Why cohorts keep learners engaged

Jun 23, 2022

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Let’s face it. Zoom fatigue is real.

With most meetings being held over Zoom, it’s no surprise that learners find the prospect of Zoom training exhausting. Global teams already struggle to meet across different time zones, and traditional e-learning, though conveniently self-paced or asynchronous, can feel monotonous and make learning a chore rather than a potentially transformational tool.

Cohorts, on the other hand, keep learners engaged by driving debates, discussions, and brainstorms among their members, who learn by working together to solve problems facing their organization. This process is called cohort-based learning, a model of collaborative learning where a set group of learners moves through a sequence of interactive content together, discussing and sharing their ideas along the way.

The numbers show the impact of this model when it comes to learner engagement: our cohort-based Academy, for example, boasts an 86% completion rate, while the rates for most digital solutions are much lower. But why is cohort-based learning so engaging? Its success can be attributed to three key factors.

1. Cohorts keep learners engaged with social collaboration.

Studies show that peer interactions impact your learning experience more than a star instructor. One study from Frontiers in Psychology found that 97% of students reported group work enhanced their learning experience, compared to working alone. Through collaboration and questioning each other’s points of view, these students gained a deeper understanding of the learning material by working together.

These students also reported they felt a “sense of belonging” after working together. Burnt-out learners may experience benefits outside the classroom with cohort-based learning; enjoying a sense of community and belonging with their team that can help ease feelings of burnout.

2. Cohorts hold learners accountable.

You normally sleep through your 6:00am alarm to hit the gym. However, today is different. Your buddy from work is here to go with you and hold you accountable.

Since participation is required in our cohort-based learning programs, learners feel motivated to engage in learning in order to participate in team discussions. This shared accountability is a great way to increase engagement.

For example, here at Nomadic we allow team members to complete their coursework individually, but our platform also rewards members for sharing their thoughts and insights about each module. Add in a leaderboard, team names, and points awarded for engaging with others, and you have a learning experience that not only holds learners accountable, but also fosters camaraderie and friendly competition.

3. Cohorts provide flexibility with semi-synchronous learning.

With learners in different time zones, scaling learning company-wide can create learning inequities and inconsistencies in global teams. Thankfully, semi-synchronous learning soothes those logistical headaches by giving cohorts the autonomy of self-paced learning and the flexibility to share ideas across time zones.

You already know semi-synchronous platforms, such as Slack, Teams, or even Instagram. You can access an influencer’s content or a message from your co-worker at any time and respond to them at your convenience. Nomadic’s learning platform allows learners to collaborate and respond to their team’s work at a time that works best for them. This drives learner engagement by allowing learners the flexibility of asynchronous communication, while also gaining the motivation and intellectual spark that comes from collaborating with their colleagues.

Our client AB InBev proves that cohorts are king.

In 2019, we partnered with Ryan Verschoor, head of marketing capability at Anheuser-Busch InBev, to create a cohort-driven academy that would help their managers at all levels become more consumer-centric and agile in order for the company to achieve organic growth. Their existing marketing academy simply could not accommodate their organization of 2,500 marketers operating in more than 150 countries.

Once Ryan began working with Nomadic, results came quickly. We observed a 95% correlation between engagement with the cohort-based Marketing Academy and general measures of employee engagement. (“It’s off the charts,” Ryan said.) Even better, 89% of all target learners completed the initial Program, including mandatory commenting and upvoting on other member’s posts.


To dive deeper into cohort-based learning, read our report, Cohort-Based Learning at Scale: Eight Principles for Success. You can also get in touch to discover how cohort-based learning can drive learner engagement and transformation at your organization.

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