Everything you need to know about creating a cohort-based course: a complete guide

Scape News

10 minutes read.
Published: October 26, 2022.
By Daniel.

Cohort-based courses have become more important than ever. The more common systems of online education like self-paced courses are becoming less effective and students are seeking better ways to learn. For many, cohort-based learning is the answer. If you’re looking to teach online more effectively by creating a cohort-based course, then you will find this guide helpful.

This guide covers;

  1. The definition of cohort-based learning
  2. The history of cohort-based learning
  3. Why you should teach a cohort-based course
  4. Why cohort-based courses are important
  5. How to create a cohort-based course
  6. Tips for an effective cohort-based course

What is a cohort-based course?

If you’re concerned about creating effective classes that attract more students and yield more money, then you really should be thinking about teaching in cohorts.

A cohort-based class is a type of teaching format where classes are hosted in communities allowing students to take the course in groups, starting at a particular date, going through the classes together, and ending on a set date. 

Cohort-based courses are bridging the gap between online learning and conventional physical classes— allowing instructors to organise online classes at their own convenience but also holding that same effectiveness that comes with building a learning community with a group of students. It is changing education in a number of ways.

As an instructor, that means you can launch your course in batches and have access to a manageable number of students at once. That way you’ll be able to impact more knowledge, track students’ progress, and develop long-lasting bonds with your community.

History of cohort-based learning

Cohort-based learning has always been around. In fact, the traditional system of holding physical classes in schools represents cohort learning. The only difference now would be the fact that cohorts are now online and there’s a fewer number of students.

High school and university students typically take the same class from start to finish, have the same assignments, do the same project work (even in groups), and often bond over school tasks.

Because of the advent of technology and the online learning explosion, classes increasingly moved online, with self-paced learning taking the lead. A student would have access to all the learning materials and decide when, where, and how to consume the content, at his own pace.

This, of course, came with its own issues and the global learning community soon realised how detrimental this was to completing classes and gaining useful knowledge. This learning model was even insufficient for instructors’ income as they made a flat fee regardless of how many students their content reached. 

Instead of maximising the impact instructors hope to have on their students, there was a growing sense of uninvolved apathetic learning that continually discouraged both instructors and learners.

Then came cohort-based learning, or as we like to call it— community-based learning. Cohort-based classes (CBCs) were a true revolution since they allowed both students and learners to recreate that intimate relationship that fosters active and effective learning.

Why should you teach a cohort-based course?

Of course, there are many options for anyone who wants to teach, but why is cohort-based teaching the option you should consider?

  1. Flexibility
  2. Make a living teaching what you love
  3. Global access to students
  4. Take part in the future of education
  5. Create an extra source of income
  6. Build credibility as an expert in your field


Just as with most online courses, teaching a cohort-based course gives you the freedom to teach in a way that is comfortable for you. While cohort-based courses are admittedly a little more structured than other online courses, they are still more flexible than traditional offline courses. You get to decide the length of your cohort, as well as the curriculum, how to access your students and the specific teaching methods.

Make a living teaching what you love

With a cohort-based course, you can earn from anywhere in the world by teaching what you’re good at. Edtech makes it possible to find people who are interested in gaining the knowledge that you have and this means that you can teach the things that you are passionate about.

Global access

Teaching a cohort-based online course opens you to the possibility of gaining students from around the world. You are no longer limited to those who you can meet physically and you can easily connect with anyone across the globe.

Take part in the future of education

Trends in education have seen a shift not just from traditional learning systems, but specifically towards online cohort-based courses. Cohort-based courses are the future of education. Whilst self-paced courses quickly gained popularity, people are beginning to realise the inefficiencies accompanying them. These inefficiencies are addressed by cohort-based courses and to stay ahead of the curve, you should be teaching a cohort-based course.

Create an extra source of income

Teaching a cohort-based course offers you a comfortable way to earn some extra income. With the flexibility it provides, you can easily connect with students around the world and make some extra income teaching online, in addition to your current employment.

Build credibility as an expert in your field

With cohort-based courses, you get to build credibility so your students can trust you as the go-to expert in your field. As you host more classes, you stand out among other creators, build a proper reputation and attract more willing students. Satisfied students will continue to go around encouraging others to take your class because of their own unique experience, which constitutes free marketing for you, the instructor. The students can also share their testimonials on social media or just boast about being part of your online community.

Why are cohort-based courses important?

For instructors, there are particular advantages to hosting cohort-based courses.

  1. Effective teaching
  2. Real-time assessment
  3. Project-based learning
  4. Increased course completion
  5. Easy to teach

Effective teaching

As opposed to self-paced courses where you just have to make a recording, teaching a cohort-based course makes it easier for you to effectively teach your students. You communicate with them in real-time and can make use of analogies and teaching methods that can be impactful for them.

Real-time assessment

Cohort-based courses also make it easier to assess your students in real-time and follow up on their progress. You can give assignments and tasks with deadlines after each live session that help you monitor progress. This puts you in control and helps your students learn effectively.

Project-based learning

With cohort-based courses, there is a unique opportunity for project-based learning that isn’t available with other forms of online teaching. You can assign projects to your student and be present to monitor their progress or attend to any challenges that they might have. This ensures that the knowledge gained is translated into real-life experience.

Increased course completion rates

Statistics have proven that up to 90% of students complete their classes when it’s taken in a community, compared to a 35% completion rate in self-paced courses. With the community and live sessions that cohort-based courses provide, students find it easier to see the courses through to completion. Students, especially the career-driven and highly motivated ones, are consistently drawn to cohort-based classes because it easily aligns them to their dreams and helps them reach their career goals faster.

