Why I am partial to cohort-based education

We all know that our world is connected. As I write this note I am aware that:

  1. My local grocery store is not selling bags of oranges and that an individual orange costs half as much as a whole bag cost a few months ago. Hmm, something happened to disrupt the supply of oranges to the Midwest.
  2. The increased use of social media impacts our understanding of events like the shootings in Las Vegas.
  3. Many organizations in Northwest Ohio are experiencing significant shortages of entry level workers both in manufacturing and the nonprofit world. Our local labor market does not exist in isolation.
  4. Organizations of all kinds are finding that much of the new knowledge work that is being done is too complex for individuals working alone but rather that teams, sometimes teams spread over a large territory, are needed to deal with significant challenges.

In spite of our connections at the micro and macro levels, we often think of advanced education as an individual task in which each student separately selects courses and progresses towards an educational goal.

A cohort based program makes a different assumption. It begins with the understanding that we learn best with colleagues that we respect and trust and in a setting where connections help us all become stronger leaders.  The Collaborative MBA program is not so much about a sequence of individual courses as it is about a group of scholars, students and professors, working together to understand how to develop the skills and tools needed to create success for ourselves and our organizations that truly serves the common good.

Students in cohort programs have reported to me, somewhat apologetically, “I learned as much from my classmates as I did from my professors.”  My response is, “Good. That is what should happen in a well-functioning learning community.” Others have said, “I am so glad that I had the encouragement of my classmates when I was stressed and just felt like walking away from my education.”

After graduation, students in adult-oriented programs often quickly lose touch with classmates. My experience with a cohort is that the members become an ongoing network of support even after graduation.

A connected education in a cohort equips us to reshape our relationships to our peers and our organizations, leading to stronger organizations and flourishing communities.


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