Back to Blog
Cohort-Based Learning vs Self-Paced Learning: What's The Difference?

Cohort-Based Learning vs Self-Paced Learning: What's The Difference?

Summary: Can’t figure out what format is the best for your course? Explore the differences of self-paced learning vs cohort-based learning in this article. Plus, discover the recent findings on how to use them both.

As creators, you must have come across the terms Cohort-based learning and Self-paced learning. It will not be wrong to say that these two words command over the world of E-learning. Since they decide the fate of your course business, the kind of audience you attract, and the sort of content you produce. However, they are more than mere words; they are business ideas. Let's explore what they mean and which of the two is a better option for you.

What is Cohort-based learning?

Cohort-based learning (CBC) is a learning model that integrates content with the community. Since most of the interaction occurs in real-time, CBC falls under the category of synchronous learning. The model works similarly to conventional classroom learning, where a group of like-minded students learns the same content together to achieve similar outcomes.

There is no denying that learning together with peers has proven to be more effective. Not only does one has more to support understanding complex concepts but one also retains the information for longer periods of time. As the saying by creator and educator, Steven Anderson, goes, "Alone we are smart, together we are brilliant".

cohort-based learning

Benefits of cohort-based learning

Structured learning

One of the main reasons why people prefer cohort courses over other styles of learning is their structured layout. This means that all the modules, assignments, and meet-ups are scheduled and organized for participants to follow. Not only does it sorts out the lives of learners but is of immense help to creators as well. Given that it helps them keep their courses on track and maintains their work/life balance.

Diverse perspective

The best thing about learning with others is that you get to see things from multiple points of view. As a result, it helps enhance one's understanding. Although cohorts generally consist of like-minded individuals, this does not keep from having diverse discussions. Think of a cohort session as an 'intellectual potluck' where everybody brings a unique perspective to the table.

Networking opportunity

To have a large and reliable network is crucial for any professional. Whether you need a lead on a job or simply require crowdsourcing when making an investment, networks come in handy. However, keeping the work-from-home lifestyle in mind, it can be difficult to interact with others in a meaningful way. This is where cohorts came to your rescue. With them, you get this amazing opportunity to learn and build contacts, all at the same time!


Cohort-based learning allows hands-on practice among learners which can build up skills in the long run. Whether the cohort learning takes place in virtual classroom or on-site workshops, it opens up the ability of students to learn from their peers and learn by application. This is helpful for training employees as cohort learning can accentuate the reskilling and upskilling process.

High Accountability

Because students are learning with peers, there is a high chance of completing a course. The social accountability of being part of the learning group can push any learners to finish what they have started. Also, learning with cohorts may inspire and motivate them to achieve their learning goals.

Community building

When you work together with others, you are bound to build connections with them. Besides the live sessions, cohort creation platforms such as Teachfloor, come integrated with messaging tools and discussion walls to facilitate communication. Reach out to others in need of help or support others in difficult times. With Cohorts, you make friends like never before!

What is Self-paced learning?

Self-paced learning is the perfect antithesis to cohort-based learning. Also known as the asynchronous mode of learning, where you learn as an individual with flexible schedules. It is perfect for people with busy work schedules and who struggle with juggling classes with other commitments. With recorded lectures, one has the freedom to access them whenever wherever.

Nevertheless, this too comes with certain disadvantages. Where having a lack of deadlines means freedom, it also means failure to complete tasks. In the absence of structure, it is easier to get carried away. Want to see what a self-paced course looks like? Take a look at the picture below.

self-paced learning
Self-paced course layout

Benefits of Self-paced learning


As mentioned above, a great advantage of self-paced programs is that tend to more flexible. Unlike live cohort sessions where you have to be available at a specific time, with this model you can take your classes at any hour of the day.


Although this also applies to certain cohort programs but is always true in the case of self-paced programs. Since lectures are pre-recorded and uploaded online, one avoids FOMO. This means that you can download your lectures and have lifetime access to them. No more begging your classmates for notes!

No deadline anxiety

This has to be the favorite point for most students. No one likes the feeling of an impending task. The constant ticking in your head and the butterflies in your belly, one can certainly do without them. Having no deadlines means no more deadline anxiety. This provides with the much-needed break that one requires to work in peace. Not only that, lack of stress means improved work performance as well.

