Right now, the world of online learning is being shaken up by the adoption of cohort-based course models. But cohort-based courses are nothing new. In fact, you’ve probably been in one at some point in your life.
Still, as more people look for new ways to take online courses, more cohort-based course platforms have popped up. And with so many options, it can be hard to know what to look for.
Ahead, we’re breaking down what you need in cohort-based course platforms, so you can make the best decisions for teaching your online course.
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In this article...
1. What is a cohort-based course?
A cohort-based course is a class where students work together as a group to learn the course lessons and material.
Most teachers will create a syllabus with assignments, projects, readings, and more for their students. Then, the class will meet in real-time sessions to go over the material.
If you’re confused by the term “cohort,” think about it as another term for a group of people coming together because of a shared goal or interest. In the context of an online course, that shared goal will be to master a concept or idea together by working through your lessons.
What makes a cohort-based course different is that there is a heavy emphasis on your group of students coming together in real-time to learn the course material. So everyone will complete the course at the same time, unlike a self-paced course where members can pause and come back.
Additionally, cohort-based courses may have a component where you will bring your students together over Zoom or Crowdcast to go over your materials.
Now that we’re on the same page, we can begin unpacking the essential features you’ll want in cohort-based course platforms.
2. Essential features for cohort-based course platforms
Cohort-based courses are a great way to teach an online course because they allow you an easy way to build community while helping people achieve their goals. But in order to do it effectively, you’ll need to choose the right platform for cohort-based courses.
Let’s look at some features that you will want at your disposal.
Less integrations, more native features
The first thing you’ll want to consider in platforms for cohort-based courses is how many of their features are native. Why? Because platforms that have invested the time and energy to create the tools you need within their software will help you create a seamless experience for your members.
Think about it like this; You’re going to need great features to implement your online course materials, and you’ll want ways for your members to communicate—both with you and with each other.
If you’re curious what native features you’ll want, here’s a list:
- Discussion board posts, polls, and Q&As.
- Livestreaming, native live video, recorded video, and video storage.
- Virtual events.
- Paid memberships, online courses.
- Direct & group messaging, member profiles.
That’s a lot of features, right? Unfortunately, many cohort-based course platforms haven’t implemented them, and aren’t planning on it. This means if you choose the wrong platform for cohort-based courses, you’ll be left juggling multiple third-party integrations to fill in their holes in service. They may even pitch this as a way for you to customize the experience and use whatever other tools you’re comfortable with, but really it means you’ll be spending more money and your students could be bouncing around different platforms.
Ultimately, native features will enable you to spend less time and money in the long run and offer your members a much better experience.
A robust community space
Cohort-based courses allow you to create a thriving community while teaching an online course at the same time. If you hold a live session for your course over Zoom or Crowdcast that is a great way to build camaraderie between your students.
But when you choose a platform for cohort-based courses that allows you to have a dedicated community space, your “students” become community members.
Why is that so important? Because fostering a community around your online course is the best way to keep people interacting with your content long after they complete your course.
Plus, when you have a dedicated community space, your members can utilize tools like discussion boards and private messaging to communicate with one another. And they’ll be able to build connections with each other using dynamics they’re familiar with, like cheering and commenting on each other’s posts, sharing their own perspectives, and so on.
Your community space will also allow you to ask for feedback, kick-off dialogue, and highlight your past member’s achievements, results, and transformations thanks to your course.
Most importantly, however, is that when you have a robust community space, you will be building a network for your members where each new person who joins adds additional value to your brand.
The next essential component for a cohort-based course platform is monetization options. When you create an online course, you’re going to want simple payment implementations so people can buy your content easily.
But when we stress the importance of monetization options, we’re talking about more than just payments for your online course. The best platforms of cohort-based courses will also have community in mind. This relates to monetization because you can offer added revenue streams through your community space.
If you’re curious about what these added revenue streams might look like, here are two ideas:
Paid Memberships: If you’re offering a cohort-based course and thinking about creating a community space to coincide with it, consider adding a paid membership. Cohort-based course platforms with paid memberships features will allow you to charge members a recurring fee (whether it’s one time, monthly, or annually) to gain access to your online community of past and present people who have taken your course. In your membership space, people can discuss topics related to your online course and network with one another.
Paid Virtual Events: Another option is holding a virtual event that anyone can pay to attend. This is a great option if you’d like to get your brand more exposure as well as new people interested in your online courses. Utilizing a live video conferencing platform like Zoom with your online community space will make for a seamless experience. For instance, on a Mighty Network, you can make virtual events that members can RSVP to, and then have follow-ups after the live session in your discussion boards, polls, and Q&A posts.
Having the power to experiment with your monetization strategy is a major asset. And the best platforms for cohort-based courses will have those capabilities.
A native mobile app experience
Do you know what makes any cohort-based course more enticing for a potential member? Having the ability to access the course no matter where they are—whether they’re at home, on their laptop, or out and about, on their phone.
We believe that if you’re going to invest your time creating an awesome cohort-based course, you should choose a platform that will allow you to deliver it on web, iOS, and Android devices. And at the end of the day, having a native mobile app is endlessly beneficial. More than anything, it means your members will be able to interact with your content even when they are away from their computer.
It might not come as a surprise that when you have a mobile app, your community will be much more active too. But if you’re still not convinced, here’s are some of the other reasons why a native mobile app is so important:
More privacy: You might be thinking, why not just use Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram? The reality is that while they are familiar, their platforms lack privacy. When you have your own native app, you control who has access to your content and your members.
Fewer distractions: When you choose a cohort-based course platform with native app support, you’re not only gaining privacy. There are also fewer distractions to deal with. When your members have fewer disturbances, they can interact more with your content and community. Instead of visiting your group page on a major social network that is constantly trying to grab your members’ attention, your mobile app is a secluded, curated experience. When your members can focus on your course content, they are more likely to achieve the results and transformation they want.
Ultimately, when people can access your cohort-based course and community space anywhere, they are more likely to stick around.
3. What is an example of a cohort-based course?
If all of this sounds great, but you’re still a bit foggy on how you might teach a cohort-based course, why not give one a try?
Here at Mighty Networks, our tentpole cohort-based course, the Community Design™ Accelerator, teaches creators how to build a community, membership, or course that’s so valuable, you can charge for it. On top of that, you’ll get a feel for what a best-in-class platform for cohort-based courses is actually like.
We cover all the topics you need to consider: how to increase content and improve community engagement, how to price your online course, and all of the other steps you need to take to start off right.
Our Masterclass is taught live and course members can ask questions, build connections with other creators interested in community building, and have a guided experience every step of the way.
Plus, if something comes up and you need to step away from the course for a while, we offer the option for a self-paced learning experience too.
4. Mighty Networks is the best platform for cohort-based courses
At the end of the day, you want a platform for cohort-based courses that will grow with you on top of offering all of the features listed above. A Mighty Network does that.
Our platform offers a beautiful design that is all under your own brand and available across web and mobile apps (including a plan where you can upgrade to your own branded app). You also get full access to member data and analytics, and the opportunity to message all members at any time.
Plus, you gain access to the following features:
It’s time to starting building your course
So we’ve covered why cohort-based courses are a great option for any creator thinking of offering an online course. But now comes the most important step: Getting started.
So what are you waiting for, let’s make something great!