In Online Ed Content Is No Longer King - Cohorts Are - Literature Notes

See In Online Ed Content Is No Longer King - Cohorts Are - Essay #literaturenotes


  • We are currently in a ==post-content age==.
  • In the past, educational content was scarce. This was a USP of universities & accelerators.
  • Now, content is cheap and abundant (i.e. Youtube, newsletters, blogs, social media).
    • Tons of alternative education programs (e.g. accelerators, incubators, low-cost/free online courses) have also emerged.
  • Because of this abundance, it’s been difficult for instructors to make a living from their expertise.
  • On the other hand, most learners are worse off for all this abundance, because ==More access does not translate to more engagement==.
  • Self-directed programs (i.e. workout programs, diet plans, online courses) rely on ==learners’ willpower & motivation== to stick through a course. This doesn’t always work out; in fact, MOOC completion rate is just 3 to 6 percent. Willpower and motivation is finite
  • Difference between cohort-based courses and MOOCs:
    • engaging and real-time v.s. just self-paced
      • fixed start and end date
    • community-driven, active learning v.s. solo, passive consumption
      • social contract = cohort

MOOCs v.s. CBCs: The shift from content to communities

  • MOOCs may provide more access to creators and learners, but they don’t help with ==student transformation.==
  • Why was this pledge naive?
    • MOOCs are asynchronous and self-paced.
    • MOOCs’ low (or no) cost colors the perception of quality.
    • MOOCs convey “knowledge transfer,” but not necessarily higher-order skills.
  • Summary:
    • Dominant learning modality for MOOC platforms: passive content consumption
      • no interaction
      • no real community
      • no time constraint
    • Result: tiny percentage of learners who follow through

The case for cohort-based courses

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CBCs focus on active, hands-on learning

  • While this format takes more effort + is more prone to mistakes, this allows students to learn more
  • Versus just listening to a lecture, no matter how much of a star the lecturer is

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  • CBCs also bring the network beneits of startup accelerators to a wider market
  • The value in accelerators isn’t just content; it’s also ==community==

Live, bi-directional learning leads to more accountability

  • Cooperative Learning by Spencer Kagan:
    • The single most powerful approach to comprehension and retention is Interactive processing, which occurs when “students ==engage in interaction with partners or teammates== over the content”.
    • Why is this approach so powerful?
      • Classroom discussions and debates produce new ideas and points of view
      • This back-and-forth holds student attention in a way that no lecture can
  • Cohort-based courses have more accountability because they’re bi-directional. This indicates:
    • Exchange of knowledge between instructor and students
    • Students with fellow students
    • ==It’s a dialogue, not a static lecture.== See The State Change Method

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  • Interleaving learning: where instructors mix different topics, ideas, and activities together during study, forcing students to intentionally switch between them rather than focusing on a single subject
    • This can result in better learning outcomes for students
    • E.G. BJJ athletes alternates practice between chokes, locks, escapes, and take-downs
    • CBCs are inherently about interleaving; they give students a chance to engage in diferent modalities — breakouts, role-playing, discussions, debates — with the instructor, coaches, and each other.

Community building improves learning outcomes through social features

  • Continuing education and adult learning must be ==compelling and carrot-driven==, not stick-driven
    • versus traditional education, which forces students to learn
    • CBCs design can also be inspired by institutions outside education, which are “sticky”
      • E.G. military, dance-a-thons, Crossfit, cults
  • Why would people pay more for a CBC v.s. an MOOC?
  • CBCs self-select for learners who are willing to (and can) pay a premium for the ==perceived quality of content and follow-through.==
    • Those who need accountability + urgency, which come from time constraints & a peer group

A new model for creator monetization

  • It’s hard for instructors to monetize their expertise, especially if they don’t have existing followings/networks
  • Traditional social platforms create a divison between ==activities for monetization and community building.==
    • Because of this, most creators give away valuable content, but don’t have enough volume to make a living from advertising alone
  • CBCs help creators monetize their expertise directly, and without requiring volume.
    • Not just for classic educators, but also “knowledge” influencers

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  • New quadrant of creator monetization:
    • Instructors can make a healthy amount of money
    • Creators get more leverage with a productized offering
    • Consumers get more payoff, creators get higher monetization potential and scalability

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