Q&A: What Is a Cohort?

Answer: The definition of the word "cohort" means "band, group; a group of individuals having a statistical factor (as age or class membership) in common in a demographic study" (www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary). In relation to school, this means a group of students who begin a program of study together. These students take all of the same classes, at the same time and graduate together.

Pros of Cohorts
There are great benefits to being in a cohort, especially when taking online classes. Sometimes, online students don't feel the connection to the school or other students. Students simply log into their class, do their work and log off. Being part of an online cohort means all of the students who are in the cohort take their classes together. This allows students to get to know one another and feel comfortable communicating and working together. When students develop peer relationships in class, they are more likely to share their thoughts and beliefs on relevant subjects. They also get to know each others' personality and how they work. They have a better understanding of everyone's strengths and weaknesses and can work together to not only learn from the instructor but from one another, as well.

Cons of Cohorts
One of the cons that comes with being in a cohort is being with the same group of students for a long period of time. This doesn't allow students to meet other new students or build new peer relationships. Also, if any students have any differences or conflict, these may remain in the cohort until graduation.

Cohort Programs
There are some programs and majors that are more likely to have cohorts. Students who are education majors and students going into the medical field often have the opportunity to participate in a cohort. Also, students who are already in the same career field seeking the same degree may be in a cohort, as well. An example is individuals already in law enforcement (i.e. police officers, probation officers, etc.), working towards a degree in criminal justice.

If students are interested in being in a cohort, they should ask their academic advisors or a school representative what options are available.

Dr. Beverley BrowningDr. Beverly A. Browning (Dr. Bev) has been a higher education adjunct faculty member for over 25 years. She has taught in the classroom and online for multiple colleges and universities including Spring Arbor College, Baker College of Flint, Mott Community College, and Rio Salado College. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan, Spring Arbor College and Mott Community College. She is currently an online instructor for ed2go.com (Cengage Learning). In addition to founding and directing the Grant Writing Training Foundation, Dr. Bev is also Vice President of Grants Professional Services for eCivis, Inc. She is the author over over 37 grant-related publications and a frequent keynote speaker and workshop presenter for national and regional conferences. Dr. Bev is a product of lifelong learning and an advocate for online teaching and learning!