Gagan Biyani is a founder of Udemy, a $3billion platform that lets people sell courses online. Now he’s building a cohort-based courses (CBC) platform.
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What are Cohort Based Courses and how do they work?
- Are courses evolving into communities? I foresee all courses having a community component within 2 years.
- Evolution PDF’s → Videos → Access → Services → Community → Done for you.
- Are courses just turning into SaaS companies?
- "Cohort Based Course" is a term where a group of people start the course and end the course at the same time.
- Cohorts allow for a community to build better because everyone has a common goal.
- "I think most course creators are better off charging a higher price for a smaller number of students."
- Teachers used to sell access to information, now they sell communities that are striving towards a common.
- Cohorts allow for a better community because everyone is going towards a common goal at the same time.
- People want to have more engaging online learning, cohorts are the answer!
- Cohorts allow for people to be able to have a community while they learn.
- Some courses will SAAS-ify themselves so they can charge a monthly fee forever, but most of the best courses will have cohort approaches with a start and an end date.
- Cohort based courses allow the creator to charge a higher price, have fewer students and have a defined start and end date.
The pro’s and con’s of cohorts and communities.
- What are the biggest problems you see with communities?
- Why can’t people just do this on Facebook Groups?
- Finite periods of time allow for lots of signups and excitement, but also "must be on" during that time.
- Building a waitlist for a cohort is best.
- Cohorts don't necessarily be 100% live.
- "I think cohorts are going to be a bigger thing than typical courses."
- Courses are kind of like books, roughly 1 in 7 will complete it.
- Cohort have between a 75% and 95% completion rate.
- Cohorts have a finite period of time creating a sense of excitement and FOMO in attendees. This increases engagement.
- Building a waitlist is the best way to have quality attendees.
- Creators teach their cohort based courses live today, but in the future courses do not need to be live every session.
- Just like Colleges, cohorts have attendees start with the same objective and end with the same result. The journey is a lot better because everyone can relate to each other.
- Online education used to be the same as buying a book, a one-way flow of information. “You don’t take courses, you just go through it”
- Cohort based courses have a way higher completion rate of 75%-95%, while books and traditional online courses have a completion rate of 12.5%.
Deadlines, goals, and specific outcomes on cohorts & communities.
- Do cohorts need to have a specific topic and a specific deadline?
- Most cohorts will probably have a specific outcome as their value proposition.
- "You should have a podcast with 100 listeners after this cohort."
- "You should level up from being a product manager to director level after this cohort."
- However there are many cohort based communities without a specific outcome.
- Smart course creators will iterate their courses and improve and add to their catalog.
- Cohorts can have all sorts of value propositions to the user, usually tied to a learning outcome.
- Some cohort communities come together WITHOUT a course, to talk about what is recent and cool. (Ondeck does this)
- Good course creators will shift the cohort based course to cater towards the attendees as their needs change. Ex. After the audience completes the “learn graphic design” course, the next topic matter would be “getting a graphic designer job”.
The “tool stack” to build a cohort or community, & why not Facebook?
- What are the tools needed to create a cohort based platform?
- What are the most common way that people are running these cohorts?
- Common Tools: Email, LMS, Teachable, Kajabi, Google Drive, Notion, Slack, Discord, Circle.so, Facebook Groups, Forums.
- Slack is still the most common at the moment.
- Most of the tools used are not intended specifically for cohorts.
- Facebook Groups took over for a while, but there's many reasons not to use for a cohort. Too many notifications and shallow posting. Not good for long form discussion and feedback. Want something that surfaces great threads to the top, not get lost in the ether.
- Categories of tools required for cohorts: (with examples)
- Communication (Email)
- Learning management system (Teachable, Thinkific, Kajabi)
- File sharing (Google Drive, Notion)
- Community element (Slack, Discord, Circle)
- The most advanced courses also have “Forum Software” (Copywriting Course uses Invision soft)
- Communication (Email)
- Currently slack is the most common way to run a cohort.
- Most cohort based course creators use software that is not intended for courses.
- Gagan is building the all in one tool for cohort based courses.
- Future cohorts will be able to search the database of previous courses for answers, and continuously build from previous courses.
- Facebook groups used to be dominant for communities but they have some problems. The algorithm encourages shallow, controversial, and blank topics. They are not in real-time and have too many notifications for a learning environment. Building 1 on 1 relationships is next to impossible, and content is easily lost in the noise.
How do you keep a community of people engaged?
- Examples of good cohort communities? AltMBA?
- They emulate the college model.
- Lots of buildup then enroll. Hard deadline. Everyone on same page.
- How is a cohort different from college?
- Easy to keep people engaged if you have a shared purpose and goal, shared projects, group activities.
- This is the terminal evolution of learning. Schools have been using this model for generations, now it's online and removes limitation of geographic location.
- Having a defined period of time increases the engagement of the attendees.
- Activities and group projects throughout a course increase engagement.
- The goal of a cohort is to come in, learn something, and leave to apply it to the real world.
- Cohorts are fundamentally the same as traditional school classes.
- Patterns emerge on the internet that is similar to what has worked in person from the past.
- Professional, college, and graduate-level courses will be able to be taken online in a mainstream fashion.
- Good examples of cohorts: AltMBA, Write Of Passage, Building A Second Brain, Section 4, On Deck, Reforge.
Follow Gagan Biyani:
🐦 Twitter: @gaganbiyani
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This was a super informative conversion with Gagan Biyani and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!
Neville Medhora - Copywriting Course