Online education has evolved since the time MOOCs arrived. EdX and Coursera flourished in this era. This was Type 1.
Next came marketplaces, or Type 2, which made it easy for teachers to create content and start earning money. Marketplaces like Udemy work like Amazon does. They aggregate teachers (sellers), allow them to compete for traffic based on keywords and interests, and the one with the best content, ratings and reviews gets a sizeable share of the earning potential, which is shared with the platform.
Just like Shopify emerged as an answer to Amazon, so did tools like Teachable, Kajabi and others. These tools, part of the Type 3 wave, enabled a teacher to sell their course directly to their audience. While this meant that the teacher would have to build their own audience, it also meant that they would keep majority of the revenue as their share and only pay a tiny fraction as subscription fees to the tools.
In its latest iteration, online education has evolved to a cohort based learning program. Let's call this Type 4.
To sum it up:
People want to learn new skills from experts they trust, be part of a community they can learn from and grow with, and hold them accountable to their goals.
You can learn more about the history of each era from this extremely informative piece by Forte Labs.
A cohort-based course is simply an online course where a group of students (the cohort) start learning at same time, and progress through the course with a mix of live classes from the teacher, peer-based learning and collaboration, projects and outcomes (like a final exam) and graduation, which is the end of the cohort.
After the cohort ends, students become part of the course’s alumni network, much like when you graduate from college. As part of the alumni network, you help out your younger (not in age) peers, as well as learn from them, share opportunities, find avenues to collaborate, and ultimately grow together to achieve your individual and collective goals.
Most people who are reading this went to school. Schools are the OG cohort-based learning environments.
Here are its characteristics:
The same characteristics are present in college education, like your MBA or undergrad programs.
Completion rate is the single metric that tells you why cohort-based courses are being talked everywhere, and why they it’s just the beginning of a new era of online education.
MOOCs and self-paced courses low completion rates, between 5-15%. That’s pitifully low if you think about it. Imagine if up to 95% of the kids you went to school with failed every year.
Compare that to classroom environments in school and college, where completion rates would be 80-90% or even higher.
Early success in online cohort-based courses and their completion rates tell you why this is the next frontier of online education.
Seth Godin’s altMBA, a cohort-based online MBA, saw a completion rate of 96%.
Let that sink in.
The only experience I have with creating online courses is Programmatic SEO, which I had launched in January to over $6000 in pre-orders.
Programmatic SEO is a self-paced course with pre-recorded material that you can finish in one weekend, sold using tools like Gumroad. It belongs to Type 3, but it does make me $1,000 per month in passive income, which I like.
Hence, I can’t and don’t claim expertise in how to build a cohort-based course.
There’s very little literature on this as it’s a fairly new domain, but here are the best articles I could find, that might help you in your research.
The tools needed to create, launch and run a cohort-based course already exist.
You can pick and choose the tools you like and stitch them together, automate processes using Zapier, and manage just fine as a one person online school.
Using a dozen tools is one way to do run a CBC.
There are a lot of new platforms being designed and built to tackle the specific challenges that an educator faces while running their online school.
Here’s 7 cohort-based course platforms available today:
Would love to hear your thoughts about it, especially the challenges that might be stopping you from launching one.
Feel free to reach out to me!