he definition of ‘cohort’ has evolved over the years, but it essentially refers to a group of people with something in common that binds them together. Increased connectivity presents new opportunities for learning, development, and collaboration, which is why cohort students are becoming increasingly popular among educators worldwide. They are valuable assets to any educational institution or learning program.
In this blog post, we will explore who exactly cohort students are, the ideal class size for cohort learning, and the infrastructure required to create a thriving cohort-based learning environment. You’ll also learn the strategies to manage cohorts efficiently and how to upgrade from a basic online school to providing cohort education. Cohort programs can be very rewarding for all parties involved if properly executed.
Let’s take a deep dive into the world of cohort students and uncover everything you need to know to make the most of these unique learners.
Who Are Cohort Students?
Cohort students are a group of students who study the same program or course together in a shared learning experience. The students’ progress through an entire program as a unified entity rather than as individuals taking individual classes over different time frames.
Cohort-based learning is generally geared towards individuals who are actively looking to enhance their career development and increase job opportunities by learning new skills. It's commonly used for specialized fields such as business, healthcare IT, data science, software engineering/development, digital marketing, or other in-demand tech areas.
Potential students of cohort-based learning include career changers and recent college graduates looking for specialized skills to give them a competitive edge in the job market. Experienced professionals needing additional credentials or skill sets to advance their careers also make good cohort students. 54% of workers in the American labor force expressed a desire to get advanced training and new skills to keep pace with various changes happening within their workplace.
The cohort-based learning structure offers educational opportunities for entrepreneurs and coding boot camp graduates looking to build upon their foundational knowledge and skills. Employees of companies who need training or retraining in specific areas also find cohort learning helpful.
Cohort learning has become increasingly popular in recent years, and many schools now offer it as a way of providing specialized skills and hands-on job experience for their students.
Difference between Traditional Learning Management and Cohorting in Schools
Traditional Learning Management has been used for generations. It involves using instructional techniques and activities such as lectures, demonstrations, and hands-on training with mostly one-way communication between the instructor and students. It relies heavily on predetermined materials like textbooks, worksheets, handouts, or other printed sources to deliver educational content in a classroom setting.
Traditional classroom-based teaching strategies may have proved fairly successful over the years, but the modern-day approach focuses on incorporating flipped classroom models. 77% of academic leaders believe that learning in an online environment was either equal or better than traditional face-to-face educational methods.
Cohorting in schools is an innovative method of organizing student learning that puts students into small peer-based units. Cohort students typically work collaboratively under close instructor guidance towards a shared goal.
This model promotes interactive learning and supports active participation of all students. It also encourages students' involvement via projects instead of pursuing abstract theoretical approaches. Interactive learning and close collaboration help to develop students’ conceptual understanding and improve their problem-solving capabilities.
Traditional learning and cohorting models have some similarities, but they also have distinct differences. Here are the significant distinctions.
- Content Delivery: Traditional Learning Management relies on textbooks and lecture-based lessons. Cohorting focuses more closely on discussion, group work, and problem-solving activities to facilitate learning outcomes.
- Communication: Traditional learning relies on one-directional communication between educators and students, while cohorting encourages two-way conversation among peers and teachers.
- Group Composition: In traditional learning management systems, the class size is typically much larger, with a wide range of skill sets. In the cohorting model, student groups are smaller, consisting only of those students at similar ability levels. This allows for tailored instruction methods based on specific needs within the grade level or subject area being taught.
- Instructor Engagement: Instructors can take time to assess each student’s understanding/application by performing one-on-one assessments during actual learning sessions with cohorts. Traditional learning typically gives generic quizzes to all students.
- Course Design: Traditional Learning Management Systems rely heavily on a lecture-based approach to deliver course content. In cohorting, the design of courses and instructional materials are built around student engagement, problem-solving activities, and hands-on learning experiences that encourage students to apply what they have learned.
- Support Mechanism: With traditional learning, there is usually only a little support available outside of scheduled class times. But cohorting provides enhanced peer interaction and more accessibility to instructors, ensuring students receive assistance quickly when needed.
Cohort Students vs. Other Learners: What's the Difference?
Traditional learning students refer to students who learn in traditional academic settings, such as the classroom, through books, and other study materials. The learning process is majorly through physical contact between the teacher and students rather than online or via technology. The students often experience more isolated study sessions within one specific class at any given time and rely more on memorization techniques than experiential learning.
On the other hand, cohort students enroll in an organized program where they study and make progress together as a group. The ‘cohorts,’ as they are often called, usually focus more on collaborative learning among peers than on lectures from teachers associated with the traditional learning system.
In addition to working closely together, cohort students also benefit from additional support, such as mentorship opportunities or specialized frameworks designed specifically for them. The additional support encourages deeper engagement in the learning process.
Rewarding Benefits of Student Cohorts
The benefits of student cohorts are numerous and far-reaching. Let’s discuss a few briefly.
Better Retention Rates
Cohort groups provide an environment of support and connection that encourages students to stay longer in the program, leading to increased retention rates. By fostering relationships between each other and with instructors, student cohorts can foster a sense of belonging among their peers. This results in improved academic outcomes and gives greater motivation to complete the program. Online courses that are tailored to smaller groups and allow students to collaborate with instructors and their peers have a completion rate of 85% or higher.
A student cohort can increase classroom engagement by providing a sense of community and support among students who are learning together. This encourages collaboration, communication, and problem-solving skills that will benefit them throughout the course and in life.
