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ohort-based learning (CBL) is a true lifeline for instructors adapting to modern learning trends, methods, and challenges. 

How so? Cohort learning has been a response to the shifts happening in online education, advocating for new principles and active learning. The principles that make groups, not individuals, modern society's primary learning unit. 

And this is where the "rubber meets the road;" if students cannot learn in groups, the completion of courses is almost always insurmountable. 

Just look at the stats: MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) dropout rate is over 90%, while the completion rate of cohort based courses is 90%. That means that, nowadays, much depends on interaction and engagement, and cohort learning is one of the approaches that grows on it. 

In this piece, we will discuss how the cohort learning vehicle has evolved, see the trends and markets shaping cohort-based learning, and its significant impacts on the future of learning.

What is cohort based learning? What is a cohort model in education?

Let's start with the lingering question: what is "cohort learning," and how does it work in practice?

Cohort-based learning is a teaching and learning model where students achieve learning goals together, putting interaction and communication at the center of activities. It is collaborative, community-inspired, and strength-based. 

Courses and programs are delivered to cohorts through digital platforms, and students move through the material at the same pace while being interactively supervised by a mentor or an instructor.

Importantly, cohort education encourages students to construct knowledge as they master new material, transforming the classroom into a community of active knowledge-builders. 

It contemplates student interaction - the biggest value of cohort learning

Therefore, the role of the instructor or mentor in a cohort session shifts from "information provider" to "facilitator," and evaluating students' learning progress becomes an integral part of this position.

Note. What to know more about cohort-based learning benefits? Here's a whole article about them. 

Cohort learning communities: Are they different?

However, cohort based learning is not always about courses or scheduled programs. One of the types refers to cohort learning communities. 

The cohort learning community is a method combining community learning and autonomous cohorts, under which people favor communication and discussion instead of the completion of tasks. For instance, learners can be in one community but be enrolled in different programs.

There, cohort session meaning or form can be a bit different. In particular, the session in a community can take the form of peer teaching.

Comparing cohort programs vs learning communities, the students will have a strict deadline and topics for active learning within the programs, while in communities, they will not be not constrained by time limits or specific topics. Yet, the latter is better for experts and specialists who can act autonomously.

At the same time, if we compare cohort learning communities vs lecture, there will be more engagement and peer-to-peer interactions, allowing students to perceive information better. Yet, the lecture is likely to give a better understanding and vision of the topic.

Cohort based learning evolution: From traditional learning to cohort courses

How did it happen that cohort based learning is popular today? Let's backtrack to where it all started. 

Was traditional learning a starting point?

In the early 1900s, teaching and learning were shaped into a one-size-fits-all model for providing basic numeracy and literacy skills during this time. And today, such a model still exists. 

Yet, it is not as effective and flexible as it could have been, failing to meet the learners' expectations. The reason? It simply ignores the fact that much is happening online, and students bring a diverse set of knowledge, skills, and experiences to the classroom.

What brought revolution, then? Two major events:

  • The rise of collaborative learning. In the 1960s, the idea of collaborative learning emerged from the works of Lev Vygotsky, emphasizing the role of social interactions in the learning process.
  • The application of new technologies bringing online education. In 1982, the Western Behavioral Sciences Institute brought the first online conference to business executives.

MOOCs and online education aves

In 2001, MIT pioneered the OpenCourseWare (OCW) initiative, allowing everyone to access course materials online while licensing the use, modification, and redistribution of these materials. 

And that was critical in the evolution and direction of MOOCs, the model that entered the mainstream in 2012. From there, online education became a business, bringing new approaches or market waves affecting online education.

Cohort learning and waves of educaiton.

Which ones? In addition to MOOCs, offering flexibility and accessibility, marketplaces, toolkits, and cohorts emerged. Marketplaces have allowed selling knowledge, while Toolkits brought platforms to own and manage the audience.

However, all three first waves lacked an important element that was crucial to traditional education and became fundamental to the cohort system. 

What exactly? The thing that fuels motivation and engagement -  interaction. In a cohort vs non-cohort learning debate, it is a significant indicator of learning efficiency.

That is why the MOOCs' completion rates have remained contentious. And it is no surprise that it led to the loss of favor and popularity of MOOCs, bringing us to cohort based models.

