The future belongs to cohorts

Cohort education is taking EdTech by storm. In 2020, Y Combinator invested $150k in a cohort-based courses (CBC) platform. Andreessen Horowitz Fund raised the bar in early 2021 by investing $20 million in a solution being developed by the co-founder of Trends come and go quickly. That’s a fact. But what exactly is cohort education, where did it come from and most importantly — will it stay with us for longer?


The origins

What exactly are cohort-based courses (CBC)? If you think about the process, it is actually nothing new. It can relate to students signing up for selected classes with a particular instructor. Once a large enough group apply, the real-time course begins. This course takes place at specific hours, with a clear start and end date. Those who miss a class simply lose it.

The general CBC’s idea is based on three basic assumptions:

  • Institutional education is losing its importance. A university diploma is no longer a guarantee of a well-paid job, what’s more — study programs more and more often deviate from market requirements, failing to prepare their graduates to meet the expectations of potential employers.

Some time ago, there was a boom in programming courses from scratch (aka Coding Bootcamps). They are usually organized by IT training companies and conducted by recruited trainers in the form of on-site classes. The idea of CBCs goes a step further. It moves the whole learning process online and connects instructors and students directly. It could be compared to a situation where students would be able to choose an instructor for each subject and decide what and with whom they want to learn, without limitation to one particular university only.

Supporting the process

What differentiates CBCs platforms from event marketplaces is the support for the entire learning process and their logic. In addition to course billing and enrollment management features, CBCs platforms include all tools required for conducting online classes and facilitating community building, while putting the training provider in the spotlight instead of the offer itself. In the future, CBCs platforms are expected to enable each individual creator to build their own micro training businesses and be a great way to monetize and engage the audience.

Moreover, cohort-based courses go back to the very basics of the educational process. After the hype of self-directed learning only, with completion rates below 10%, CBCs platforms are once again betting on three education pillarse at the same time. Instructor-led learning, collaborative learning with other participants, and self-paced learning. Exactly how it has worked in schools for many years, except that the content is more practical and up-to-date. It just turned out that we have to take a step back to move forward.

The future of cohort-based education

So, the question is not whether cohort-based courses stay with us for long years to come or if it’s just another trendy idea with no connection to the real world. Instead, we should ask whether CBCs platforms are effectively moving to the virtual world the stationary education process we have known for years? I personally believe that the answer is “yes”!. Time will tell if I’m right.



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