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Cohort Based Courses: Definition, Examples, and Benefits, and Platforms

Group coaching, Guides | May 25th, 2022

cohort course

Most online courses have abysmal completion rates (typically in the single digits). Unfortunately, low completion rates also mean that only a fraction of your clients received the value they wanted.   

While you already received the money from the original purchase price, a low course completion rate means that the 90% (or more) of people that didn’t finish it:

  1. Won’t tell their friends about your course, making the course harder to scale.
  2. Won’t purchase future courses from you, lowering your LTV.
  3. Failed to achieve what they signed up to achieve, leaving you feeling like a failed coach (even if you know they could have achieved their goal if they just completed the course!).

So the real question is; how can I get my clients to complete the course?

The answer is accountability, though if you’ve ever done one-on-one coaching (where you have a call with the client each week), you know that it isn’t scalable. 

So the best solution to scale accountability is cohort-based courses.

Cohort-based courses incorporate peer accountability, meaning your clients hold each other accountable with weekly meetings that you as the coach never have to attend. All you have to do is group clients into accountability cohorts.  

This post will walk you through what cohort-based courses are, their main benefits, how to create one, and the best platforms to create a cohort-based course.

What is a Cohort-Based Course?

Cohort-based courses are designed to improve engagement by incorporating peer accountability to ensure clients take action on the material (even when it gets tough). From a structural standpoint, cohort-based courses typically run during set dates and have scheduled peer accountability calls (led by your clients) at least once per week. 

By incorporating peer accountability into your courses, you’ll be able to deliver transformational results to clients at scale, which will:

  • Improve the results clients receive from your course (which, in turn, increases your NPS score).
  • Elevate the value of your course, enabling you to charge more and scale through word of mouth.
  • Improve the LTV of each client as they will be more inclined to purchase additional programs from you in the future if you over-delivered in the first course.

Benefits of Cohort Learning

Cohort based courses are beneficial for both course creators and clients. Let’s jump into the key benefits below.

Higher Client Satisfaction

People purchase your course because they want to make a change in their lives and believe that your course will deliver that change.

However, given that the average course completion rate is in the single digits, it’s unlikely that more than 10% of those who purchase your course will actually experience transformational results. So if people pay money and never experience any transformation, it’s highly unlikely that they will be satisfied (even if the only reason they didn’t receive transformational results is that they didn’t execute the information).

However, if clients know they will have to report their progress to peers, they will be more likely to push through the difficult tasks in your course.

In addition, connecting clients with other people that are experiencing similar challenges is a huge value add, as your clients may not have any other friends that are experiencing similar challenges.

Higher Profit Margins

If peer accountability helps clients push through the challenging aspects of your course and ultimately achieve the goal they set out to achieve, the value of your course is tremendously higher than a course where people give up (even if the material is exactly the same). 

Therefore, clients will be willing to pay a much higher price for your course – even if the material is exactly the same.

This is because the value of your course is determined by the results you produce for your clients – not just the material

So you’ll be able to command much higher profit margins for the exact same material and effort. Though for the client, the value delivered really will be much higher because they will receive their desired results (rather than giving up halfway through).

Improved Scalability 

If you’re currently coaching all of your clients individually to hold them accountable, cohort-based coaching will enable you to scale faster as you no longer have to attend each call. Instead, you can select one client to lead the accountability calls. This way, you can take on more clients and still deliver the same transformational results because clients can hold each other accountable.

In addition, if you still want to meet with your clients one-on-one, those sessions will be more valuable to the client because they can discuss purely strategic challenges (rather than spending time going over habits).

Creating a Cohort Based Course

You can customize your cohort-based course to fit your needs, though here are a few key elements that we’ve found the top-performing coaches include in their cohort-based courses. 

Establish and Track Habits

As a coach, you know that real transformation doesn’t come from setting goals – it comes from executing small habits every day. For example, if someone comes to you because they want to lose weight, the formula to accomplish that goal is improving daily eating and exercise habits.

So to deliver transformational results to your clients, identify the habits that will help them achieve their goal and then have them track their progress in a habit tracker. This way, if a client isn’t achieving their target results, it’s easy to look at their habit tracker and identify where the breakdown is occurring. 

If you want an all-in-one cohort-based course platform that includes a habit tracker, consider using upcoach. Coaches can automatically set habits to be added to the habit tracker after completing a lesson, or clients and coaches can add habits manually. 

