One of the most beautiful things about learning is its versatility. There are various learning styles that accommodate students’ goals and how they like to be taught. Independent-minded people thrive in self-paced courses, learning diligently when time allows. Some find excitement in large lecture halls with hundreds of other students, soaking in all the class material like a sponge. While these contrasting styles of learning both have their benefits, one specific style is more commonly practiced in education and has been known for its effectiveness amidst the global pandemic. Known as “cohort-based learning,” this style emphasises collaboration and teamwork to form a tight-knit group of students that work, learn, and grow together.
Cohort-based learning is a collaborative style of learning where a group of students advance through a common course or program together, simultaneously. Many of us have experienced it in our primary and secondary education. Typically conducted in smaller groups of 15 to 35 students, cohort members have identical assignments, coursework, and deadlines, and move at the same pace. This style of learning transcends modality and can be experienced in both online synchronous learning and in-person settings.
A strong emphasis of cohort-based learning is given to the notion of the “flipped classroom.” In a traditional setting, students attend class to learn material together and handle their assignments on their own time. In cohort-based learning, students may learn the necessary material at home through online lectures and reading materials and focus the live component of the classroom on tackling difficult assignments together, group exercises, and questions for discussion.
Moving in a cohort style provides several benefits for all students. Working with the same group several times a week allows for the establishment of strong relationships amongst classmates, collaboration with people of different perspectives, and creation of a network of support that understands the difficulties that are associated with the program. This in turn can reduce dropout rates, a common phenomenon in computer science studies. In addition, the structure of cohort-based learning not only keeps students organised through identical deadlines and syllabi, but also ensures that students keep one another accountable, bringing classmates who are lagging to where they need to be (“All for one, and one for all,” as they say in the military).
One of the factors driving the popularity of cohort-based learning is that we are in a post-content age. Today, anyone has access to immense amounts of free, educational content. Whether it is informational YouTube channels like Khan Academy, databases of academic research, or quick and engaging infographics on the Internet, the ability to obtain information and content, and to learn from it quickly, has become a commodity.
However, this oversaturation of content is also ineffective. There is too much out there, the quality is sometimes hard to assess, and people who truly seek to learn want structure, engagement with other students, and hands-on practice beyond Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC). These problems could be easily remedied through cohort-based learning. Increasingly higher education institutions are now making cohort-based learning a focal point in their courses and an integral part of attracting students to their academic degrees.
When it comes to utilising the power and effectiveness of cohort-based learning, tech training in particular benefits even more than other domains. Working together with cohort members, in a face-to-face environment, students learn tech skills like programming through immersive, hands-on exercises, and receive guidance from trainers and mentors to improve their newly earned skills. Since one topic builds on top of another, all students need to complete their understanding of one concept to move to the next. Cohorts are constantly working together in teams on joint projects and assignments, not only getting to work on their tech skills, but simulating the collaborative environment found in real-life tech teams.
Additionally, working with other students helps to develop friendships and build networks of trusted comrades, who, following graduation, become a helpful alumni community. Wawiwa Tech Training, a top Israeli tech education provider, recognizes the value of cohort-based training and implements it in all its tech programs. These programs reskill people to tech jobs in high demand in the most effective manner. From meeting their cohorts on the first day of training to graduating together with job offers from top tech companies, students at Wawiwa centres are constantly learning and working together, improving their teamwork and collaborative skills, completing team projects and hands-on exercises, and forming lifelong friendships with like-minded professionals entering the tech world. The Cyber-Tech Institute of Australia is excited to be powered by Wawiwa and look forward to achieving these same things here in Australia.
Learning technology is exciting and fast-paced, but at times students may face difficulties. Having a cohort by one’s side makes the tech reskilling process easier, ensures fewer dropouts through the added social support, and makes the learning experience more fun and meaningful.