A new wave of online education has been building on the horizon called Cohort Based Courses (CBCs). This style of schooling is in the truest sense "online", as it incorporates the most fundamental aspect of the internet i.e. its interactive and open-ended nature. Thus making it uniquely advantageous for the digital native generation. To fully understand why cohort-based learning is the way it is, let's look at the two most attractive features it has to offer.
In many ways, cohorts aren't new at all. They are a tried and tested form of education that we have experienced from kindergarten to college, with live interaction, under the guidance of an instructor or a teacher. We learned in cohorts in the form of classrooms where everyone happened to be in the same room at the same time. But this educational format was nearly impossible till the advancement of internet infrastructure around the world. The rise of Zoom and its competitors, along with the easy access to a high-speed internet connection, made video conferencing large groups of people seamless and easily executable.
The intense environment of a cohort is much like a pressure cooker – they can develop friendships in a fraction of the usual time. And not just friendships alone, all kinds of relationships: students can find mentors, collaborators, gurus, teachers, coaches, advisors, and even potential clients, employers, or even significant others. When people show up live on video using their real names, their relationships can transcend the confines of the course and reach out into the non-digital world.
The learning experience that arises from Cohort Based Courses resembles a virtual world as much as it does a university classroom. The use of polls, interactive whiteboards, and emoji reactions create an ecosystem capable of communication that can keep hundreds (or even thousands) of people engaged at once. Students have been finding each other on social media websites like Twitter, Slack, Telegram and Discord, forming a network that transcends any particular platform. The technology that we have had for so long has been front and centre in the delivery of online courses, and now it is finally starting to fade into the background, allowing the potential, the excitement, and the fun of learning to shine.
One of the most remarkable advantages that a CBC poses over other forms of online education is the flexibility with which it can restructure its curriculum. This rings true for when a course can group students from different cultures and linguistic backgrounds to learn seamlessly together. This makes CBCs a knowledge platform that is more adaptable and welcome to change and restructuring.
Compared to a university course that feels rigid and unmoving. Instead of paying bucket loads of money for a university degree that doesn't qualify you for an entry-level occupation, you can pay significantly smaller amounts of money for a training that was updated yesterday. As more and more industries are disrupted by advancing technology, the adaptability of education is becoming the need of the hour.
CBCs covers a plethora of subjects ranging from popular topics like business management to niche topics like origami. This form of education makes it ideal for students and teachers to learn and teach an unbounded number of topics. Anything under the sun is a valid course if there are students who wish to learn it. And Considering how cohort courses can bring together students from all over the world, there will always be people willing to learn.
Live group video sessions create an ecosystem where many different kinds of interaction often overlap and intersect. Teachers can broadcast one-to-many classes to present important topics. Break rooms (like an online Amphitheater or Cafeteria) allow students to split off and focus on particular obstacles or subtopics. Individual students can be brought “into the spotlight” to receive feedback and coaching from the teachers. Special guests and Industry professionals who would never be able to show up in person can call in and share their expertise. And that chat function can be full of recommended resources, follow up on topics, and positive affirmations.
It took us two decades to figure out the logistics of how to reliably deliver online courses that change people’s lives and Cohort Based Courses might just be the answer. Although despite being a solid learning platform, is bound to come with new changes and innovations. And those changes will tell a deeper story about how we as human beings can impart impactful learning to the future.