Cohort Based Course: the complete guide 2021
Cohort Based Course
Cohort Based Course
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Cohort Based Course: the complete guide 2021

What is an Online Cohort Based Course?

An Online Cohort Based Course is a collaborative-focused learning method: a cohort is a group of students moving simultaneously through a given curriculum. For Online Cohort Based Course we mean lessons that take place in live streaming through video conferencing tools such as Zoom with all course activities, such as assignments, carried out by students remotely.

A basic characteristic of Cohort Based Courses is that groups of students participate in lessons at the same time, starting and finishing the same course together. Cohort Based Courses held online are intended to create a sense of community, even if the lessons take place remotely; during class, students can build relationships, make friends and meet online as if they were in the same class.

The cohort model has been applied by universities in their MBA courses with great results. As we know, one of the objectives of an MBA is to build intrapersonal skills by being part of groups of students who can learn from each other and develop their talents together, creating a sense of camaraderie. Students who shared such a profound teaching experience create lasting relations that go beyond the duration of an MBA and that can be crucial in business and future careers.

How to increase the completion rates for online courses: Cohort Based Course

As we know, distance learning has become increasingly common in recent years, mainly due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has forced millions of students into social distancing by banning classroom lessons.

With the hope that in the future students will be able to return to class to be able to create live relationships and friendships face to face, today it is still necessary, given the huge adoption of distance learning, to rethink the online option. As we saw in the previous article “The evolution of online education: from MOOC to Cohort-Based Courses” e-learning has evolved in recent years to the point that has been adopted by schools and online bootcamp have chosen the Cohort Based Courses model.

Learning is always a complex challenge, a cohort program is created to support students, help them grow intellectually and socially, and have a positive impact that will help them in the post-education phase. The main challenge for students is not to give up in the middle of the course but to get to the end. Unlike the 3% completion rate of self-paced courses, the completion rate of cohort courses is up to 85%.

There are several strategies for keeping students active to increase a course completion rate. 

Cohort Based Course

Income Share Agreement Model

Many schools that apply the Income Share Agreement model carry out a pre-selection of course participants, admitting only those who demonstrate greater commitment and have the basics to be able to follow the course material.

This gives a sense of exclusivity that will encourage the students to have passed the selection and make them more inclined to complete the course, driven by the fear of missing out on a great opportunity given to only a few. 

Charge a fee 

Another widely used way to ask to demonstrate the required commitment to finish the course is to charge a fee to the attendees. Cohort Based Courses, unlike exclusively asynchronous courses, have generally a higher cost given by the fact that the instructor is present to the lesson and that the course cannot be sold over and over again as it happens with asynchronous courses. This means that instructors will need to charge higher fees for Cohort Based Courses than for asynchronous courses.

Having a clear finishing line

Another strategy is to give a sense of urgency to the course contents. This is one of the major differences between the Cohort Based Courses and the on-demand ones that can be easily bought on platforms like Udemy and be used at any pace.

In most cases, the lack of a deadline means that the student procrastinates the completion of the purchased course on-demand but is keen to attend classes that will not be repeated if not present. Both lessons and contents should have a deadline after which the student loses the opportunity to learn by attending and feels left behind. 

Group activities

Creating activities that can be carried out in groups is another way to increase the active participation of students in the course. This gives a sense of responsibility to the students towards their peers.

Students in groups can confront and help each other in overcoming a challenge or completing a task. In a team, each member feels more empowered because the other students also rely on everybody’s contribution.

How to build a Cohort Based Course Academy?

We built Teachfloor with the aim of giving all independent instructors in the world the opportunity to create their own online school with a single tool and offer Cohort Based Course. We believe that cohort courses are the best tool to give a high-level education online and it’s the only viable alternative to traditional education.

With Teachfloor you will be able to build your school online, starting from the construction of your course curriculum.

To do that, it is important to understand what the purpose of the course is. To succeed in creating a good curriculum, you will need to take your time because you need to understand how you want to deal with the different topics, whom it is addressed to, and how you want the contents to be used.

Once the topics have been selected, they must be structured into lessons, give each lesson a title and a description of the topic you are going to deal with; attach the necessary resources to each lesson that can also be shared with your students. Remember that a Cohort Course has a beginning and an end, so create a timeline with the lesson timetable.

Once the curriculum is structured, you will need to focus on the enrollment phase. With Teachfloor you can build the form to apply to your online course and select students for the next cohort.

Many schools also use tools like Typeform or Google Survey that allow you to create online forms. We recommend that you start advertising your course a few weeks before the start, in order to have time to reach the number of applicants needed to start the course and to be able to go through a selection process.

You can send the form via email with your newsletter or, if you use Teachfloor, you will have a course landing page with all the necessary information: course description, teacher’s bio, duration of the course, start and end date. You will also have the application form and the payment page where you students can enroll and pay the fees. 

Giving the right price to your course is paramount. Cohort-Based Courses can cost from $ 30 up to $ 10,000. This depends on several factors, such as the length of the course, the number of students, the subject matter.

Obviously, when you build an online school you must necessarily consider the running costs, the tools you will have to use and the marketing budget. As in any company, you will need to do the maths to understand if your business model is sustainable, always keeping in mind the spending availability of your target students.

A Cohort Based Course, as mentioned, has a predetermined duration, it tries to offer different types of lessons, both in live streaming for example via Zoom and asynchronous lessons or even exclusively textual lessons.

Teachfloor has the incredible feature of being able to direct your cohort students into a channel where they can interact with each other, exchange information, share posts and comments. The built-in community functionality within Teachfloor replicates the same experience your students might have with a Facebook group or Slack channel but has been structured to give more flexibility.

An important part of a Cohort Based Course is relating to “activities”, which can be tasks, quizzes, implementation of group projects and “peer reviews”. These activities are the backbone of a Cohort Based Course, especially if they allow students to compare themselves as in the case of “peer reviews” in which the students themselves will evaluate each other.

With Teachfloor you will have all-in-one software to create the curriculum of your Cohort Based Course, publish it on a landing page to allow easy enrollments, collect payments and manage your students. Control lessons and your courses’ activities and finally create your students community and make it always active.


E-learning is changing and Cohort Based Courses are the latest step in a long evolution that instructors and content creators from all over the world can benefit from. As in any evolution, the innovation of the past will be wiped out and only in a few years will it seem something old and unusable, this is the end of schools that create tons of asynchronous content without creating a relationship with the students.

Cohort Based Courses will finally make online education more human and social, focusing on the student and creating small communities united by the desire to learn certain topics. Our mission with Teachfloor is to create the software infrastructure of the future of e-learning, empowering millions of teachers to create their online schools effortlessly.

Written by
Federico Schiano DI Pepe
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