Reality check: why is cohort-based learning an actual deal?

The 2020s were a watershed year for the cohort learning movement, which is now permeating all education fabrics. 

Importantly, any cohort session is centered on three primary facilitators: instructors/mentors, students, and learning tools (courses and platforms). 

Even though the academic cohort meaning doesn't focus on such things, we should remember that this model's three pillars are also learning, reflection, and action.

Cohort based learning fundamentals.

At the heart of the cohort-based learning model is the question, "What are we trying to achieve, for whom, by when, and to what standards?"

Studies suggest a strong positive correlation between students' sense of community and their learning success in online courses: 94% of students say that group learning increased their interest in the courses.

The shared goal of a cohort session is to achieve excellence for all students, regardless of background, socioeconomic status, or geographical location. That core value should guide where we keep our current systems and innovate to create more effective and equitable education for all.

Cohort-based learning examples and stats: Who is actually using it in 2023?

  • K-12, higher institutions, corporates, government, and vocational schools are the biggest adopters of cohort based learning: The global e-learning market prioritizes five end users: K-12, higher education, corporations, governments, and vocational education and training. Corporations were unquestionably the winners in this market. This segment's value is expected to increase to USD 230 billion by 2030, representing a 15.2 percent CAGR from 2016 to 2020. In light of the widespread changes in work culture brought about by the COVID-19 epidemic, learning and development professionals have adopted corporate e-learning with cohort learning approaches as a strategy for empowering and training employees. For investors, the global e-learning market is ripe with opportunity.
  • Learners can earn degrees, certifications and hone their existing skills: Due to Covid-19's limitations, many students turned to online education to obtain their degrees and any necessary certificates. Some universities have more than doubled the number of students enrolled in online Master of Business Administration programs. Cohort education is gaining popularity in areas other than higher education. Businesses can invest in their employees' futures by sending teams to train together.
  • Cohorts are more commonly used in organizations than one-person teams: Cohort learning provides new opportunities for academies and digital and creative schools. From this vantage point, it is clear that organizations and teams, rather than individuals, are more enthusiastic about using cohort learning than others. For example, consider TheFutur to understand better how other industries are implementing this strategy. TheFutur boasts a community, boot camps, and a cohort based learning platform.

In the end, as a relatively novel model, cohort learning can be challenging to implement. Thus, it is more common to see large groups of adopters in a cohort rather than smaller, more focused groups. 

What markets and trends will shape the cohort-led transformation in 2023 and beyond? 

Here, we present the key insights of the cohort based learning model in the context of online education.


Predictions put the total value of the worldwide e-learning industry by 2026, which includes cohort-based learning, at close to $400 billion. By 2019, the e-learning industry was estimated to be worth nearly $200 billion. The same year, the LMS market brought in almost $18 billion in revenue.

Predictions put the total value of the worldwide e-learning industry by 2026, which includes cohort-based learning, at close to $400 billion.

According to data, the regional market in North America is projected to grow at a CAGR of 11.3% from its current value of USD 66 billion to USD 76 billion by the year 2030. The Asia-Pacific area has the highest market growth. 

It is anticipated that by 2030, its value will have increased to $80 billion, representing a CAGR of 18.1 percent from 2016 to 2030. The third biggest European market is projected to be worth USD 40.5 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 15.2 percent.


Some promising trends are fueling cohort-based learning, as well as subdivisions such as collaborative and corporate learning. Let's look at a few of them.

Cohort learning driver #1: Active learning is still a crucial component of cohorts

According to a recent study by University of Washington researchers, students' grades improved when they engaged in "active learning," or learning driven by cooperation and interaction. Surprisingly, this study also found that student's chances of academic success decrease when they are not actively engaged in their education. 

This investigation yields two groundbreaking findings:

  1. Active learning has the potential to improve exam performance by 0.5 points. 
  2. Students taught through lectures are 1.5 times more likely to fail than those who participate in active learning.

Cohort learning driver #2: Cohort based learning platforms are critical to the success of cohortians

Since online discussion tools have been linked to a statistically significant improvement in students' grades, edtech companies are investing heavily in this area. 

