Cohort-based Learning: Learning Together Beats going it Alone
What cohort-based learning is all about, and why learning online and learning together are not mutually exclusive.
Doing e-learning from the comfort of your home PC has many benefits. But it’s very much a solitary experience: no interaction, and no peers to keep you motivated and spur you on.
But thanks to cohort-based learning, it doesn’t have to be that way. With cohort-based learning, you can combine the benefits of group dynamics with PC-based self-learning.
Definition: What is cohort-based learning?
“Cohort-based learning” is a complicated-sounding name for something that more or less means learning as a group.
Cohort-based learning creates an environment that enables active, collaborative and learner-centric learning.
It is a model of education that puts learners into groups so that they learn together, share ideas and support each other. Unlike one-on-one tuition and self-study, cohort-based learning is inherently collaborative and interactive.
As the name suggests, it is done in cohorts: groups of learners who typically have similar interests, objectives or backgrounds. The cohort members progress together through a structured curriculum or course that can include both online and in-person elements. The learners have regular opportunities to meet up, either in person or by means of virtual communication platforms. This motivates them to deepen their knowledge and discuss topics in more detail. It also enables them to work on joint projects.
Group dynamics at its best: Demonstrably higher success rates
A key advantage of cohort-based learning is that learners benefit from the different perspectives, experiences and skills of their peers. The regular interaction fosters a strong sense of community and cohesion, which can be very motivating and supportive. What’s more, the cohort members can learn from and help each other and grow through ongoing feedback.
Cohort-based learning is more than just a nice-to-have for injecting a bit of variety into the learning process. It actually delivers significantly higher success and completion rates than achievable through solo learning.
Cohort-based learning in action in enterprise practice
Cohort-based learning can be used in all areas of education. And it’s not a new concept per se. It’s as old as school classrooms, where everyone learns together and in person.
What’s new is that it can also be used in corporate settings – and it’s not limited to in-person learning. As part of a blended-learning strategy, cohort-based learning can comprise both online and in-person models.
So, how might that look in practice? imc instructional designer Benjamin Fillisch explains using a few concrete customer examples:
“At Vodafone, we developed a digital yet highly effective and motivating onboarding programme. The solution needed to cater to three distinct user groups: in-house and external customer service representatives and retail store staff. So, we developed a blended-learning journey that included cohort-based learning.”
The spirit of learning at Jägermeister: Don’t bother showing up if you haven’t done your homework!
Even the drinks industry needs learning. In this case, employees at Jägermeister needed to learn how to implement the brand’s new e-commerce strategy. The learners spanned four distinct, globally distributed groups, including sales staff and C-Level executives.
They were put into country and learning-specific cohorts. Collaborating via Miro , they had to define which stakeholders needed to be on board in order for the strategy to be rolled out successfully.
After the first virtual classroom, each cohort was given an assignment and told exactly what to prepare for next time. They were told they needn’t join the next session if they hadn’t done their homework. Why should everyone be forced to repeat a session just because someone hasn’t prepared?
In essence, the message to the participants was this: Your time and ours is valuable, so it’s only worth meeting if we are prepared. Otherwise, we can’t hope to produce outcomes that are any use to anyone.
That may sound harsh, but it was very well received. The participants, especially the C-level personnel, valued the clear expectations and certain knowledge that their time would be used productively. Firm deadlines and mutual accountability gave the participants certainty that their learning sessions would have a meaningful outcome. The result: increased acceptance of the learning by all concerned. This is one of the key benefits of cohort-based learning.
Quick guide to cohort-based learning
Here are some of the key points for getting the most out of cohort-based learning:
- Careful analysis of requirements and target group
- Good mix of in-person and digital learning
- Clear communication about rules, expectations and outcomes
- Generate added interest through gamification
- Present time-sensitive information in virtual classrooms
Above all, don’t forget the fun factor! Whatever the learning, we’re more likely to retain it if it’s entertaining and fun. And that’s true whether we’re learning alone or in cohorts.
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I joined the imc newsroom team in 2021. As a journalist my heart beats for content and storytelling.
I’m excited to figure out how e-learing and digitization affect the future of work. My task is to create content to talk about and I’m always looking for trends.
Privately I love to travel and eat Tapas.
Topics: E-Learning Trends, Corporate Social Responsibility, Press and Influencer Relations