The world of online education is very different today than it was 10 years ago.
We now live in an age of information abundance, with all of human knowledge only a click away.
And that means we can shift the focus of online courses from information-heavy lectures to a community-driven learning environment with interactive sessions, collaboration, and shared knowledge.
And right now, accelerated by the pandemic, community-driven online courses are having their moment in the sun.
Here are three reasons why these cohort-based courses are the best way to learn:
1. Cohort-Based Courses Hold You Accountable
Hands up if you’ve bought an online course with good intentions, but then never got past the introduction video?
Yup! Guilty as charged…
I kid myself that I’ll get around to it one day, but, like all of us, life is busy.
What is there was a different way?
Join a cohort-based course — like Pro Sheets — and you learn with other people, at scheduled times, with defined and manageable goals.
Turns out that we’re not very good at making and, crucially, keeping promises we make with ourselves. Even if we start a venture with huge enthusiasm, it’s hard to sustain, especially when the journey gets hard or we hit the inevitable hurdles.
Being part of a group offloads some of this willpower burden. Once you become part of something greater than yourself, you don’t want to let the group down by not bringing your best self to the table.
We as humans care deeply about what our fellow humans think of us, even when we’re told not to, or even though we know other people are too busy with their own realities to care much about ours. And yet, this external influence remains very strong.
In other words, when you join a live, group course, you’re giving yourself much better odds at actually sticking through the course and completing it, reaching your goal, and reaping the benefits.
With dedicated time slots and friendly faces waiting to greet you, you’ll feel inspired to attend as many live sessions as possible.
And by simply turning up, again and again, you’ll see the results you’re after.
I was a student in a cohort-based course earlier this year, and I was pumped every time a live class rolled around. I couldn’t wait to join and catch up with everyone. There’s no way I would have stuck with a video-only version of this course on my own.
2. Learning Together Is Faster
Remember the game minesweeper?
It was a classic strategy game, with a very strong 90s PC desktop vibe, requiring players to make calculated decisions and educated guesses on where the mines lay on the board.
Minesweeper makes for a nice analogy with learning a new skill or deepening an existing skill.
You have your existing knowledge, represented in Minesweeper by the portion of the board that is uncovered.
Now, suppose you’ve reached an impasse with your learning. You don’t know how to proceed.
This is like one of those vexing 2-3-3-4-1 combinations on the Minesweeper board that eventually require an educated guess.
Continuing alone is possible, but it will be slow going and frustrating, and you will make mistakes — step on mines — along the way.
If you learn with others though, whether they’re experts or just slightly ahead of you on their journey, they can show you the next move.
They can unlock the board for you, so whole new regions of knowledge open up in front of you.
Your journey will be dramatically quicker with a guide, simply because you make fewer mistakes and better decisions.
3. It’s More Fun
Look at all these beautiful smiles in the final live session of Pro Sheets Accelerator earlier this year:
When I launched Pro Sheets Accelerator, I expected students to say their favorite part was learning new formulas, scripts, or frameworks.
But by the end of the course, it wasn’t the formulas or scripts that students most appreciated, it was the community.
They loved learning with other spreadsheet enthusiasts!
One of the students, Jen, an educator from Massachusetts, summed it up well:
“It was really just nice to have other nerdy people to talk to and to share stories and ask questions to, who just really cared about talking through it in a high-quality conversation.”
And I was chatting recently with another student, Jim, a financial advisor from California, who said:
“Getting together with like-minded people who were really passionate about spreadsheets was just magic.”
By learning in a group, you meet like-minded people to share the highs and lows of the journey. You’ll laugh and have fun along the way, and your best learning happens when you’re happy and having fun.