Video Monetization

Mastering Cohort-Based Courses: A Comprehensive Guide for Course Creators

By Eden Metzler
10 Min Read
Cohort course creator streaming their content in front of a camera.

Online courses are out, cohort-based courses are in. 

Why? Well besides average completion rates being 90% higher than regular self-paced courses, cohort programs are a better way to monetize your educational content, strengthen your brand, and build a tight-knit community along the way.

Let’s take a closer look at cohort courses: what they are, and how to launch yours.

What is a Cohort-Based Course?

A cohort-based course is an educational program, like an online course, that’s structured for collaborative learning. A group of students (aka ‘cohort’) enroll in and progress through the course content together, while guided by expert instructors and course creators. 

Key components of a typical cohort program include real-time interaction, fixed ‘start’ and ‘end’ dates, and a collaborative learning environment where participants engage in peer-to-peer discussions, group activities, and live sessions.

Take YouTuber Ali Abdaal’s cohort program, The Part-Time YouTuber Accelerator, for example.

Screenshot of Ali Abdaal's cohort program landing page, promoting the Part-Time YouTuber Accelerator.

PTYA ran as a 12-month-long cohort program offering students access to:

  • Expert 1:1 guidance from a team of experts.
  • A private community of peers and instructors.
  • Regular live sessions with Ali and his fellow instructors.

Despite the eye-watering $4,995 enrollment fee, the program was successful to the tune of millions of dollars – and the cohort structure had a lot to do with that. 

More on Ali later in this article, but first let’s look at what makes a cohort course so unique.

How Do Cohort-Based Courses Differ From Self-Paced Courses?

Cohort-based courses present a unique style of online learning that sets these programs apart from standard online courses. Namely, a collaborative learning approach, live interactions, and defined ‘start’ and ‘end’ dates set for each program. 

This approach differs from self-paced courses, which are designed for individual participants to learn in isolation, from pre-recorded learning materials, and on their own schedule. 

In a nutshell, cohort programs prioritize collaboration and structured learning; while self-paced courses offer independence and flexibility.

Cohort-Based Courses vs Self-Paced Courses: Key Differences
CohortSelf-Paced
Fixed start and end dates set by course creatorsFlexible timelines set by individual participants
Synchronous, live sessions with instructors and fellow peersAsynchronous learning from pre-recorded materials
High levels of engagement and interaction Lower engagement due to limited or no peer interaction
Group accountability and peer supportSelf-directed accountability and motivation
Collaborative learning culture with peer connectionIndividualized learning experience 

Benefits of Cohort-Based Courses for Creators and Students

Typical self-paced courses have their merit, but the cohort model is an increasingly popular alternative for creators and students alike. 

For many creators, a cohort course is a better way to monetize their educational content – and for many students, it’s a better way to learn.

From community-building opportunities to boosted completion rates, let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits of cohort-based courses.

Generates (Way) More Revenue

Self-paced courses are good for earning passive income, but cohort-based courses are good for earning more income. How much more?

Well, over the course of 4 years, Ali Abdaal created 3 self-paced courses – generating about $140,000 in total. Then Ali launched his cohort-based course, and generated roughly $1.5 million in just 9 months.

Over 10x more revenue in a fraction of the time.

Generally, a cohort-based course provides more value than a regular self-paced course, making it a higher ticket item that naturally generates more revenue. But most of that extra value is built-in to the structure of the cohort program itself – meaning it doesn’t take 10x more work to make 10x more revenue. 

Which brings us to the rest of this list of benefits: let’s take a look at how that value is created for both you and your students, starting with community.

Builds Strong Communities 

Algorithms across social media and search engines are as unpredictable as ever. Hence, the advice for creators that you’ve seen a million times over – “Build a community, not a following.” 

One of the main benefits of attracting creators to cohort courses is the model’s ability to build community among your ideal audience. 

A cohort program allows you to bring together groups of people who can connect around a shared interest – your area of expertise, and likely your niche – organically forming a community of likeminded people. 

The collaborative nature of the learning environment gives students working on the same team towards a shared goal a sense of supportive and meaningful connection, encouraging active participation.

This sense of belonging not only boosts student success – which we’ll get to in a bit – and adds to the value and overall experience of your course, but it can also contribute to the next benefit: student loyalty.

Boosts Student Loyalty

While peer-to-peer connection between your students can be a major benefit of the cohort learning model, the connection between you and each participant can pay even bigger dividends. 

Of course, it’s important that the learners who enroll in your course are satisfied with the learning materials and outcomes. But, beyond that, when your students feel consistently valued and supported by you, they’re more likely to stick around for future courses or learning programs. 

This loyalty from past cohorts not only makes it easier to launch your next course and be met with immediate success, but it can also begin to build the course’s reputation – and yours by extension. Which brings us to the next benefit: word-of-mouth marketing.

Spreads the Word

If you recall the first time you ever launched a digital product or online course, you’ll know that it can be hard to convince the first few buyers that your product can help them achieve the end result they’re after.

