Implement Cohort based learning 👩‍🏫 Set your online course on fire 🔥

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Ishwar Sundararaman . 07 Oct 21

Founder @ Unsolved. Launch Micro Courses & Build Learning Communities. IIMB, Serial Entrepreneur

In this post we will cover the Cohort based learning model, and how you can use it to turbo charge your online course. 🚀

Cohort based learning is a form of learning which mimics how we learn in schools and classrooms. 🏫

There is a lot of hype because this cohort-based model is now being deployed for online courses.

We will help you demystify if the hype is legitimate and if it is worth applying this format to your online course. 🧑‍💻

Here are the sections we will cover in this post

Section 1: What is Cohort Based Learning?

Section 2: Difference between Cohort based learning & Online Courses

Section 3: How is Cohort Based Learning Different from Classroom Based Learning?

Section 4: Why are Cohort Based Courses such a big deal?

Section 5: Are there any downsides to Cohort Based Programs?

Section 6: How to convert your Online Course into a Cohort based course?

Section 7: Price Discovery - How do you find the right price point

Section 8: Tools & Platforms that help you launch a Cohort based program

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1. What is Cohort Based Learning?


Cohort based learning is a method of learning where a group of students learn the same subject, at the same time.

They start together, and work with each other to complete the course and graduate on the same date.  

Cohort based learning does involve lectures from a professor. But In addition it also creates a community and a support group of students.

This community causes collaboration and helps keep students accountable.


2. Difference between Cohort based Courses & Online Courses


The characteristics of a cohort-based course CBC are outlined below. It will help you understand how CBCs are different from regular online courses(MOOCs) 

1. Clear start & end date date for the course vs self paced, self learning courses

2. Project & Application based learning vs Theoretical learning

3. Mix of live and recorded sessions instead of just recorded sessions

4. Group & Peer discussions vs Solo learning

5. Pricing of cohort based course can be expensive vs cheap for self paced courses. 

This is because a lot of time is committed by the instructor to help students achieve the outcome 

6. Access to the instructor for doubts vs very limited forum based access

7. Courses are taken at a specific time, in a specified order vs Courses can be taken anytime, anywhere


3. How is Cohort Based Learning Different from Classroom Based Learning?


To tell you the truth, Cohort based learning is what we have used in school and college. We joined a class, took it with other students, did projects together and graduated at the same time.

It's just that in the recent past, it seemed like the answer to democratising learning was MOOCs. It was cheap, online, self paced and made learning accessible to everyone.

But it turns out that access doesn't mean you can motivate yourself to learn. We are social beings.

We learn better when we are part of a group, when there is competition, where there is a target and a clear timeline.

Cohort based courses take the tried and tested classroom method and put it online. 

It replaces the school with an online software platform, which students can join from anywhere.  

You can now teach cohorts online as long as you have the right platform and the right tools. You can build your own brand for a course or even start your own online school.


4. Why are Cohort Based Courses such a big deal?


The real reason is the results for both students and teachers.

Completion rates - Online courses have a completion rate of just 2-5%, while cohort-based courses have a completion rate of over 50%.

Placements - Many amazing companies often want to recruit from students in these cohorts.

Brand Building - If you transform the lives of even a few students from a low paying job to a high paying one, the word spreads and more students want to sign up. 

Charge more - You don't need a 1000 students paying you $5 for your online course to make a living. You can make $5000 by having 25 students who pay you $200


Section 5: Are there any downsides to Cohort Based Programs?


The short answer is yes, there are drawbacks to everything.

The biggest drawback is that it takes a lot of time and energy to manage CBCs as a teacher. Even a small group, can take a great amount of work to ensure they get the results they want.

You can't just focus on creating content and expect your students to learn by themselves. You have to actively cause their learning

It's the primary reason that cohort-based programs are more expensive. 

It is meant for students and teachers who are really invested in not just creating and consuming videos, but in achieving outcomes.


Section 6: How to convert your Online Course into a Cohort based course?


I am sure many of you who are reading this have an existing online course, that you created over a few months. I understand how you don't want to completely scrap it and start over.

Here are some tips to convert your online course into a cohort based program. 

1. Add Live sessions: You don't have to teach all sessions live, but add live Q&A, discussions and speakers you invite

2. Peer Groups: Find similarities between students, group them together, enable discussions and live projects

3. Start Date & End Date: Limit the period of learning, to cause urgency in completion

4. Add Certification: For those who complete assignments and projects or a live case study

5. Create a Community: Add students to a lifelong community so it can become a perpetual learning space and an easy way for you to upsell and cross-sell


Section 7: Price Discovery - How do you find the right price point


We suggest using the decreasing discount strategy to set the price of your product.

This strategy suggests that you start low and keep increasing the price as your seats fill up. It's a great way to cause urgency and make the buyer "Buy Now". In addition, it helps you find how much people are willing to pay

The price you charge for people who are paying for courses from their own pockets is lower than what people will pay if their company is picking up the tab.

So is your target customer paying from their own pocket or is the company sponsoring them? That's an important decision factor for you to price


Section 8: Tools & Platforms that help you launch a Cohort based program


There are several tools and platforms that can help you launch a cohort based course and build your brand

Whether you are creating a free course to attract paying students or you are creating paid courses, there are some things you should look for

Key Elements of a Good Platform

1: Easy to use for students

2: Accessible on any device, laptop / mobile

3: Helps students and teachers find each other

4: All in one platform that combines LMS, audio/video, marketing and gamification 


List of Platforms that can help

1. Maven

2. Unsolved

3. Graphy

4. Disco

In summary, Cohort based learning is something online course creators should adopt.

It spurs course completion, causes transformation and creates a peer group perfect for long term learning.

And it allows the course creator to charge more from a small set of motivated students