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5 Essential Features for Cohort-Based Course Platforms

5 Essential Features for Cohort-Based Course Platforms

The shift from in-person to distance learning led to soaring revenues in the field of online education. However, with this rapid increase in online courses, soon a different trend also rose up. The declining course completion rates: as low as 3 to 6%. This is where cohort-based course platforms came in to transform the e-learning industry entirely with revenue generation in millions. You too can develop successful CBC programs. Here are some tips on essential features for cohort-based course platforms that you will require along this journey.

What is a cohort-based course platform?

Over the years, the idea of content is the king has lost popularity. Instead, learners and educators alike came to a conclusion that what matters foremost is the teaching methodology. This is where cohort-based learning found its way onto the center stage.  

A cohort-based course (CBC) emphasizes active learning by breaking like-minded individuals into close-knit groups or cohorts. Learners get to engage with peers and instructors on equal terms. Consequently, they retain information better, show greater interest, and improve their cognitive skills. Cohorts are more like dialogues than passive instructional videos.

Here is a fun and insightful chart to help you map the content hierarchy in online learning:

Content Hierarchy of BS by Wes Kao
Content Hierarchy of BS by Wes Kao

Essential features for cohort-based course platforms

Let's begin with some expert tips right off the bat. Never over integrate your CBC platform external apps. That will make your platform appear lifted off from elsewhere. Moreover, the platform will end up lacking an individual identity. Hence, focus more on developing native features. Stress on creating a seamless experience for your users and making it easy for them to navigate their way around the platform.

A solid video-streaming app

Now, this is one place where in-app integration is okay, actually more than okay, it is crucial. Without a video-streaming service, you cannot assume to run cohorts in a remotely operating world. Thanks to the innovation in the tech industry, there are now plenty of options available to choose from according to ones' budget and needs. More popular and obvious options are, of course, Zoom and Google Meet.

This one integration determines the operational success of your platform. Since the entire point of cohorts is collaborative real-time learning, having an untrustworthy app can risk your efficiency.

Besides, the need to have a quality video-streaming app is that creators can set up webinar series. These can be used to market the course business or simply used for educating learners for holding video conferences. Moreover, cohorts don't just have to be strictly academic. One can also use them for networking and community-building. You can get people who share similar beliefs and provide them with a safe digital platform to engage in.

Customization options

Another, one of the necessary features for cohort-based course platforms is customization options. Developers can creators do like to have free space to act on their creative abilities. A CBC platform ideally should act like a template that can assist rookie creators to easily follow along and personalize their brand. Yet, at the same time, also provide sufficient creative space for experienced developers to make tweaks and adjustments.

For this reason, ensure that your CBC platforms have customizable landing and course page options. Moreover, extra features such as custom color schemes and branding options are also appreciated by professionals. Additionally, you can also provide the option of branded automated emails. These little things can add a professional and clean touch to ones' brand identity and are liked by course creators.

Community space

As a collaborative learning strategy, cohort-based courses depend heavily on reliable and healthy community spaces. The very idea of cohorts is based on bringing people together to engage in dialogues for learning purposes. Therefore, a community space is an integral part of cohort-based course platforms.

There are multiple ways in which you can develop community spaces. As mentioned above, you can use webinars are community spaces for real-time interaction. However, there are a few more interesting options such as Discussion boards, peer reviews, messaging channels, etc.

A discussion board is a feature where people can post anything - from queries to polls to even a birthday wish - on a shared wall which is visible for all the participants in the cohort. People can comment under it and add to the discussion in a similar way to a Reddit post, but better and more professional. Similarly, peer review is another feature where cohort members can comment and review fellow peers' assignments and give them feedback. The purpose of these two tools is to foster healthy and trustable learning relationships where people feel welcome to share.

Moreover, it is advisable to also set up a feature of in-built one-on-one messaging. You can also have third-party integrations such as Slack to provide hassle-free communication.

Students Enrolment

In cohort-based courses, it is essential to easily manage the student enrolment process. In order to participate in a cohort-based course, students have to go through several stages interview process. Usually, they need to fill out an online form where they send the school their basic details. Typeform or Google Form can be used in this instance.

Then they need to have an interview with a school member who will have to understand if the student has the skills and the real desire to participate in the course and complete it.

At this point, it’s necessary to manage the payment, which could be done by bank transfer or credit card.

Monetization option

Let's talk numbers. The reason why you are reading this article is likely that you are looking to make good profits by either developing or seeking the perfect CBC platform for your courses. Hence, when you are looking for a suitable platform, check if it is business compliant i.e. it lets creators monetize and freely earn by selling their content.

Various platforms have different monetization plans. Some charge a small fee per course, others charge based on total monthly earnings or the number of students enrolled. See what fits your requirements and opt for that.

An important thing to keep in mind which sleuthing for monetization compliant platform is whether they offer financial privacy and security. Some platforms offer additional security to build client trust by option for features such as Stripe integrations. This tool tracks and safeguards all the transactional activity for you.

Student Activities and Assessment

It is important to choose an LMS for cohort-based courses that is able to create and manage all the tasks related to the student's assessment. Assessment activities can be of different types: simple quizzes at the end of each lesson or group activity that apply the peer learning methodology in which students exchange feedback with each other by reviewing the activities between peers.

All features we discussed so far show the huge difference between a cohort-based course and MOOCs. It’s clear that to build, manage and sell cohort-based courses it won’t be possible to use an LMS designed to manage MOOCs, because they lack some necessary features, the need to manage a community doesn’t exist, there is no interaction between students and it is not necessarily connected to video conferencing.

Mobile friendly

An often neglected feature, a mobile app, is actually a crucial element that can drive a lot of traffic. Sadly, currently, not many CBC platforms offer mobile apps for their websites. The ones that do, do so in a limited capacity which is barely sufficient. Mobile apps add to the convenience of using and accessing the platforms and hence the course materials. The very purpose of online learning is learning on the go, anywhere and everywhere. So have a mobile app only helps fully materialize this vision.

If by chance, you do happen upon platforms with working mobile apps, make sure to look for certain features. These include a user-friendly interface, a simple layout with fewer distractions, and privacy options for users.  

Conclusions: Best cohort-based course platform

It should be clear by now which key features are essential for any dependable and working cohort-based course platforms. The five points form the primary basis of what you should prioritize when choosing your CBC platform. Keep in mind that when you do start searching, you will come across plenty of options, however, not all of them will tick these boxes.

Some will be better in some specific respects whereas others will be a better fit in other regards. Your final decision should base on your preferences for your content and your business model.

Teachfloor as a cohort-based course platform ensures that its users have access to all primary features required to run their CBC business, and much more. The LMS comes equipped with tools such as a discussion board, peer review, student dashboard, customs course pages, etc. Moreover, it has Zoom and Stripe integrations to make users' life easier.

That is why Teachfloor prides itself as a one-of-a-kind online cohort-based course academy platform.  

Further reading

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Online Blended Learning in the Cohort-Based Courses Era

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Best Strategies to Build and Launch A Cohort-Based Course
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Best Strategies to Build and Launch A Cohort-Based Course

Over the past decade, the E-learning industry has evolved immensely – from MOOCs to SAAS platforms – it has now traversed into the realm of Cohort-based courses (CBC). In this time of isolated living, people are opting for community...

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Community-based learning (CBL) is a new revolutionary approach towards learning. When competing against in-person learning, passive online learning never really stood a chance. Students felt bored and unmotivated to finish the course and barely...

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An online learning community is the perfect blend of learning and social interaction. Find out more about these communities in this article.

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