Cohort model Online MBA programs are different from traditional MBA programs, which require students to change courses every semester. The cohort model “engages a tight knit learning community of students,” according to Georgia State University’s (GSU) College of Education & Human Development, and usually consists of a specific number of students throughout the entire academic program. “Each member of the cohort is encouraged to listen, think deeply and actively participate in discussions as they work towards their degree.”
Staying with the same group of people throughout the entire MBA program may seem odd to some, but GSU says studies show that cohorts in higher education have become popular over the last several years, thanks to the benefits the model provides to students, administrators, and faculty. The school lists at least four benefits students should know about including “student-centered,” “builds strong bonds,” “professional network,” and “efficient administration.”
- Cohorts are inherently designed to focus on the needs of the graduate student because the environment is a shared learning experience. In other words, each member of the cohort is seen as the teacher and learner, actively participates in discussions and learning activities, and encouraged to support everyone’s contributions to the group. –GSU.edu
2. Builds Strong Bonds
- Over the course of a one-three year graduate program, cohorts spend a considerable amount of time together in small participatory group discussions. Given this, students can develop deep friendships and family-like bonds with other members of the group because of the intense and in-depth conversations the cohort has shared with each other. –GSU.edu
3. Professional Network
- The professional relationships cohorts build can result in a network, which extends beyond the classroom, and can significantly help students’ career development and professional advancement. –GSU.edu
4. Efficient Administration
- Since cohorts enroll the same students every semester, they are predictable. Students benefit because they can enroll in courses non-competitively and complete their program requirements in a timely manner. It also helps administrators stabilize revenue sources and expenditures. –GSU.edu
In The Top 5 Misconceptions About MBA Cohort Programs, by the contributors at Ramapo College of New Jersey, another listed benefit of the model is the value that “diversity” brings to the cohort. “The cohorts really are magical in that sense,” says Ramapo. “Everyone, regardless of their background or age, has something valuable to contribute to the cohort, or they wouldn’t have been selected. Behind the facades that hide students’ perceived shortcomings is a common ground filled with a desire to improve one’s professional opportunities. It’s competitive, but students realize that it’s not a zero sum game, and they recognize that it’s possible for them all to win together. In the end, the cohort becomes both a support network as well as a professional network that can lead to new professional opportunities and a lifetime of friendships.”
The school also suggests that the lockstep structure of cohort MBA programs allows students to graduate within the shortest possible time. Many accelerated MBA programs follow the structure, which allows students to take courses in, say, five blocks of 10-week sessions. This is just one example.
The structure appeals to students who aren’t too crazy about spending two years (or more if it’s part-time) in an MBA program that will already have a significant impact on the students personal and professional life. “In many respects,” says Ramapo, “the added structure of a cohort model is ideal for innovation because the change applies to everyone and the [positive] impact is evident almost immediately.”
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"4 Ways Cohort Models Benefit Graduate Students." Education.GSU.edu. Georgia State University, College of Education & Human Development, 04 Jun. 2015. Web. 22 June 2018.
"The Top 5 Misconceptions About MBA Cohort Programs." Ramapo College. Ramapo College, 23 Jun. 2016. Web. 22 June 2018.
"Value of Cohort Learning in an Online MBA." LSUOnline.edu. Louisiana State University, 21 Jan. 2016. Web. 22 June 2018.
"What is an Accelerated MBA Program." Learn.org. Learn.org, n.d. Web. 22 June 2018.