That’s why testimonials, endorsements, and word-of-mouth marketing are worth their weight in gold to get students to join your program. 

A key benefit of cohort-based programs is that they can naturally lead to word-of-mouth marketing, thanks to the sense of community and one-to-one support that students receive. 

Students share their positive experiences with friends and family (and even followers), spreading the word about the course’s benefits. This organic marketing is highly effective at reaching a broader audience and attracting new students, taking some of the legwork out of your new enrollment efforts.

Increases Completion Rates

An effective measure of success for any course is it’s completion rate. While self-paced courses average a completion rate of between 3-6% (yikes), cohort courses can see completion rates as high as 96% for some.

Say what you will about attending classes in person (I, for one, can’t fathom going back to the days of navigating school parking and 8am assessment periods) but the accountability and engagement of class-based learning are invaluable.

Cohort programs recreate that collaborative learning atmosphere that keeps students interested and motivated throughout the process, and provides support from all sides. Being part of a group interested in achieving the same outcome can not only make students eager to participate, but even excel in their studies.

Supports Personalized Learning Paths

The process of learning something new is made that much harder when you’re forced to completely adapt yourself to one-size-fits-all materials and teaching styles.

Sure, we can’t expect a traditional educational program like a graduate degree to personalize it’s curriculum to suit each and every student. But an online cohort program can, and should – especially if it wants its students to succeed.

Cohort course programs acknowledge that every student is different. One-to-one support is a key element of cohort learning, and as a coach with a manageable average class size, you have the unique opportunity to personalize your students’ experience.

Cohort coaching allows you to offer tailored learning paths based on individual interests, goals, and skill levels. This supports students to focus on specific areas of skill development where they may need more guidance, and leads to unparalleled success rates for your cohorts.

How to Build a Thriving Cohort-Based Course

Building a successful cohort-based course requires careful planning and execution. Here are the key steps to create a thriving learning experience:

1. Choose a Business Model

First up on the docket – decide on the structure of your cohort-based course. 

You can choose to follow the Traditional Cohort Model, or you can opt for the Membership Model community-centric learning model. 

While both models share many of the same core elements, like…

  • peer-to-peer connection
  • community building
  • video-based learning 

… each has its own unique characteristics that cater to different types of creators, content, and students.

Need help figuring out which model is a better fit for you? Let’s compare the traditional course vs. membership models.

The Traditional Cohort Model

Key CharacteristicTraditional Cohort Model
Best forCreators who are part-time and/or prefer shorter project durations.
DurationTypically shorter-term, averaging 1-3 months. 
Fees & RevenueOnce-off fees, paid in full during enrollment.
StructureRigid and focused curriculum defined prior to the start of the course.
InteractionsLive, synchronous learning.
Cohort SizeTypically limited spaces per cohort, defined by creator.

The traditional cohort model is – as the name suggests – the typical approach for structuring a cohort-based course. 

These are short-term courses that typically run for 1-3 months per cohort, with a rigid and focused curriculum. A traditional cohort program usually has a fixed outcome for students – like receiving a certification or hitting a predefined milestone. Interaction between students and instructors is exclusively live and in real-time.

Students pay a once-off fee and receive limited-time access to you and/or your instructors, your course materials, and the group of fellow participants. This access is only valid for the duration of the cohort (from the ‘start’ date to the ‘end’ date).

Now, a quick look at an alternative way you can opt to structure your cohort course:

The Membership Model

Key CharacteristicMembership Model
Best forCreators who are full-time and/or are committed to building a business around their content.
DurationLonger-term and ongoing, no defined ‘end-date’.
Fees & RevenueRecurring monthly or annual fees.
StructureA flexible, more extensive curriculum that develops and expands over time.
InteractionsA mix of live, synchronous learning and on-demand, asynchronous learning.
Cohort SizeUnlimited members.

The membership model is a more modern and scalable approach to structuring a cohort program.

This is best suited to full-time educational creators who offer ongoing or long-term educational programs of typically 6+ months per curriculum. You build your program around a more extensive and flexible curriculum, with a longer program duration.

The extended duration of this approach encourages creators to offer on-demand content in addition to their live teaching sessions, allowing for asynchronous learning and support to supplement real-time instruction.

Program participants would sign up as longer-term members, as opposed to enrolling as short-term students. 

These members would pay recurring fees – typically on a monthly or quarterly basis – and receive ongoing access to you and/or your course instructors, educational content, and membership community of peers.

2. Figure out Pricing

Break out the calculator (and Google), because it’s time to price your course

Depending on the business model you choose to structure your cohort program, you’ll either charge a one-time fee for your one-off course, or a recurring fee if you choose to launch a coaching membership.

There are a few ways to go about pricing your cohort course, but we recommend combining the  ‘Value-Based Pricing’ and ‘Competitive Pricing’ approaches to work out that magic number. As an overview…

The Value-Based Pricing approach refers to understanding the value proposition of your course, and what your target audience would be willing to pay in exchange for that value.