Create Weekly Tasks

In addition to improving daily habits, clients often need to complete one-off tasks to achieve their goals. For example, the task for the week might be getting Facebook ads running for a product, emailing a particular person, or hiring a VA. So each week, you (or the clients themselves) can assign a specific task.

Most coaches purchase project management software (like Trello or Basecamp) to assign tasks. However, this can get messy as clients will complete part of the course inside the course platform (like Kajabi or Thinkific) and part of the course in the project management software. 

In our experience, clients lose passwords, assignments get lost, and it’s an overall frustrating experience. 

To solve this, the upcoach platform enables you to host your lessons, track habits, and assign tasks in a single platform (in fact, it’s all listed in one single dashboard).

Here’s what the task list looks like:

To add a task, you can either add it manually or program upcoach to automatically add a task after the client marks a lesson as complete.

Want a detailed look at the upcoach platform? Schedule a demo or get started today!

Create Accountability Groups

Now that your clients have specific habits and tasks, it’s important that they actually execute them. This is usually where most people give up (and why most people never complete traditional courses).

To ensure clients execute the set tasks and habits, create accountability groups. You can group clients by goals or interests and schedule weekly accountability meetings. This way, your clients can meet up on their own and receive the same value as if you were hosting a one-on-one accountability call. 

So if your current course doesn’t offer accountability groups, you can significantly improve your course completion rates (and, therefore, the value/price of your course). If you are currently hosting the accountability sessions yourself, you’ll have more time to grow your business without sacrificing quality.

To create accountability pods, you can group clients together via an email thread and then tell them to coordinate a meeting time on their own. However, this will likely result in a lot of back and forth during the scheduling process. In addition, if clients want to communicate with their accountability groups during the week, it can be annoying to search through email threads to follow a conversation.

The upcoach solves these problems by enabling you to group clients into accountability pods directly inside the platform. Inside these accountability pods, clients can view the meeting time and converse through chat or the discussion forum.

In addition, the habit tracker and tasks are all visible by default, which makes it easy for everyone to share their screen and discuss their habits/tasks of the week on the call.

If you want a course platform that was designed for cohort-based courses, schedule a demo of upcoach today.

Dedicate Coaching Calls to Strategic Questions

Now that your clients are hosting accountability calls together, your coaching calls no longer have to cover completed habits and tasks. This way, you’ll be able to dedicate all coaching calls 100% to answering strategic questions and providing higher level value.

Within the upcoach platform, you can schedule calls and also add a pre-call questionnaire. For example, veteran coach Todd Herman (who is also upcoach’s CMO) requests his students to fill out these three questions at least four hours prior to the coaching call:

  1. What was a win for this week?
  2. What challenge do you want to work on during this call?
  3. What are three options to solve that challenge?

You can even upload this questionnaire directly to the upcoach platform:

If you’d like to try out the upcoach platform for yourself, schedule a demo or get started today!

Examples of Cohort Based Courses

Here are a few examples of cohort-based courses to give you some inspiration.

Todd Herman’s 90 Day Year Program

Todd Herman’s 90 Day Year program is designed to help entrepreneurs achieve game-changing results in their business in just 90 days. 

To give you an inside look at how the program is structured, here’s what a week looks like:

  • Monday: This call is designed to help clients set their priorities for the week. They can then enter these priorities into the upcoach platform. 
  • Wednesday: Clients identify where they are stuck with their goals for the week and create a game plan to get unstuck. 
  • Thursday: This is a general coaching call where people can ask Todd any questions they want (and it’s actually the only call that Todd gets on throughout the entire week).
  • Friday: This is an accountability call where clients discuss what numbers they hit and where they stand.  

Shaan Puri’s Power Writing Course

Serial entrepreneur and investor, Shaan Puri, offers a cohort-based copywriting course called Power Writing.

This course is two weeks long, and here is the structure:

  • Monday: Live session teaching course material. It is recorded and accessible for 14 days.
  • Wednesday: Live session teaching course material. It is recorded and accessible for 14 days.
  • Friday: Live session teaching course material. It is recorded and accessible for 14 days.

So in total, there are six lessons and a Slack community for people to ask each other questions if they wish.

The price for the first cohort he did was $400, and it’s unclear what the price will be for future cohorts.

Pat Flynn’s Email Marketing Magic Bootcamp

Pat Flynn is one of the earliest course creators and recently transitioned to cohort-based courses. For example, his email marketing course is transitioning to a cohort style with 15 live coaching sessions hosted by assistant coaches (with occasional visits from Pat Flynn himself) throughout the eight-week program.

