The best LMS for cohort-based courses facilitates the creation of an online school by applying the cohort-based learning model straight away, without having to build the software infrastructure from scratch.
Learning management systems (LMS) are platforms that offer all the tools to design, launch, monetize and manage an online course, freeing time to focus on the content and delivery of the course.
A course creator that wants to start teaching online has a couple of options; it can build its own platform, designing the software from zero, or use connections to different tools to manage the school's tasks such as administration, video streaming, billing, etc.
However, these are both expensive and lengthy processes that take precious time away from the school's main business which is creating content and teaching. So, using a ready-made service it’s often a cheaper and quicker option, especially if the college wants to run a proof of concept to verify the profitability of this new way of doing business.
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What are the main features of LMS for Cohort-Based Courses?
LMS for cohort-based courses have specific characteristics and it’s hard to adapt a traditional LMS typically used to sell asynchronous courses and MOOCs to cohort-based courses to run a cohort-based course. Let's see why.
The cohort-based courses must have the following features:
First of all, they have a start date and an end date. The group of students start together and finish together so they can only attend during a certain timeframe.
A cohort-based course is formed by a group of students linked by the same interest in the subject they are studying. They attend the course together for the entire duration, they interact with each other during the live sessions and have the opportunity to ask questions and receive feedback from the instructor during the classes.
This feature makes the learning experience of cohort-based courses very similar to that which occurs in a classroom or during a postgraduate master's. Asynchronous or MOOC courses, on the other hand, are pre-registered courses in which the interaction between students does not exist and the learning experience is a passive one as the students cannot interact with the instructor.
These types of courses can be useful to learn generic topics or gaining a smattering of knowledge but become ineffective when dealing with complex subjects where the interaction between students and the instructor is crucial.
That said, the main features of an LMS for cohort-based courses can be summarized in these 5 points:
Student Activities and Assessments
The backbone of a cohort-based course is, without a doubt, the course curriculum. The best LMS for cohort-based courses must allow the creation of a curriculum, schedule lessons, and manage the school's calendar easily.
As mentioned, a cohort-based course has a start date and an end date, during which the lessons can take place. This creates a sense of scarcity and increases students' accountability to attend the lesson on a specific day/time.
MOOCs, on the other hand, once purchased by students are always available, and this is one of the reasons why the completion rate of a MOOC course does not exceed 7%.
In cohort-based courses, it is essential to easily manage the student enrollment 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.
Obviously, each college is different and these steps are not always necessary nor mandatory, but it is important to choose an LMS for cohort-based course that thought about these processes so that the enrollment management is taken care of.
An LMS for cohort-based course must also support the option for teachers to carry out the lesson in video conferencing either choosing an LMS that is integrated with video conferencing services such as Zoom, Google Meet, or Gotomeeting or choosing an LMS that has a built-in video streaming functionality.
The integration allows the LMS to communicate with one of these services and synchronizes the dates of the lessons with the events of the video streaming platform. In this way, there is no more need to create a Zoom event every time, copy the link and share it with the students. Everything is done automatically.
The operation of sending links to students manually is really time-consuming and also has the criticality that the link could also be shared outside the student's community, giving access to the lesson also to external people who did not pay for the course.
With the integration, the event will automatically be created in Zoom with a specific link that will be automatically shared only with the students enrolled in the course, whenever a new lesson is scheduled.
Another option is to choose an LMS that has built-in video streaming functionality.
Both options are valid. However, services like Zoom provide performances that are difficult to replicate and they guarantee a very good user experience that has been perfectly mastered.
The student's community is the base on which an online school is founded. To create a learning experience that has a long-lasting impact on the students, it is important that they can help each other by creating relationships and friendships linked by a common interest.
This functionality has to be at the center of an LMS for cohort-based courses as the community feature provides a space where students can ask questions, create threads, and exchange useful information.
The learning experience of cohort-based courses is a collective one, which is why the community element is paramount. It allows students to help each other and create relationships that can go beyond the duration of the course.
Student Activities and Assessment
Finally, 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.
