for a while, consider implementing these strategies if you haven't already.

Creating a routine 

One way to avoid a rapid decline in student engagement is by creating a routine with regularly scheduled classes, accountability calls, and 1-on-1 meetings. By setting a routine, learners know what to expect and what is expected of them. For example, by establishing a class schedule, learners see that they will meet at the same time every week. Knowing this ahead of time, they can carve out the time to attend all of the live sessions throughout the program.

Dominique Maack, who recently graduated from Lambda School, a cohort-based online coding school, shared, “Starting at 8 a.m., we had an hour to dive into the pre-work. Then we’d move onto a two-hour live lecture with an instructor. Afterward, we would break for an hour's lunch. The rest of the day was dedicated to homework assignments, accountability, and mentoring. We would also have end-of-day wrap-ups, where a group of us would complete a coding challenge together.” Having a routine provided Dominique with structure and opportunities throughout the day to focus on different tasks.

Creating a routine in your program can include turning in assignments, making announcements, or taking attendance. Set expectations by communicating the routine with your learners and staying consistent. If anything changes, remember to share and reset expectations.

Read Next: Why Host Regular 1-on-1s in Cohort-based Courses.

Creating accountability peer groups

One of the benefits of live cohort-based courses is meeting other learners and supporting one another. While instructor-led sessions are a given, consider also creating accountability peer groups as a way for learners to stay motivated, troubleshoot challenges, and learn from each other in a small group setting.

Help learners make progress on their goals by building accountability peer groups into your program. You may even want to incentivize learners with rewards like movie tickets, plaques, and swag. 

Regular emails + updates

Another way to keep learners engaged is by regularly sending out emails with updates and opportunities. Over time they will come to expect to hear from you, and they may even look forward to it.  

Using a community forum like Circle or Slack

Lastly, in a cohort-based course, learning is social. As social creatures, students want to learn alongside a community of their peers in the same stage. Foster a supportive environment for learning by creating a community forum using tools like Circle or Slack. Encourage learners to connect, have regular conversations in the community, and regularly tap each other on the shoulder.

Check out our case study where we surveyed the top cohort-based course creators to learn the top tools they are using and why. Overall, we found that 80% of top cohort-based course creators use Circle to host private online communities, followed by Slack.

Read Next: The Power of Cohort-based Learning

Overall, various factors contribute to the success of cohort-based online courses. Finding ways to keep students motivated boosts completion and engagement rates and improves referrals and sales. It’s a win-win for you as the instructor and your learners.

Are you looking for a learning management system that’s ideal for bootcamps, accelerators, and any other group-based, live online learning programs? Get started for free with Virtually, and see how we are helping hundreds of course creators manage their entire program from a single platform.

Danielle Desir

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