However, the majority of the course material is still delivered through video so that the live coaching sessions can be focused on answering specific questions.

This course also comes with a community where students can ask each other questions.

Anthony Pompliano’s Crypto Academy

Anthony Pompliano is a well known crypto investor with a popular YouTube channel on the subject. He recently started a cohort-based course that covers the fundamentals of crypto and bitcoin

The course is three weeks long, and clients have one project per week to complete. In total, there are 55 live events, and Anthony Pompliano teaches six of them himself. 

The live sessions range from traditional coaching sessions to social events and post-workshop discussion groups.

One interesting thing that this course includes is a “Career Day” where companies in the space can pitch who they are looking to hire.

Best Cohort-Based Course Platform

If you’re looking for a cohort-based course platform, consider using upcoach. Many coaches are using upcoach to host their cohort-based courses because it is a truly all-in-one course platform that doesn’t require you to tie together:

  • Course hosting platform (like Thinkific or Kajabi)
  • Project management software (like Basecamp or Trello)
  • Worksheet templates (like Canva or Google Docs assignments)
  • Community software (like Circle.so)
  • Habit tracking apps

Here are a few of the key features that upcoach offers.

Lesson Modules

Like traditional course platforms, upcoach enables you to create lesson modules for your clients so that they can consume your material asynchronously and then use the coaching sessions to answer higher-level questions.

If you offer multiple courses, you can create different programs within upcoach. This way, if you have students purchase multiple courses from you, they can access all of the programs from the same dashboard. 

Within each program are multiple modules and lessons. To ensure clients take action on the material in each lesson, you can program upcoach to automatically add tasks and habits once the lesson is marked complete.

Given that this is a cohort based course where clients move at the same pace, you can also lock future lessons and schedule them to only be available on a certain date.

Habit Tracking

One of the most valuable features in the upcoach platform is the habit tracker. You and your clients can manually set habits or program upcoach to add habits automatically.

Tasks

To ensure clients take action on the material covered in each lesson, upcoach also offers a Task list. They can add their own tasks, or you can set tasks to be added automatically after completing a lesson.

Accountability Groups

If you don’t have any accountability calls, it’s highly unlikely that clients will complete the course. On the other hand, if you’re hosting all of these accountability sessions yourself, the course will be difficult to scale.

So instead, upcoach enables you to create small accountability groups of just a handful of clients. 

This way, clients can host their own weekly accountability calls to discuss their habits and task progress. This way, clients still receive the same value (positive peer pressure that encourages them to execute on the information), and your time is no longer tied up doing accountability calls. 

In addition, the accountability group section in upcoach has a forum so that the small groups can communicate with each other during the week.

If you want a course platform that makes it easy to incorporate accountability into your course, consider upcoach. You can schedule a demo or get started today!

Smart Docs

Coaches love the SmartDocs feature as they can create beautiful worksheets that live directly inside the platform. The benefit of having worksheets that live strictly inside the platform is that you can see exactly what percentage of the worksheet is complete just by glancing at the dashboard. This way, you can easily see which clients need a nudge and even click into the doc to see where most people are getting stuck.

Detailed Client CRM

Most course platforms have a student CRM that includes basic student information like:

  • Name
  • Contact information
  • Percentage of lessons marked “complete”

However, we’ve found that coaches who want to improve their courses and transform the lives of their clients want a more detailed view of where clients are getting stuck.

So in addition to including basic client information, the upcoach CRM also shows all of the following details in each client profile: 

  • Habit progress
  • Completed tasks 
  • Worksheet progress
  • Login history

This way, you can reach out to clients that are falling behind and understand where they are getting stuck. This helps you improve your course and gives you the opportunity to reach out to clients that are falling behind.

Final Thoughts

Cohort based courses are incredibly effective at:

  • Improving course completion rates 
  • Justifying a higher price point
  • Scaling the value of one on one coaching

If you’re looking for a cohort-based course platform that can do this for you, consider using upcoach. It’s a truly all-in-one coaching platform as includes all of the following in a single dashboard:

  • Lesson modules
  • Automated tasks
  • Habit tracking
  • Accountability groups
  • Detailed client CRM

So if you’re tired of tying together different platforms with Zapier, searching for different logins, and paying multiple subscriptions, schedule an upcoach demo today.

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Megan writes content for SaaS companies and digital marketing agencies to increase traffic and conversions. She's worked with brands like Chatfuel, Single Grain, Copyblogger, and others and have also been featured in leading publications like the Content Marketing Institute.