What do education and music have in common? Rhythm.

We gain our first introduction to the rhythms of education in kindergarten. The natural order of fall starts, winter breaks, spring starts, and summers off provide the mile markers that guide us through the year and organize our memories. The seasonal cadence of education follows us throughout our lives as sure as the seasonality embedded in nature.

Then there is the rolling start cohort model of higher ed.

The “Idealistic” Cohort Model

Largely a product of the for-profit space, this cohort model seemingly offers some major business advantages. The idea is simple—you acquire a ton of inquiries, and as soon as those inquiries convert to reach a certain number of applicants, you enroll those students right away. This model definitely lessens the lag time between the decision to enroll and starting classes, and institutions were quick to adopt it in the name of growing enrollments.

In an idealistic world, the cohort model is a beautiful model. You start a group of students together, and those students move on to share the same experience throughout their time at the institution. They become coaches and support systems for one another—as one of them struggles to progress or work through challenges, their peers rally like white blood cells around them.

Conceptually this model is great, and with small, contained programs—particularly at the graduate level—it still works really well.

Yet many institutions find themselves unable to generate the inquiry volume to maintain this model.

(Next page: A better term model)

About the Author:

Cherron Hoppes is the Chief Academic Officer at Helix Education. She holds a doctorate of education (Ed.D.) from The University of Alabama with a specialization in higher education administration.


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