Cohort Based Courses (CBCs)
⏳ Project Duration
What is a CBC?
Elements that distinguish CBC from other channels of education majorly online courses are:
Cohort Based Courses are the fourth wave of online learning and are here to stay for quite a while!
What is Stoa School?
- A typical Stoa School Cohort stretches up to a 6-month long duration. The cohort members are a mix of people from different walks of life like PMs, Business Development professionals, Marketers, Engineers, to name a few.
- Out of hundreds of applications, the cohort candidates are shortlisted based on their profile and selected after a round of interview.
- The ongoing cohort 2 (as of April 2021) cohort consists of 80 members split into two sections.
Tools used by the community
- Discord - For daily communication (mostly informal)
- Zoom - For online video classes, workshops and informal sessions
- Google drive - For getting links from team Stoa
- Circle.so - For assignments or prompts (discontinued now)
- EduPro - For sharing case studies and assignments with cohort members
Female : Male - 1:7
Average Age Bracket
People join Stoa to network, learn about business, have fun, get jobs and transform into a different version of themselves.
Why we chose Stoa School?
- Currently being in 10kdesigners (Cohort Based Course for learning Product Design), we truly understand the potential of CBCs.
- A CBC's impact heavily relies on its community, and the learning is different for every CBC. Hence we were intrigued to know how other such communities are leveraging this concept.
- Stoa School has earned itself a good reputation in the CBC space and has enthusiastic members constantly sharing their learnings on social media. Put together these factors made us curious to study the Stoa Community.
What are our goals?
- To research on how Stoa community functions.
- To understand the expectations and pain points of Stoa community members.
- To ideate product features that could improve the overall cohort experience.
- We researched online about Stoa and connected with a few community members over Twitter.
- Then we conducted 8 user interviews documenting our findings. Post that, we drew few insights and created a user persona.
- Using the persona, we drafted a user journey map plotting down the user expectations, emotions and experiences during the entire user flow.
- Finally, we used all the information to hypothesize our user stories and proposed features for each of them.
- Secondary Research
- Primary Research
- User Persona
- User Journey Mapping
- User Stories
🔎 Research Methodologies
Goal of secondary research
- To know more about the concept of CBCs and how it works around the world.
- To study the Stoa community, analyze their online presence and derive insights to support the research.
CBC vs Self paced online courses
- A cohort of students starts and finishes the course simultaneously, moving through the lessons together at the same time.
- As a result, a cohort provides a more interactive, immersive experience for students, with members sharing their understanding and application of the course material as they go. It also increases the likelihood that students will complete a course and successfully apply the material.
- In contrast, with a self-paced course, students can start, pause, and finish the material on their own time and schedule. Thus many students subsequently lose motivation to finish the entire course.
How CBCs currently operate?
- Tools like Loom, Notion, Drive, Slack, Discord, Circle. are used by CBCs worldwide to communicate with their members.
- SaaS tools like Leadpages and ConvertKit are helpful for course creators to market their CBCs.
- Breakout rooms and drop-in audio rooms are an essential part of CBCs as most of them take the bottom-up approach; interaction within the community is key.
- Most of them are focused on getting their members to practically work on assignments and tasks, thereby upskilling them in the process.
Some founders/course creators choose to have a premium price as it's important for them to work with smart, ambitious professionals doing important work in the world, hence a high price for a real commitment.
How online communities evolved over time?
- Facebook was one of the first platform used to create online communities and interest groups. But now it has become irrelevant as most of the communities turned out to be spam groups, and no real connection/conversations happen between the members.
- Some of the reasons could be that Facebook was initially not designed for building and maintaining communities. In addition, one gets too many irrelevant notifications and the inability to mute a certain type of conversation is a definite drawback.
Eventually, with advancements in online communication tools like Discord and Slack, slowly communities started to migrate to them.
Stoa Community's Online Presence
Doing so gave us a good idea of how they built up their community by engaging people through relevant posts. It also gave us the demographic they were targeting through these handles.
Twitter is their strongest medium which gives a gist of how the community works. Cohort members share valuable insights, jokes etc., among many interesting things in this space.
LinkedIn Stoa has more of a formal vibe, here majorly announcements like an upcoming cohort, guest lectures etc., from the Stoa team, come in.
They also have a dedicated website that explains in detail their cohort structure, its advantages and what one will gain out of attending it.
An important part of any community in the world is laughter; laughing together forms a connection like nothing else can. Stoa makes sure they share their learning, updates, incidents, inside jokes through memes.
They also maintain a Twitter list with all Stoa members to help their community members get a wide reach on Twitter and help them build a personal online brand.
Exclusive Community events
Stoa has many exclusive community events/ guest sessions. A sneak peek of it is available on their Twitter.
Goal of primary research
- To understand the general behavior and mindset of a typical Stoa community member.
- To find their current pain points and frustrations if any.
- To ideate product features that could potentially solve their problems.
In total, we interviewed 8 Stoa members. We categorized them into the following 3 segments:
- Current Cohort Members
- Alumni Members
- Stoa Team
Questions asked during the interview
- The majority of people joining CBCs are looking to escape their daily grind, make meaningful connections, upskill themselves and transition to new jobs.
- While joining a CBC majorly, things that matter are the type of people involved, i.e. community and curriculum.
- Many prefer in-person CBCs over online CBCs.
- Both Instructors and Cohort members play a major part in the learning, and it can make or break the cohort.
- Motivation to complete the course and course completion rates are higher than traditional online courses because of the community factor.
- Apart from the business terminologies, topics like mindset building, self-awareness, mental models, personal brand building etc. are also taught.
- A considerable amount of cohort members feel overwhelmed at the start due to tons of incoming information. But with a supportive team and fellow members, they feel at ease once the cohort progresses.
A few members feel that information is all over the place, with conversations happening over discord, classes on zoom, etc. Few prefer having a dedicated platform that has everything related to the cohort at the same place.
🥅 Goal of user persona
- We found the user persona to be the best way to get into the user's shoes and have a concrete idea of whose problems we are solving.
Base on our understanding from primary research, we have created a persona - Aditya Bhatnagar, who closely represents an average Stoa community member.
User Journey Mapping
🥅 Goal of User Journey Mapping
- To get a birds-eye overview of what a typical day would like for a Stoa community member.
- To then map their journey and find their expectations, emotions, experiences and pain points.
📅 A typical week for a Stoa member
- Cohort members are given daily prompts (related to business/startup current affairs).
- Informal discussions take place throughout the week in discord.
- Cohort members are expected to study and deep dive into these concepts as the weekend would contain lectures on the same lines.
- On Saturdays and Sundays, they are divided into zoom rooms to discuss these prompts.
- Group learning and discussions are an essential part of their curriculum.
- Attends Socials over zoom during some of the weekdays.
- Has Informal discussions with fellow cohort members in discord.
- Personal Development Workshops / Guest Lectures on the weekend.
Below we have represented an average week of what happens during a week for each section using a journey map.
🥅 Goal of user stories
- To dive deep into the user's day-to-day interactions and find their hidden motivations and gaps in the current product.
- To use the insights to hypothesize new feature ideas that could address these gaps.
The up-and-coming Stoa business school is definitely one of the pioneers of the new age of online education in India. Through our research and analysis, we strongly believe that Stoa can make their learning experience better for its cohort members with some of the above-proposed features.