MOOCs are dead. Here’s what’s next.
Having access to content is not enough to master a subject. Learners ace a skill via direct practice of the skill they’re trying to master.
In 2011, people believed massive open online courses, so-called MOOCs, would revolutionize online learning.
Yet, data from Harvard University and MIT revealed three devastating data points against these courses:
- Completion rates. Only three to four percent complete MOOCs — a rate that hasn’t improved in the past six years.
- Retention. Only seven percent of MOOC learners start another course after their first year.
- Accessibility. While MOOCs promised to bring high-quality education to all corners of the world, only 1.43 percent come from countries classified as “low” in the Human Development Index.
As a result, the future of education doesn’t belong to MOOCs any longer. Instead, a new model emerged. Whether you’re a content creator or a lifelong learner — here’s how Cohort-Based Courses can help you master any skill.
What are Cohort-Based Courses?
In Cohort Based Courses, so-called CBCs, a student group moves at the same pace through the same curriculum. Typically, CBCs include a mix of life lessons, remote assignments, and peer learning.
If you ever attended school, you’re familiar with cohort-based education. Schools and universities rely on cohort learning models — students take the same lecture, assignments, and tests simultaneously.
Both have in common that you don’t pay for the content’s quality. Studying with free videos can teach you as much as attending universities or CBCs. What you pay for is the likelihood of completing the learning track and achieving the desired outcome (e.g., land a job or acquire a specific skill).
Why CBCs Are Better Than MOOCs
Socrates tutored two learners at a time; a MOOC scaled learning up to 100,000. With CBCs, the teacher-student ratio increases, and relationships are at the core of the learning process again.
If you want to master a skill, access to instructors will help you stick with the course.
A study found interaction with instructors affects MOOC learner retention directly. CBCs use online tools like Zoom or Slack to give feedback and help students complete the course.
“Active learning works, and social learning works,” said Anant Agarwal, founder, and chief executive of edX, in an interview with the New York Times.
Building relationships with instructors and peers, plus the limited time factor, is a way to force yourself to complete a course. Through more teacher-student and student-student touchpoints, you’re more likely to hold yourself accountable.
The Distinctive Learning Features
There’s more to CBCs than the tutoring and completion ratio: collaboration and community.
While you go through the course, you interact with your peers. Thus, learning is not one-directional (teacher to student) but also bi-directional (student to student).
Through regular collaboration, you form a community. You network with like-minded people from across the globe. As you follow the same learning goal, these relationships can be very powerful.
If you join a community of future data scientists, this network can give you access to opportunities and resources in the future that will enhance your career.
How You Can Distinguish Average from Great
You don’t absorb information and knowledge by consuming content. Instead, learning is at least a three-step process — you acquire, encode, and retrieve.
Learning by doing is much more powerful than learning by watching. When you pick a course, evaluate whether the curriculum design will help you achieve your desired outcome. Here are key features to look out for:
- Real-time feedback on learning progress.
- Assignments that are directly linked to your desired skill.
- Structured access to a subject-specific community.
- Evidence-based learning design, e.g., spaced repetition features and testing mechanisms.
7 Promising Cohort-Based-Courses
Here are seven courses you might want to consider:
- Career Advancement
Reforge teaches the systems and frameworks that help you take the next step in your career. CBCs include product management, marketing, and growth strategies.
- Writing (Beginner level)
Ship 30 for 30 teaches online writing through active learning. You will establish a writing and publishing routine with 500+ other writers.
- Writing (Advanced level)
Write of Passage helps you develop a process for cultivating ideas and distilling them into writing.
- Knowledge Management
Building your Second Brain can support you in saving your best ideas, organizing your learning, and expanding your creative output.
- Video Creation
Minimum Viable Video is a 5-week live cohort that helps you creating and publishing professional videos that move the needle.
- EdTech, NoCode, Deep Tech, Scale, and More
In 2021 Be On Deck launches 120 cohorts of 25 programs. They attract top talent to accelerate your ideas and careers, surrounded by a world-class community.
The Part-Time YouTuber Academy teaches you how to grow your YouTube channel from 0 to 100,000+ subscribers and transform it into a sustainable, income-generating machine while keeping your day job.
In a podcast interview on the future of education, Udemy founder Gagan Biyani stated how in 2009, nobody believed in online learning. Since then, everything has changed.
Apart from MOOCs, like EdX or Coursera, other EdTech solutions emerged. Platforms like Udemy or Skillshare created marketplaces for online education. Teachers competed with keywords and content and shared their earnings with the platform.
Then followed a third iteration: direct-to-customer solutions, such as Teachable, Kajabi, and Podia. On these platforms, online educators bring their own audience while keeping most of the revenue.
The new iteration towards CBCs is more student-focused than any previous solution, and it’s one of the most effective ways to master skills online:
- Accountability through communities and instructors helps learners follow through when things get hard.
- Because CBCs are outcome-focused (e.g., mastering a skill, landing a job, growing an audience) instructors focus on the how instead of the why.
- CBCs help learners build skill-relevant communities that will support them in their future endeavors.
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