How cohort-based courses can improve the completion rates and impact of your learning program

One of the big challenges with many online learning programs is the low completion rates. Various research has the percentage rate for completion of online courses between 5 and 15 percent, with research from Research Gate putting Massive Open Online Courses at 3 to 6 percent. Self-paced courses, by their nature, have the learner studying in isolation and many lack structures to keep the learner accountable, meaning motivation levels drop and the many distractions we face take attention away from the course. These low completion rates mean that the full impact of the program is not received, and the desired transformation does not happen. In contrast, a cohort-based course (CBC) is more engaging and promote active learning instead of the passive consumption of learning content. As a result, the completion rate of CBC’s is up to 85%.

What is a cohort-based course?

A CBC is a program where a group of learners start an online course together and then move through it at the same pace. Cohort-based courses can take place online, in a virtual space,in a physical classroom, or a blend of all of these. CBCs are preparing us for the next phase of online education. With a strong focus on community and collaborative learning, CBCs focus more on the individual learners. The instructor provides structure and guidance, but much of the learning happens socially, as learn from and with each other, sharing what they’re discovering in real time, while also keeping each other accountable and encouraging each other to keep going.

What are the learner benefits of cohort-based courses?

Cohort-based courses offer a range of benefits, including:

  • Community
  • Accountability
  • Interaction
  • Impact

We are social creatures. We like to learn socially, learning with and from each other. Learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum, but rather within an interconnected social network. One aspect of social learning, which is a strong focus in CBCs, is the development of a community to allow for the knowledge sharing to occur, as well as the opportunity for support from both the learning facilitator and peers. This community driven environment enhances the learning experience by driving higher accountability, interaction, and impact.


Many learners fail to complete a learning program because they are not help to account. Accountability in a CBC provides a support structure for the learners, assisting them through the difficult parts of the learning program, while simultaneously creating a culture of high expectations for all involved. This balance of encouragement and challenge leads to dramatically higher completion rates than we’ve come to expect in online education.


Self-paced courses are more focused on providing information, where the nature of the CBC is to provide transformation. Transformational learning goes beyond simply providing information but generates impactful change. The power of the community, where learners can learn in a safe environment and work through challenges together, enhances the ability to transform easier.

What are the benefits of cohort-based courses for course creators?

A cohort-based course doesn’t only provide benefits to the learners. It also provides the course creator and facilitator with a range of benefits, including:

  • Feedback
  • Reputation
  • Profit

The synchronous nature of the CBC, combined with the ongoing interaction as a community allows you to easily identify where knowledge and skill gaps are occurring and quickly develop new learning assets to fill those gaps. Receiving immediate feedback from the cohort also allows you to identify any technical issues or other problems that you need to address.


Delivering highly impactful training to a cohort of learners, with the larger majority of the cohort completing the program, is going to enhance your reputation as the go-to expert in your field. You will be developing a community of raving fans who will be telling their friends that you are the person to work with.


By it’s nature, a cohort-based course will be priced higher that a self-paced course because of the higher involvement from the facilitator. In addition, with the accountability and community helping to ensure that the majority of learners complete the program means that you can price the program as a premium product. With the reputation that you will develop, you will have a raving fan base wanting to join your program and generate higher profits than a typical self-paced course.

As a course creator and edupreneur, there are so many reasons to consider developing a cohort-based course. If you want to know more about getting started with your own cohort-based course, and creating an experience your learners will love and that will deliver the impact you want, get in touch with us.

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