skip to Main Content

Attack of the Learning Acronyms -> MOOCs vs. CBL

Upskilling and reskilling have been on the rise over the last couple of years as people are looking to advance in their current roles or try something altogether new!  To avoid attrition and provide learning that makes a lasting impact, organizations need to focus on the learners. Humans are social creatures, so much so that socially interactive environments have shown to further develop creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.  Improving learning outcomes can be as simple as changing the ‘solo’ learning environment to an interactive one where learners can experience more than one point of view and engage in healthy discussion and debate.


Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) like Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, and Edx have been popular learning options. Prior to the pandemic use rates for MOOCs showed a steady decline of about 3% per year but with additional time on people’s hands and as individuals looked to upskill and reskill, the pandemic reinvigorated those numbers. Despite their wide availability and broad array of topics, MOOC courses lack one thinginteractive discussion. Learners enroll in the self-paced course of their choosing and move through the content to completion in hopes they learn new information that can be retained and applied.  While convenient, MOOCs don’t provide learners the transformation needed to achieve quality discussion or differing viewpoints on in-demand topics.  Topics that demand in-depth comprehension, like DEI and emotional intelligence benefit from discussion and different viewpoints. This lack of reciprocal sharing and interactive conversation leads to disengaged employees who fail to retain the knowledge, costing Fortune 500 companies roughly $31.5 billion per year. Minimal sharing and interaction rates paired with retention rates sitting between 1015% for learners raise questions about MOOC effectiveness.


CBL, or Cohort-Based Learning is a relatively new (or reimagined) concept that differs from MOOCs because students take a series of classes together as a group.  Rather than working at their own pace, they work to the same schedule and deadlines with a group.  They share their understanding of the content in an interactive setting and move through the content at the same time.  CBL can also be referred to as Vicarious Learning, Co-op Learning, or Collaborative Learning. As it turns out, this type of learning isn’t new; it’s just been rebranded. In fact, the first cohort-based learning was led by Socrates around 450BC in the form of Socratic seminars. For a learning method to be the prime choice for over 2000 years, it must produce results, right?

This type of interactive learning has demonstrated increased effectiveness and perceived learning, meaning that peer-to-peer interaction and discussion are more critical than instructor-led skills when it comes to making an impact.  Discussion of ideas and knowledge sharing helps increase reflection, creativity, and accountability. For many, group settings where individuals can explore perspectives, ask questions, and share knowledge to broaden their mindset provide a more effective learning experience with better learning outcomes.

Regardless of whether you are more independent and prefer self-paced, independent study or you’re more of a social learner, who benefits from interactive discussion, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’.  The best learning is the one that provides the best outcome for you.

Explore flexible learning options that inspire growth and fuel development.

Back To Top