Easy to teach

Cohorts are also not difficult to teach. As an instructor, you just need to have your course outline and adjust the classes to your current schedule. You get more fulfillment, being there to teach your own course, answer any questions that may arise and see students engage with the material. At the end of each class, you’ll be glad to see how many of your students go on to implement everything they’ve learnt, excel in their careers, land jobs and internships and clinch opportunities they were previously not qualified for.

How to create a cohort-based course

If you’re wondering how to get started as an instructor, here’s a quick guide. These are a few things that you should take into consideration as you create your course.

  1. Decide how you want to host your course
  2. Create a course outline
  3. Choose an effective method of assessment
  4. Determine the cost of your course
  5. Determine hope impactful you want your course to be
  6. Create a marketing plan

Decide how you want to host your classes

First of all, you need to consider if your courses will be pre-recorded or not. Typically, you would have to hold a live class where you go through the course slides and explain the material while the students listen. Even if you choose to pre-record your classes, you still need to host live classes to receive feedback from your students and steer them in the right direction. You can also decide to share the course materials before the classes, so they can go through it and answer any questions that they might have. Listen to your students and prioritise the delivery methods that work, while incorporating personal and community interaction through group projects, knowledge tests and individual tasks.

Create a course outline

When starting an online class, you should assess which topics you need to cover in your course, and in what order the curriculum will run. Make sure you also plan your individual classes in a comprehensive order so the students know what to expect and participate actively. You can use a calendar to schedule video classes, group discussions, project deadlines etc. The students should also have access to this timeline so they can prepare ahead of each class. Encourage students to engage with one another— to share questions and task results in the chat rooms so they can remain motivated to complete the projects as and when due.

Choose an effective method of assessment

Depending on the kind of cohort-based course you are teaching, some methods of assessment may be more effective than others. In order to ensure that your students are making the most of the class, you should choose an assessment method that suits your course. It could be a task, assignment, project or other forms of assessment. Try to avoid teaching your course without assessing the knowledge of your students in some way.

Determine the cost of your course

You can determine your enrollment fee depending on the value your students are set to receive from your course— the sense of community, content quality and value received audience level and effectiveness. Without the right information and proper research, you may be tempted to set your price only according to what the students are willing to pay. You should, however, set your course at a comfortable price point for you, considering how much you’re putting in to create that course— your time, efforts, experience, hosting and marketing costs, etc. Consider your goals and let these factors inform your price decision in a way that’s still profitable to you.

Determine how impactful you want your course to be

If you are presenting yourself as an authority in your chosen field, your courses must reflect that. Find out who your students are, what matters to them and what method of delivery will yield better results. Find the sweet spot in your teaching course and offer as much knowledge as possible— extra downloadable materials, interactive conversations and in-depth coaching to guide them towards their career goals. Offer as many rich benefits as possible so your students are convinced your price is worth it. At the same time, give a clear description of the outcomes so your students can know what to expect.

Create a marketing plan

Your course might be great, but if no one hears about it, then you might not get any students. Create a plan that will help you reach out to people who might be interested in your course and ensure that you get in touch with them. You could make use of social media to run ads, or find platforms that have the kind of people who would be interested in your course. When you find them, ensure you sell your course to them in a way that communicates the value that you’re offering.

Tips for an effective cohort-based course

If you’ve decided to teach a cohort-based course, here are a few tips to get you started in the right direction.

  1. Set expectations
  2. Create an effective syllabus
  3. Make use of feedback
  4. Create tasks and deadlines
  5. Make the time count

Set expectations

No matter how niche the topic you’re treating is, it is always a great idea to begin with an introductory session that sets the expectations for your course. Help your students understand what they will learn and help them to look forward to the major takeaways. Inform them of any unique projects or tasks that the course will involve, and give them tips for making the most of them.

Create an effective syllabus

In order for your cohort-based course to be successful, you must have a proper syllabus. This should contain all the relevant information about your course and anything that your students should know. Ensure that you do not leave any important areas uncovered. Your students should no longer be beginners when they are done with the course.

Make use of feedback

One of the unique qualities of cohort-based learning is the opportunity for live feedback and interaction. Ensure that you make proper use of this feedback in order to improve the course and the learning experience. Cohort-based courses are designed to foster effective learning. You should take advantage of this to create a course that your students will find truly impactful.

Create tasks and deadlines

In addition to live sessions, you should include tasks, assignments and projects in your cohort-based course. These will foster participation from your students. In addition to just listening to you, they get to apply the knowledge that they get and this can improve their comprehension of your course.

Make the time count

Even if your students are not yet experts, they will be able to tell if you’re just running out the clock for the session. Let every live session that you have with them count. Make a point to outline the major points you want to pass across, and spend time effectively teaching them. Your time is important, and so is theirs.

VarsityScape is the easiest way to teach a cohort-based course

The great thing is, you don’t have to go through all this on your own. VarsityScape provides an all-in-one platform where you can host live courses— schedule classes, manage your students in an online community, track payments and personalise your workspace in a way that represents you best.

By signing up on VarsityScape as an Instructor, you get access to all your favourite tools and cool features that make the learning experience unforgettable for your students, while making the process easy and intuitive for you.

We’ve removed the extra friction so you don’t have to worry about logging in to multiple platforms or getting your students to do the same. 

VarsityScape integrates live video hosting— with the opportunity to record the call and share screen, calendar scheduling to organise events and set deadlines, private and group chats to manage task-related and random conversations, and of course, a learning management system to arrange your courses into modules.

Setting up your online community-based course has never been easier. Sign up now to get access to a world of new possibilities.

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