What to choose: Self-paced or Cohort-based learning?

Several creators and learners are caught up in this battle to find out with mode of learning work best. Well, there is no hard and fast solution for this. Several factors need to be looked at before one can come up with an answer for this. Always keep in mind, there is no one-size-fits-all. If something works for most people, doesn't mean it will work for you too, So, keep your options open.

To help you out of this confusion, I have listed some points to keep in mind when deciding between self-paced and cohort-based learning.


It is important to have clarity of mind before you decide to set up your course business. What are you trying to achieve with your work? Who do you aim to reach out to? How long will be the course? Etc. These questions will help you visualize the basic outline of your course. Once you have this figured out, you can clearly see which option will cater to your objectives perfectly.

Time commitment

When designing a course keep in mind how much time can you give to your courses. If you have side jobs and other commitments, you will likely have limited time. In such cases, self-paced courses are better for you. You can easily create your courses and upload them at once (or as your schedule allows). If you are a learner, keeping track of time is also important for you. If you think you have sufficient time to keep up with scheduled assignments and live lectures, then cohort-based courses are a perfect fit.

Learning style

Hopefully, by now you know the ins and outs of both these learning styles. You should be able to decide which mode checks off your expectations. If you work well in groups and feel motivated by deadlines then you will adjust better to cohort-based learning.

Back in class when the professor asked to work in groups, did you get this feeling of running away? If so, then self-paced courses are for you. Here you can learn in your own comfort zone without any worries.


How big or small student strength do you wish to target? This is known as scalability. Since cohort-based courses require in-time learning, taking on lots of students can make it difficult for instructors to manage. But if you wish to teach smaller batches and hope for more meaningful learning, then cohorts are perfect. On the other hand, having pre-recorded lectures allows for a flexible number of student strengths since learners simply have to learn via videos.

Although there’s a recent findings that scaling cohort-based courses are possible by using certain strategies, you can choose whether self-paced or cohort-based based on the amount of time you are able to put in in creating your course.

Passive/Active income

Now, this is something that intrigues all creators. How much profit will I make? Generally, Cohort style courses tend to be priced more as compared to self-paced ones. As the instructor is present in real-time to help out their students, it is only fair they make more bucks. If you are looking for a more active income then you may want to look into cohort-based learning.

Self-paced courses are great for people who design courses as a side gig. Although a single self-paced course might not be listed for the same price as a cohort-based one, still they do generate good revenue.


Every learning method comes with its set of pros and cons. It is only through trials and errors that you can find your perfect fit. This article was an attempt at helping you figure out which of the two learning methods will suit you.

Cohorts are the future of online learning. Hence, it will be unfair to not check them out. In case you are still not sure, why not pay a visit to some of these Best Cohort-based Courses of 2023 that we have carefully listed. And if you are certain that cohort-based learning is your course creation solution then enroll your academy on Teachfloor and start your course business today.

And if you want to have an advanced knowledge in these course formats, you can explore how self-paced & cohort-based learning are blended together to form a scalable cohort-based course. Learn more about this by downloading this free eBook that will help you in your journey.

Here's to hoping that by now you know what cohort-based learning from self-paced learning. If somebody asks you about them, simply direct them towards this article 😉.

Further reading

Cohort-Based Learning vs Traditional e-Learning: Which is better?
Cohort-Based Learning
Janica Solis
Janica Solis

Cohort-Based Learning vs Traditional e-Learning: Which is better?

Learning changed dramatically over time. How did we go from traditional e-Learning to cohort-based learning? Why cohorts are king these days?

What is an Online Learning Community?
Cohort-Based Learning
Atika Qasim
Atika Qasim

What is an Online Learning Community?

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

Best LMS for Cohort-Based Courses
Cohort-Based Learning
Mar Bovi
Mar Bovi

Best LMS for Cohort-Based Courses

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...

5 Guidelines to Build a Sustainable Learning Community
Cohort-Based Learning
Janica Solis
Janica Solis

5 Guidelines to Build a Sustainable Learning Community

Learning communities are where online academies thrive & flourish. Here are five helpful guidelines to build your learning community

Subscribe to Teachfloor Blog

Get actionable advice read by over 20,000 professional educators every week.
I agree to receive communications from Teachfloor. I can unsubscribe at any time.