Best LMS for cohort-based courses
In order to choose the best LMS for an online school, it’s necessary to understand what the purpose of the school is. There are thousands of LMSs today for all budgets, but most of them were created a few years ago when the most successful trend in online education was the MOOCs model and they have been designed with specific features for that kind of learning.
In recent years the adoption of online learning has accelerated and the cohort-based learning model is gaining ground above all, thanks to innovative online schools and online boot camps that, using this new methodology, have shown that they can provide a higher level of training and a positive impact on students.
Teachfloor the best LMS for Cohort-Based Courses
Teachfloor is an easy-to-use LMS designed to create, manage and sell cohort-based courses. It is an all-in-one software that brings together the most important features of a normal LMS such as school management, billing, course creation, landing page but on steroids because it has a suite of other tools designed specifically for cohort-based learning methodology.
Teachfloor allows to design curriculum courses, booking live-streaming lessons, upload pre-recorded videos or textual content. It is also possible to create a hybrid course, with some lessons in live conferencing and other pre-recorded, reducing the instructors’ workload.
Students’ payments can be easily processed, the course price can be established, and there is the possibility to create coupon codes and overall manage the enrollment process very easily.
Teachfloor is integrated with both Stripe, to manage online payments and with Zoom for video conferencing, but other platforms such as Google Meet and Gotomeeting can be used.
The entire school can be managed with a single tool, and thanks to the community functionality, there is no need for tools such as Slack or Microsoft. You can manage and monetize your community directly on Teachfloor by setting up a subscription to participate in the school's community.
These are Teachfloor’s main features:
Student Activities and Assessment
Zoom, Google Meet, and Gotomeeting Integration
Multi instructors setup
Course landing page
We are a relatively young company, but this can also be a strength as we are lean and flexible, fast to change, and fast to add features by constantly improving our service based on the needs of our customers.
Build Something In-House
If a school has the budget and the time to invest, it can build a bespoke LMS from scratch. It is a solution that requires an internal team of engineers and project managers, but it can be a winning solution if a more ad hoc service is needed.
The main advantage of being able to build in-house software is that it can have all the features and processes needed and in the order, they are used.
However, this approach is extremely time-consuming, it takes at least 1 and half years to build software like Teachfloor, and it's very expensive as you will need a team of developers and testers, a UX designer to create an easy interface, a business analyst and a project manager. Besides, the maintenance of the software and the bug fixing is pretty expensive if only one school is going to use the tool. The return on investment might not be worth the effort.
Integrate Existing Tools Together
Instead of purchasing an off the shelves LMS or creating a bespoke LMS from scratch, another option is to use and connect different tools already on the market, assembling them together as there is a specific tool for each feature needed.
For example, for video conferencing the school can use Zoom; Stripe can be used to manage payments, to create a community a Facebook Group can be created or Circle, and for email automation, there are tools such as Sendgrid.
The tools can be connected via Zapier which is a SaaS connector. Obviously, each tool has its own cost that added up might be more expensive than subscribing to an LMS off the shelves.
It’s hard to build a professional and scalable tool with this solution, but it can still be a flexible option that can help create an LMS prototype.
It is an expensive solution, as mentioned, each tool has its own subscription and cost. It also provides a bad user experience, too many different tools create confusion for the students who will have to register and login each time on 3/4 different tools, compared to an LMS where everything is centralized and collected in a single service.
LMS for Cohort-Based Courses: The conclusion
There are plenty of online solutions and alternatives today for those who want to build their own school online or for instructors who want to sell their courses. The online courses market is growing fast and more and more people are teaching and learning remotely.
In order to choose the best LMS for cohort-based courses, we recommend finding a tool that has been designed specifically to manage and sell cohort-based courses.
On the other hand, if the LMS is used to manage asynchronous content and courses and does not need additional features such as video conferencing and community space, there are dozens of options to chose from, from open source solutions and to LMS in the Cloud.
The most important thing when choosing an LMS is to have a clear idea about what kind of courses are going to be produced and what kind of learning experience the school wants to offer.