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September 5, 2021

How The Magic Of Cohort Based Courses Is Driving A Learning Revolution

At Disco, we believe that we are heading into a golden age of learning and that cohort based courses are going to be at the heart of this learning revolution.

To appreciate just how disruptive and filled with potential cohort based courses are, it helps to understand the forces and trends that have shaped education and learning and it’s essential to understand how they work and why they are particularly unique to this moment in time.  

Live online cohort based courses bring together the best of in-person connection and the accessibility and flexibility of online learning.  How it works is that a learning group moves through a curriculum together, and then comes together in a live platform (with multiple channels for connection including chat rooms, live 1:1 break out rooms and group slack channels) on a regular basis for in person engagement and work sessions.  

It is a learning experience different from anything that was possible or available before.


The unique format of the live online cohort based course enables it to address the past challenges of both traditional and online learning, while simultaneously being incredibly complementary to the trends that are now defining learning.

Here’s what we mean:


A New Level Of Accessibility

Online classes got us half way there. The rise of online learning platforms meant that material and content was available to anyone and from anywhere. This was huge in terms of potential. The challenge is that it didn't reflect how people actually learn and that genuine access, the type that removes opportunity barriers, requires a more  personal relationship.

With Live online cohort based courses, all the benefits of online remain (it can be done from anywhere, without the costs of travel, need of childcare or carbon footprint). The live components means that participants from anywhere in the world also have the chance to engage directly and learn from  top global talent, in a way that has never been possible before. 


The Power of Accountability

Ultimately, online learning didn’t deliver on its initial promise because of the 95% dropout rate. The cause is that it’s a design flaw that can't be fixed.  Online learning is inherently done alone, self-paced and solo - and this is not how people learn best. They need the accountability of others, the feedback and exchange loop and to be able to learn from one another as well as the “master” or teacher.

With live online cohort  based courses, there is peer to peer learning, working through the material or project together and so the completion rates can regularly hit 100%.


The Optimal Learning Experience:

Teacher, best selling author and marketing guru Seth Godin, built one of the world's most popular massive online courses - one that he now advises people not to take because, what we’ve come to see is that  learning is not a solitary experience and online courses are just media consumption.

He sees the future of learning as leaving behind the constraints of both modern industrial education (the centralized content, the carrot/stick motivation of certification and the lecture format) as well as the limitations of online learning (the low to zero engagement) and building a new and better path.  

Optimal learning experiences happen when there is: enrollment (so people are there because they want to be and not because it’s mandated in some way); when it is experiential (so there is a transformative component as a result of going through it) and it should foster peer to peer learning (from feedback and shared projects).  

Seth Godin’s course the altMBA is built around these principles.  It’s a peer to peer learning environment, it’s cohort based (groups of five to twenty people) consistently engaged with each other and it's not lecture based - instead learning happens through fourteen assignments.

This is what a live online cohort based course looks like - and why its so powerful as a format for learning.

A New Type Of Teacher
Live online cohort based courses also represent an entirely new forum for a new type of teacher. Traditional institutional education was build around regulating who was able to lead the classroom and deciding what they needed to have in order to do so. What we’ve seen with the rise of online influencers on platforms like Tik Tok, YouTube and Instagram  is that people increasingly want to learn directly from the people they admire.  

Influence has become the new accreditation.

The challenge has been that until now, most creators didn’t have a pathway to both a sustainable income and the ability to build a new teaching product. Live online cohort based courses completely change this - because whereas income on ad based platforms requires hundreds of thousands of followers, with a live online course, a creator can become a teacher with a sustainable income source and with only a small group of participants. 

Have a question or comment on live online cohort based courses? Tweet us at Disco and we will get back to you!