Why do people pay for cohort-based courses?

By Sau Wai Chan

AUGUST 23, 2021

Cohort-based course are not cheap. The average course on cohortlist.co falls in the $1,000-$5,000 price range, and yet demand for the most popular courses continue to sell out cohort after cohort. What motivates people to invest in CBCs? What are they looking for?

Here are three things course takers are looking for when they enroll into a CBC:

1. They seek for transformation

People are willing to pay a premium to join CBCs because they want that guarantee of seeing concrete results within a set timeframe. They want to be kept accountable and to be active in their learning.

Unlike traditional self-paced online courses, CBCs keep course takers accountable because the courses are time-bound — you are incentivised to keep up with the weekly materials, otherwise you will fall behind and the cohort will continue to progress without you. You don't want to be the one who shows up without having done their homework, and stutter with embarrassment when you get cold called.

Course takers also expect to be transformed by actively doing. The most successful CBCs focus on teaching students the how (Wes Kao has a great article diving into this), and just taking a look at Cohort List, most of the courses promise a hands-on learning experience — you create projects, complete assignments, and will have a portfolio to show after the course. There is a lot of satisfaction in seeing concrete results being made.

2. They seek for guidance

It takes a lot of time and trial and error to figure out and master a new topic by yourself. People who invest in CBCs are impatient. They want to save time and get to where they want to be through the most optimal path.

So instead of spending hours Googling and finding the right YouTube tutorials, students turn to CBCs for guidance. They are looking for someone — be it an expert or a "role model" who is just a couple of steps ahead — to curate a learning path for them.

3. They seek for community

Learning with self-paced online video courses is lonely and requires a lot of discipline. While self-paced courses offer more flexibility, they lack the interactions and networking opportunities you would get in a traditional classroom.

One of the highlights of joining a CBC is the opportunity to meet with people who share similar interests and to grow with those who are navigating similar journeys. As CBCs are relatively short in duration (compared to traditional degrees), course takers can also easily get plugged into multiple communities in a short period of time.

Taking a step back, students seeking for transformation, guidance, and community is nothing new. But the ways for which educators and course creators can deliver these experiences are expanding, and CBCs are one of the many directions being manifested.

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