Improved Learning Outcomes
By working with peers on projects or assignments, student cohorts provide an opportunity for a deeper understanding of course material and increased motivation to learn more effectively. This is not usually the case when students study alone at home or in class without much peer interaction. Having colleagues around to ask questions helps to boost comprehension for improved grades.
Increased Confidence Levels
Being part of a supportive environment where they feel comfortable enough to ask questions without fear or judgment increases the confidence levels of a cohort member. This helps to build the courage to tackle challenges and strive for success in their everyday life.
Improved Time Management Skills
The environment can help a cohort student develop better time management skills as they learn to balance their workloads and prioritize tasks accordingly. This is especially beneficial for those who need help managing multiple assignments or projects at once. Having peers around them provides an extra layer of accountability that encourages productivity over procrastination.
Clever Strategies for Running a Cohort Education Program Successfully
There is much to consider if you want to run an effective cohort program. However, with the right knowledge and tools, you can create an inspiring environment that encourages student integration and collaboration while maximizing educational opportunities. Here are some valuable tips and tricks to get your cohort education up and running.
Determine the Ideal Cohort Size
Understanding the concept of ideal cohort size is an essential factor that could determine the ultimate success of your course. This is because the number of students enrolled will affect their learning experience, engagement, collaboration, and completion rate. In the United States, public elementary and secondary schools typically have a student-teacher ratio of 16 to 1.
A larger cohort usually means more activity within the course, while a smaller one may offer students more personalized attention from their instructor. Determining the perfect size for your cohort can be challenging, but you can get it right by considering four key factors. Let’s talk about them.
- Student Engagement: One thing that's essential when determining cohort size is whether or not the students will have enough interaction with each other and their instructor. Generally speaking, two principles apply here. Smaller cohort groups will increase collaboration between participants. In contrast, larger cohorts often require extra instructor guidance to thrust everyone into active participation.
- Course Length and Complexity: The size of your cohort class largely depends on the length and complexity of your course material. That said, shorter courses may call for fewer individuals, while longer ones might benefit better from increased numbers (and accompanying student contributions).
- Instructor Capacity and Skill Set: Even if you can accommodate 20 - 25 students in one cohort course doesn't necessarily mean you should. It’s necessary to give some allowance considering the skill sets and experience of the course instructor. Choose judiciously between what you need and what would create an ‘overload’ in student monitoring requirements.
- Availability of Resources and Infrastructure: When evaluating ideal group sizes, you must also weigh the overhead costs associated with such training sessions. Your total overhead costs will ultimately depend on the availability of technology needed for efficient communication and delivery of lessons. The number of software licenses purchased, IT support contracts etc., can influence your decision.
Considering these four tips, you'll find yourself closer than ever to selecting an optimal group size for your upcoming education cohort.
Upsell from a Basic Online School to a Cohort of Enthusiastic Students
Upselling from a basic online school to a cohort of students can be an effective way to grow your eLearning business, increase revenues and acquire new students. It involves creating additional opportunities that offer enhanced services or courses related to your initial educational idea.
This strategy encourages the individuals enrolled at your online school to either upgrade their package or commit more time and money towards taking advanced courses. You have to make them understand they are gaining access to exclusive benefits for a collective learning experience with other members with similar interests. Here are four ideas to help you upsell and upgrade from a basic online school to an education cohort.
Identify your target audience
You will need to first identify and understand the needs of potential students who may be interested in upgrading from a basic online school program to an advanced cohort-style learning experience. Analyze what type of student would benefit most from this opportunity and how it could meet their specific educational goals or career aspirations.
Develop compelling content
Put together compelling course materials that demonstrate why joining a structured cohort-style setting is better for learners than taking classes through traditional methods alone. Showcase unique features such as collaborative assignments or personalized mentorship programs included only in these courses. This will make prospective students better appreciate the added value.
Reach out via the marketing channels you previously used while promoting your basic online school. You can also host events such as webinars and workshops to throw light on your proposed cohort class.
Offer attractive incentives
Lastly, offer attractive incentives to students considering upgrading from a basic online school program. Offer them discounts on tuition or other forms of reward for taking the next step in their educational journey. These incentives could be adjusted based on individual needs.
Implement the Infrastructure Needed to Oversee a Student Cohort
- Learning Management System (LMS): This is the backbone infrastructure required to manage a student's learning journey and keep track of their progress through the course material.
- Discussion Forums: They are essential for facilitating discussion, debate, and knowledge exchange among students.
- Video Conferencing / Teleconferencing Platforms: They are used to replicate face-to-face interaction between instructors and learners. A platform like Zoom provides easy implementation with great features like breakout rooms, whiteboard sharing, etc. 81% of undergraduate students believed that using digital teaching tools improved their academic performance.
- Content Creation Tools: These tools offer distinction from traditional content creation by helping to create interactive multimedia activities that enhance user engagement as a class lesson is being taught.
How to Establish Student Cohorts on EducateMe
EducateMe makes it easy for business managers to set up a cohort of students. It is a user-friendly cohort-based learning platform that helps you create an environment that encourages collaboration and high-level engagement for learners. The detailed steps outlined here will help you create a successful cohort on EducateMe.
EducateMe has helped many program managers and course creators to create meaningful learning experiences with their students. It can do the same for you. With features that enable you to customize cohorts, manage multiple courses from one place, and assess students effectively, the potential of the technology is only limited by your imagination.