Cohort-Based Learning: Empowering Education on a Tight Budget

One-third of employers plan to add a social learning/collaboration platform over the next 12 months — more than any other type of learning technology, according to the 2023 Learning Benchmarking Study from Brandon Hall Group™.

That makes a lot of sense because cohort-based and social learning enables organizations struggling with stagnant or reduced budgets (39%) and staff (47%) to continue to design and deliver compelling learning efficiently and effectively.

Cohort-Based Learning: Cost-Effective Education

NovoEd, a Brandon Hall Group™ Platinum Smartchoice® Preferred Provider, is a leader in leveraging the power of cohort-based and social learning and has helped clients excel.

For example, NetApp, a cloud data services and data management company, transformed its sales onboarding program during the pandemic using NovoEd’s social and collaborative learning platform. Since 2020, more than 700 NetApp learners in 14 cohorts have used in-platform videos, direct messaging with instructors and mentors, gamification and other features to quickly build proficiency. The revamped onboarding program has delivered important outcomes, including achieving new-hire performance goals within six months along with a greater sense of belonging among employees.

At 3M, the multi-national conglomerate, learning leaders partnered with NovoEd to test social learning. Using the NovoEd platform, 3M transformed its leadership development programs. There was initial skepticism among business leaders, but the learning team proved that moving from virtual instructor-led training (VILT) to cohort-based and social learning:

  • Increased reach and accessibility
  • Managed cognitive overload
  • Increased skill application
  • Created social experiences
  • Reduced facilitation dependency

The average number of learners per class in social learning at 3M was four times the VILT number. Completion rates improved by 15 percentage points and dropout rates were cut in half. “Data matters,” said Maryann Thomas, Career and Onboarding Portfolio Learning Leader for 3M. “In the social learning courses, we could prove learners did the work. In our VILT, we couldn’t prove they did anything during the sessions. Showing those results in data form is amazing.”

Cohort-based and social learning are also versatile. They can be used in situations ranging from peer-to-peer microlearning to corporate universities or capability academies.

Investment in technology that reduces dependence on event-driven learning and enables contextualized learning experiences is critical to driving business results, especially in a complex environment that includes hybrid and remote work, time constraints for employees and leaders, and learning teams facing tight budgets and dwindling headcount.

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Claude Werder



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Claude Werder

Claude J. Werder Senior Vice President and Principal Analyst, Brandon Hall Group Claude Werder runs Brandon Hall Group’s Talent Management, Leadership Development and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) practices. His specific areas of focus include how organizations must transform culturally and strategically to meet the needs of the emerging workforce and workplace. Claude develops insights and solutions on employee experience, leadership, coaching, talent development, assessments, culture, DE&I, and other topics to help members and clients make talent development a competitive business advantage now and in the evolving future of work. Before joining Brandon Hall Group in 2012, Claude was an HR consultant and also spent more than 25 years as an executive and people leader for media and news organizations. This included a decade as the producer of the HR Technology Conference and Expo. He helped transform it from a small event to the world’s largest HR technology conference. Claude is a judge for the global Brandon Hall Group HCM Excellence Awards and Excellence in Technology Awards, contributes to the company’s HCM certification programs, and produces the firm’s annual HCM Excellence Conference. He is also a certified executive and leadership coach. He lives in Boynton Beach, FL.