Heights Platform What are Cohort-Based Online Courses? + How to Create One

What are Cohort-Based Online Courses? + How to Create One

4 minute read

If you are a creator, you are probably aware that there are many types of online courses and online learning business models.

In addition to the most popular business model of self-paced online courses, you can create membership sites, coaching programs and cohort-based online courses.

“CBCs” or “cohort-based courses” (or sometimes known as "online challenges") are growing in popularity within the course creators community… but what exactly are they? And how are they different from the more traditional definition of an online course?

This is what we will cover in this blog post. Keep reading below to learn all about cohort-based courses and our tips for creating one!

What are Cohort-Based Online Courses?

Cohort-based courses are group-based, time-sensitive courses. In this business model, instead of going through the content at their own pace, students are guided through the lessons together as a group and consume the content at the same time.

If your goal is not only to sell an online course but to create a community of engaged students, you should consider creating cohort-based courses.

This model is also perfect for you if you want to help your students effectively achieve a specific result.

Self-Paced Online Courses vs Cohort-Based Courses

Self-paced learning programs empower learners to take ownership of their learning. Students can join the course at any time and go through the content at their own pace.

In self-paced online courses, learners decide how quickly they want to complete the course, and they can revisit the lesson content at any time. This online course business model also allows high flexibility for both the creator and the students. You can decide to give access to your content all at once, drip-feed lessons, release new lessons after a set amount of days and so on.

While flexibility is certainly a benefit of online courses, it can also cause a few issues. The lack of urgency, interaction, and support from peers and the creator can negatively affect student retention. This is one of the reasons why online course completion rates are generally lower than desired. Factors like the lack of motivation, deadlines, and accountability are the main downsides of self-paced online courses.

Check out this article from our blog if you wish to increase students' engagement in your online course: 9 Proven Ways to Increase Student Engagement and Completion Rate in your Online Course

This causes a chain reaction where learners who do not complete the course may be unable to reach their desired result, offer constructive feedback, and they are less likely to refer your online course to others.

The solutions to these problems lie with cohort-based online courses. As the creator, you can choose to create a cohort-based online course, or even incorporate some of the cohort community features into your self-paced course.

From the creator's point of view, CBCs are a more active form of eLearning and require a higher level of interaction between you and your students.

The main difference between these two business models is that in cohort-based courses, a group of learners start each lesson at the same time, regardless of when they registered or enrolled.

Lessons in cohort-based courses can come in the form of live sessions held by the creator or pre-recorded lessons (similar to the ones in a self-paced course) that are released on a set calendar date and potentially expire after some time.

Cohort-based courses are a great way to boost learner completion rates and foster a sense of community around your brand. Students can interact with each other and the creator, discuss the lesson contents, share their feedback and learn simultaneously.

How to Create a Cohort-Based Online Course

There are many ways to create a cohort-based online course. Depending on how involved you want to be as the creator, you can choose to structure your cohort-based course in one way or another.

For example, if you want to offer an extremely high level of interaction, you can choose to set up a series of live calls with a group of students to personally guide them through your course.

This way you are almost offering a group coaching program where students get direct, live insights from the creator and get to attend a class together as a group. This is the most traditional way of running a cohort-based course and it has the potential to provide high value to your students.

However, limiting yourself to live sessions with your students can have its drawbacks:

  • You can only teach a limited amount of students at times
  • You have to invest a large portion of your time to attend the sessions
  • You cannot create a leveraged income stream

Hosting live sessions with a group of students is one way to create a cohort-based online course and provide as much interaction as possible. But it is not the only way:

Create a Cohort-Based Course with Heights Platform's Challenge Feature

If you want to create a cohort-based online course without having to invest so much time and effort, our suggestion is to create pre-recorded lessons (similar to a classic online course) and release them on a specific date instead of allowing students to access them as they please.

Doing so can involve a lot of manual work, unless you use a specialized tool.

Heights Platform recently released a new feature called Challenges, where you can create time-sensitive online courses with the purpose of engaging your students, as in a cohort-based course.

With Challenges your course lessons have a specific release date, you can even select an expiration date to create a feeling of urgency in your students.

This way of creating a cohort-based online course has many benefits:

  • You get to create a leveraged income stream
  • You can automate most of the manual work: all you need to do is record your lessons!
  • You get to create extremely engaging courses for your students
  • Students can still interact with each other, but you don't have to invest too much time into hosting live sessions
  • Once your challenge is completed, you can run another one seamlessly

The most sought-after feature of Challenges is the ability to re-run the same challenge once completed. Relaunching the same challenge is as simple as clicking a button, and you get to reschedule your challenge to a future date, without the hassle of having to recreate each lesson one more time.

Learn all about online challenges:

Create Your Cohort-Based Course Today