For example, will your course empower your students to permanently upskill themselves? Or perhaps, solve a major problem in their lives? Take the price that reflects the value you offer, then cross-reference that with the second approach:

The Competitive Pricing approach involves researching how much your competitors charge for their courses and comparing your course content to theirs (including the level of support or interaction they offer, and any additional resources or bonuses included in a premium price).

If you opt for the membership model, here’s a tool to help you figure out your pricing: 

Find Your Perfect Membership Price

Use our free tool to pinpoint your ideal membership price in just 3 steps, leveraging a decade of data.

3. Pick a Platform

Now, onto more exciting things: selecting an online course platform.

If you’re just experimenting with cohort programs and you’re new to monetizing your content, it might be best to hold off on paying for an online coaching platform for now. 

Instead, you can piece together different free – or affordable – tools to create an MVP course that you can use to test your audience’s willingness to pay.

You’ll need:

  • Live streaming capabilities.
  • Community features.
  • Calendar sharing.
  • Basic marketing tools.

For those creators who are ready to commit to building an online learning business, things get a whole lot easier if you opt for an all-in-one platform (like Uscreen). 

With a variety of coaches on Uscreen who have built and scaled their business, with all of these features and more built-in to the platform.

Take one of our creators, Big Picture Skiing, for example. Thier membership is designed to improve your skiing technique, run by expert ski instructor, Tom Gellie. 

Screenshot of Tom Gellie's membership website homepage, Big Picture Skiing.

The membership generates over $30,000 per month, giving it’s 300 members access to on-demand and live instructive content alongside an exclusive community of peers and instructors.

Want to see the Uscreen platform in action?

It’s simple with Uscreen.

Build, launch and manage your membership, all in one place.

4. Design Your Course

The overall aim of this step is to develop a compelling curriculum, but this is also a good time to plan your content delivery schedule and strategize your community-building efforts.

Putting together content for a cohort program will look different for each and every course creator, but a universal tip for planning out a curriculum is that you should have clear answers to the following questions:

  • What are the key outcomes of completing your course? 
  • How does each module support one or more of these key outcomes?
  • What are you providing in your live sessions that you couldn’t offer in pre-recorded content?
  • Does the schedule and duration of your program align with the needs of your students?
  • How does the element of community clearly enhance the experience of your course?

Not only will this help to focus and improve the value of your cohort program, but it will come in handy when you start marketing your program. Speaking of which, let’s hop into the next step!

5. Start Promoting Your Course

Once your cohort program is just about ready to launch, you can start building anticipation among your audience. But once you’ve built the hype, where should it go?

The answer: a landing page – the tried-and-true staple for promoting any digital product.

Here’s an example from one of the successful course-based memberships on Uscreen, Adjuster TV Plus.

Screenshot of Adjuster TV Plus landing page, promoting the Fast Track Program cohort course.

Matt Allen, founder of Adjuster TV Plus, hosts a cohort course that students can enroll in, which he runs alongside his on-demand videos on his membership site.

Even when his cohort enrollment is full, he gives potential students an opportunity to join the waitlist, so he doesn’t lose out on the opportunity to market his next cohort and enroll those students later on.

Screenshot of a landing page to sign up for the Fast Track Program waitlist.

Whenever you promote your upcoming cohort, direct your audience to that landing page where they can sign-up for updates – and maybe even secure a special discount for being one of the first few participants once you launch.

Have a promotional email sequence ready that highlights everything your audience needs to know before signing up and keeps your program top-of-mind until launch day.

The good news? You’ve already got your promotional messaging nailed down. The answers to the questions in the previous step can act as the core message wherever you plan to promote your course. 

Be sure to incorporate this messaging across your cohort platform, too. It will play a huge part in signing-up new participants long after you’ve launched.

Speaking of which…

6. Launch & Listen

The most exciting step of all: launching your cohort program!

While most of the work for building this course is behind you, there will be a lot of things you can do to continue to improve and strengthen your program once you’ve launched – making it an easier ‘sell’ and a more valuable course over time.

Luckily, finding out what to improve and how is an easy – and free – process. Simply monitor participant engagement throughout the duration of each cohort, and gather insights once each program is complete.

You can prompt students to give feedback directly, and also keep an ear to the ground wherever your community is active to get a better idea of what your participants are enjoying and what they might be struggling with.

Feedback from participants is worth its weight in gold, since you’re essentially looking to appeal to the same group of people (your target audience) for future cohorts. The insights you gather from your students will help you to iterate on your course content and continuously improve the learning experience.

Wrapping Up

Cohort-based courses are a unique way to monetize your expertise and connect closely with your community. From more revenue potential to better student loyalty and completion rates, a cohort program holds a ton of upside for creators who are interested in leading real-time learning.

And, if you love the model but aren’t sold on committing exclusively to live learning, you can consider the membership model for a perfect balance of on-demand and live streamed content. 

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FAQs

What are the benefits of cohort learning?

Cohort learning is proven to increase course completion rates thanks to its engaging format and personalized learning approach. As a result, this boosts student loyalty, encourages word of mouth marketing, and justifies a much higher enrollment fee compared to a typical online course.