Extolled by students, professors and administrators, the cohort model of learning moves a set group of students through a predetermined set of courses. They travel in lock step through the program. Originally developed to improve graduation rates among adult learners, the cohort model came into fashion in the 1980s. Now, the best MBA programs use it to enhance the student experience throughout the course of study and beyond.
Here are five reasons students rave about cohort learning:
- Peer Support. Students, especially new students may feel intimidated by graduate school. However, research shows learning is a social endeavor, made better through interaction, discussion and sharing of experiences. Students in a cohort get to know each other quickly and build trust over time. They frequently form voluntary study groups that meet outside of class and invest themselves in each other’s success. And it always pays off.
- Adds Meaning. Research also shows the sage on the stage model of instruction can only take students so far. Professors’ spheres of experience and scope of understanding have natural limits. But, cohorts allow for the exchange of a diverse set of ideas among students from various backgrounds. This enriches learning and adds meaning. The relevance of the material goes up and students engage with more deeply as a result.
- Network Building. When working adults come together on a regular basis over the course of two years or more, networks naturally develop. Extended connections are fostered; career opportunities shared. I have seen it happen time and again. Students in MBA programs benefit not only from the education they receive, but from the widening of their circles and the introductions made on their behalf.
- Honesty. As cohort members get to know each other, they form a natural bond. Trust builds. It is under these conditions that open discussions take place and authentic feedback offered. Learning cannot take root without honesty and the cohort model increases the chances of candid assessments and real growth on a personal level.
- Faculty ties. In most cohort settings, students take more than one class from the same professor. While meaningful and lasting ties form among cohort members, they also come together with professors as well – both permanent faculty and adjunct instructors. Students enjoy the benefit of mentorships, receiving guidance throughout the program and long after.
When looking at MBA programs, I encourage you to find a cohort based offering. There is no substitute for the support and care that comes from a learning community, among people with a shared experience. It facilitates the exchange of knowledge but more importantly, it establishes relationships that can last a lifetime.
Written by Diane Fittipaldi, MBA Professor
“I consider myself a recovering ad exec. I’m a scholar. A researcher. A professor. I believe personal stories inspire change. I spend my time investigating issues of age and gender equality in the workplace, hoping to discover structural solutions to systemic problems. I enjoy my home at St. Kate’s – an organization on that wholeheartedly supports me in these endeavors giving me a platform to affect change.”