According to Pitchbook transaction data, US-based education technology startups raised approximately $3.2 billion in the first half of 2021, as analyzed by Reach Capital. The total already exceeds EdSurge's projected total of $2.2 billion for 2020 and the total of $1.7 billion for 2019.
Investment capital raised by U.S edtech companies.

Collaborative learning driver #1: Internal collaboration

Per data gathered from user responses, participation rates in a course quadrupled when two or more participants made at least three internal comments. 

These exchanges may involve co-authors discussing ways to improve the course's content or reviewers providing feedback to the course's creators. 

Courses written in collaboration with other instructors will generate more discussion, have higher quality material, and be easier to collaborate on. A team of reviewers is the best way to ensure that your new courses are polished and ready for rollout.

Collaborative learning driver #2: Regular peer feedback

Giving a cohort of learners a way to provide frequent feedback on the courses they are taking may help you create courses that are 27% more valuable for students. It may result in more interesting courses and increased employee engagement and retention. All that remains is to figure out how to incorporate their responses into the teaching process.

Collaborative learning driver #3: Tailored questions

Customized questions have been shown to increase response rates significantly. This is because 75.9% of people respond positively to these questions. This means that 75% of the time, when a question was asked in class, the student actively engaged with the material and provided a constructive response.

Corporate learning drivers that are important for cohort-based learning

learning and development in 2022.

Upskilling and reskilling

According to Udemy, by 2020, 38% of workers had retrained or educated to a higher level. 

Improving one's skill set is no longer nice in today's corporate world; it is a critical need. Companies have begun to recognize their role in addressing the growing skills gap. 

Personalized Learning

A survey of 1,500 L&D professionals shows that 75% believe their companies will increase the personalized learning material they produce in the coming years. 

Training tailored to the company's needs may result in higher engagement and more effective learning programs. Workers will, presumably, be better prepared for the future as a result of this.

Personalized training trends.

Amid the training industry's rapid technological transformation, cutting-edge technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and artificial intelligence (AI) have the potential to improve the context, relevance, and personalization of corporate learning and development.

Social learning

The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) reports that by 2021, 28% of businesses had used social learning to distribute e-learning materials and foster teamwork.

The fact that individuals improve their learning by interacting with others supports this idea. Because of our social nature, self-paced learning over a long period may appear to be an existential threat. Another advantage of social learning is that it helps develop a company's learning culture.

So, what do cohort learning trends tell us?

The learning approaches move away from traditional hierarchies and toward more cross-functional, digitally connected learner networks. The active learning and collaborative aspects become crucial for modern learning providers and intuitions. 

We are already seeing a diversification of available means to support the cohort teaching trend at various levels and promote specialized lifelong training. Mobile learning, project learning, and community learning are emerging trends that complement cohorts. 

Moreover, the corporate trends prove that cohort learning can apply to upskilling and reskilling with a place for personalized and social learning learning. 

That way, learning providers and Edtech actors will continue to develop and try to answer the market's needs. 

Calling instructors and mentors to Act Now!

Preparing for the disruption brought on by cohort training can be challenging, but the potential rewards are worthwhile. If you're still unsure about cohort training or its specific benefits, read our article in which we list five compelling reasons to join the cohort force. And if you're ready to get a piece of the burgeoning cohort-based course market, sign up on EducateMe to get started. 

And while you're at it, here are key takeaways from this article, which we hope will serve as a springboard for you.

Traditional one-size-fits-all learning approaches do not meet today's standards, while cohort learning with active learning and engagement in the center shapes a new policy toward education. 

Cohort-based training created under collaboration principles generate more discussion, contain higher-quality content, and be easier to study in. There, the instructor's or mentor's role shifts from "information provider" to "facilitator."

In the end, cohorts show that the trend toward improving online education quality includes increasing delivery time and skill level. Yet, it does not stop organizations, corporate actors, and learning providers from adopting cohort learning. This is supported by some interesting facts:

  1. MOOCs have a less than 10% completion rate, whereas cohort-based courses frequently have completion rates of more than 90%.
  2. Corporations are the most enthusiastic supporters of cohort learning, with the segment's value expected to reach USD 230 billion by 2030.
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