Why Cohort-based Courses Are Blowing Up Right Now?

November 3, 2021

Remember those 300-person intro classes you took freshman year of college? You likely had little interaction with your professor and even less with the other students in your class. Now, think back to a class in college where you learned the most. Let me guess. You're now imagining a small 30-person discussion section or seminar. What’s the difference between these two learning experiences? One word. Feedback.  

More than likely, you will not learn from consuming hours of content passively. Just think back to all the lectures, advice, and video content doled out to you throughout college. What percentage of it do you remember today? Perhaps 5%? Or maybe less?  Learning (a.k.a, committing a skill to your long-term memory) comes from having to do something and then getting positive or negative feedback.

For this reason, education needs to be a 2-way conversation. This is why you remember so little of what you learned in those lecture halls all those years ago. Information flowed one-way: from the teacher to you. It's also why that seminar you took in your senior year was so powerful. You didn't just sit and listen to someone talk for hours. You had to participate. Discuss. Engage. Learn.

Now, consider online education. For the past ten years or so, it's looked a lot like those traditional large lecture halls. It's been all a one-way flow of information. Most online courses feature on-demand videos that you can watch but quickly forget. However, things are changing. Thanks to the power of live video conferencing with Zoom and innovative teachers pushing the edge of what's possible, learning online has started to feel a lot more like those small group discussions. Learning is becoming a two-way conversation.

So why are cohort-based courses blowing up right now?

Cohort-based courses switch the learning experience from passive to active. Similar to small discussion sections, cohort-based courses are hands-on and they are conversational-based. Instead of students taking the course alone, they do it with a group of people who all receive feedback in real-time. Ultimately, learners join your program for the content and stay for the community engagement and interaction.

If you are looking for new ways to engage your learners, read about how to stop a rapid decline in student engagement and eight types of live events that creatively keep students engaged, like fireside chats and office hours.  

Also, get other helpful tips about running your cohort-based course and managing live events by subscribing to our weekly newsletter below and following our podcast, Reshaping Education. Reshaping Education shares the stories and lessons learned from top entrepreneurs and CEOs in the online education space.

Danielle Desir

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