The Future of Learning is with Cohorts

June 28, 2021

When Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, made its debut in 2008, L&D leaders worldwide saw them as both a novelty and a solution to their training problems. However, MOOCs today have missed its mark: they’ve had consistently low retention rates and enrolment is on the decline.

In the place of MOOCs, innovators in EdTech are looking toward a new learning model based around cohort-based learning, or cohort-based courses (CBCs). In a nutshell, CBCs are a collaborative learning style in which a group of individuals advance through an educational programme together.

If you’re looking for a new way to upskill yourself or your team, we think CBCs are the way to go. Let’s take a look at why.

You’re 15 times more likely to achieve your learning goals

Even if learners have the intention to finish a course, MOOCs have an average completion rate of 3 to 6 per cent. What’s going on? 

When people enter a voluntary learning programme, experience tells us that a great deal of self-discipline and motivation is needed to commit to online learning.

With CBCs, you’ll be plugged into a community of like-minded individuals with similar learning goals. This socialised form of learning adds a dimension of accountability and makes for a more rigorous learning experience. For instance, many cohort-based learning platforms now exist where you’ll be able to get feedback on how successful you were in applying what you learned with your instructors and cohort mates.

Unlike MOOCs, the completion rate of CBCs can be up to 85%. That’s roughly 15 times more likely for a learner to complete a course. Cohort-based learning will prove to be worth your time.

Social learning closes learning for loop soft skills

MOOCs tend to give you feedback on how well you’ve understood a certain concept through multiple-choice questions, but that doesn’t tell you how well you’ve applied a certain skill, does it?

While MOOCs do very well with transferring knowledge, it does poorly to develop soft skills—such as empathy, critical thinking and creativity—that are the key skills we need to be competent at as a skills-based economy takes hold.

In recent CBCs, learners felt they got the most value out of collaborative learning with their colleagues, more so than the content on its own. Contrast this experience with a MOOC instructor, who pre-records lessons for a mass of people, replies to learner questions via email or in a forum. A CBC instructor, however, wants to know their learners inside-out, and has the capacity to attend to the needs of a small group of learners.

Collaborative learning sets you up for career success

CBCs offer learners opportunities to work together and establish relationships across different teams in a company—a learning framework that complements well as organisations are embracing hybrid forms of remote work.

Not only does the experiential learning of CBCs tie learning to a manager’s day-to-day work, it also helps them see the bigger picture of their organisation, which in turn enables them to translate what it means for their teams and drive performance.

From designing and delivering our own CBCs, we’ve found that our learners enjoyed learning alongside their colleagues and even wanted more opportunities to network with others. Through live hands-on exercises, our CBCs also allowed them to not only develop their management skills, but also demonstrate them to their supervisors.

One main reason why learning initiatives fail for the learner is that it removes learning from real work and people are more likely to fail to see the purpose of the programme, especially if the MOOC is not tailored to their organisation. 

Learning together

Over the past couple of years we've had the privilege to offer over 500 sessions to our community of learners. During this time, our team has been working closely with our learners and using their feedback to design better and more meaningful learning experiences.

Cohort-based learning closes the learning loop: we’re able to gain knowledge, apply it, get feedback and consolidate what we’ve learned. With CBCs, it’s as if you have coaches in the form of your cohort-mates and instructors who understand your learning goals and problems you want to solve at a deeper level. We’re looking forward to seeing you at the next NewCampus cohort-based learning session!