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What is a Cohort Program?

The cohort program is a growing trend among institutions of higher education. When you’re on the path to attain a degree, it can be helpful to fully understand the unfamiliar terms with which you may be presented. The article below explores the utility of the cohort approach to study, what it entails, and how it can benefit your educational experience.

What It Is and Who’s Involved

While the term cohort can be used to describe any group of students at any level that have similar classroom experiences and educational goals, it’s much more than that. When applied to undergraduate or graduate education, a cohort program describes a group of students following a course of study together. They have similar class options and requirements, so will likely build solidarity based upon shared educational experiences.

This is the driving force behind the concept—to nurture group identity, engender inter-group support during the stresses and challenges of a rigorous course of study, and to encourage innovation among cohort members. While these programs have typically appeared most frequently in graduate schools, where class numbers are small and the topics of study are advanced, it is also applied to other types of educational experience.

Distance learning, whereby students participate in class activities and discussions via computer, can benefit from the cohort approach. It encourages individuals to bond and seek contact with other students. They share thoughts about assignments, develop virtual communities beyond the strictures of class meetings, and develop collaborative strategies that help them excel. In essence, these programs are focused upon building a learning community of peers who utilize one another as resources and also learn the value of collaborative action.

The Model and Method of Cohort Formation

Another rationale behind the use of cohort models in higher education is to facilitate completion of a course of study in a timely way. Cohorts are intended to reduce the stress of competition for seats in a specific course, which allows students to focus their energy upon excelling in their studies. Cohort models also engage a set group of individuals for much of their time in a course of study. Rather than shifting groups each semester with different classes, cohorts study together with a program of learning goals in common. They always have classes together.

This often facilitates strong friendships and even a family-like dynamic within a cohort. Student members of cohorts spend class time involved in highly participatory, student-focused discussion seminars and classes. They work on group projects with each other, developing new strengths and learning those of others. This can prove intensely beneficial, especially given the high stress levels of graduate education.

During the rigorous demands of coursework, cohort members can also provide social and emotional support for one another, encouraging participation in stress-relieving activities, exercise, and interaction. Moreover, even beyond the classroom, once the degree program has ended, the students still have a solid network of peers in place. Cohort study benefits career growth after graduation.

While cohort models are employed at a variety of different educational levels, they are most popular and prevalent at universities. They help students and teachers build strong relationships, deriving the greatest benefit from study. While it’s certainly possible to succeed within a more decentralized program of education, a cohort program is crafted to support students, help them grow intellectually and socially, and provide a highly positive and successful entry into the post-educational world.

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