Connected Learning Solutions

Sharing experiences and perspectives in cohort-based learning

How do we create the most effective learning program? Some of the most impactful learning happens when people learn from each other. In fact, a recent Bersin study found that learning with and from peers and via social networks is one of the biggest drivers of business and leadership outcomes.[1]

With globalization now a top priority for large organizations, this new research suggests that for companies to succeed at building a globally-integrated enterprise, they must adopt social and informal learning strategies and solutions.

Robert Kegan, a developmental psychologist based at Harvard University, long ago proposed theories that seem to underscore Bersin’s findings. Growth processes, such as learning, depend on connections, and these processes invariably occur in some context.[2]

Cohort-based learning has proven to be a highly-effective context. Learning from each other keeps the learning relevant. In this blog, we’ll look at the benefits of cohort-based learning and how the right LMS can facilitate this.In today’s global economy, with organizations spread world-wide, we now have

As learning leaders within organizations, how do we manage all that?

If you are tasked with managing some aspect of a large group, your greatest need is efficiency. And an efficient means of accessing, delivering and analyzing information is the use of cohorts. Using cohorts to deliver learning content can make your work life easier and more productive.

Some of the most impactful learning happens when people learn from each other. In fact, the above-mentioned study found that learning with and from peers and via social networks is one of the biggest drivers of business and leadership outcomes.[3]

Cohort-based learning is an effective way to foster interaction among learners and create opportunities to collaborate across both the organization and geographic borders. Depending on the organization, learning cohorts may be made up of people from different business units, functional areas or countries. These cross-functional cohorts enable participants to experience learning together – while also learning from each other.

With cohort-based learning, the participants can share their varied experiences and diverse perspectives, while, for instance, discussing a business situation. Drawing on the collective wisdom of the participants allows them to learn from each other while also making the learning relevant to their current situation.

Many best-in-class programs are using blended learning delivery models delivered in intense and compressed sessions, allowing learners to experience the value of cohort-based learning without requiring them to take valuable time away from their work. Time management for participants is important, but more importantly, research shows that learning that occurs over time is more likely to be remembered.

Shorter bursts of learning also allow participants more opportunity to incorporate what they’re learning in the real-world and day-to-day problems they encounter, and reflect on the impact of what they’re doing.

Cohort-based learning provides context and connection

Growth processes, such as learning and teaching processes, depend on connections, and these processes, according to learning expert Robert Kegan’s theory of adult development,[4] invariably occur in some context – such as a cohort. When successful, a cohort can help students grow to better manage the complexities of their learning.

Cohorts can provide continuity, stability, and availability to the person in the process of growth. In one study, the learning group became more than “just a class” – participants spoke of group members as “fellow strugglers.” The cohort served as dynamic transitional growth spaces that helped learners make good use of each other by providing both the challenge that encouraged them to grow and the support they needed to meet those challenges.

Using an LMS for cohort management

Many LMSs do not include cohort management tools as standard. If you are considering upgrading your LMS to include cohort management, here are some of the features you’ll want to explore:

1. Collaboration functions to enable users to communicate with each other, instructors, course administrators, system administrators, etc. These functions typically include:

2. Flexibly configure options to allow and disallow learner actions. For instance, controlling whether learners will be allowed to create, view, or add to new discussions or threads.

3. The ability to send SMS text messages to learners (as either system alerts or actual learning content). If file sharing is provided:


There are many more features that can enhance your ability to support groups of learners moving through learning activities as a cohort.

When researching for this particular aspect of your LMS, thought needs to be given as to how your organization can achieve this kind of robust cohort management functionality; who will undertake the work, and how much it will cost.

For more information about how the NetDimensions LMS can benefit cohort learning, contact us today.

If you enjoyed this blog, you might like to read out guide on how to easily switch from a legacy system to a new LMS. Download it here.


Additional sources:
[2] “The Power of a Cohort and of Collaborative Groups,” National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy,
[3] Miller, Janice, “What Defines Best In Class? Innovative Delivery Models,” Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning, August 24, 2017