EdTech 2.0: Online peer-based education comes of age


Education technology, often referred to as Edtech, has been one of the biggest disruptors of the past decade and education as we know it today has metamorphosed into various digital formats. A quick recap: The first installment of the ed-tech revolution came in the form of online education via MOOCs (massive open online courses) that offer pre-recorded courses on demand. However, despite its benefits, only 3% of total enrolled students complete MOOC sessions, according to industry watchers. This gap has led to the rise of two-way learning via cohort-based courses (CBC), bringing Edtech 2.0.

CBCs are interactive online courses in which a group of students – in “cohorts” – progress through the material together, with hands-on feedback-based learning at their core. The last two years (2020 and 2021) have seen the rise of several new age start-ups that provide learning opportunities through CBCs. Launched in April 2021, Seekho is one such platform. “Cohort courses, as opposed to traditional courses, increase completion rates by 80% or more because they motivate students to perform better than their peers in the cohort,” says Divya Jain, co-founder of Seekho.

The idea behind Seekho is very simple – a learning community that connects young people to live lessons from industry gurus and high-demand non-tech jobs. Users can join Seekho’s Academies, which provide access to a plethora of interactive live events, as well as community engagement and peer-to-peer learning. It then allows businesses to match with users, allowing them to hire from an industry-ready pool of talent. Seekho’s parent company, Seekify, raised $1.5 million in seed funding from Sequoia Surge in 2019 to achieve its goal of combining Jobtech and Edtech.

“As far as our target group demographics go, they are people in their final year of college and early-career professionals looking to explore other avenues and fields,” says Jain.

Due to accountability and interaction, cohort-based courses provide high-quality filtered content. Take for example GrowthSchool, a community-driven learning platform. It partners with the top 1% of instructors to create high-impact courses for the personal and professional growth of learners around the world. It raised $5 million in a funding round led by Sequoia Capital India and Owl Ventures.

“At GrowthSchool, we have doubled cohort-based learning over the past year, impacting over 200,000 learners by creating over 20 programs with over 50 mentors across the globe,” says Vaibhav Sisinty, Founder and CEO of GrowthSchool. “Anyone who wants to acquire a new skill can engage in this type of learning. For example, we have 13-year-olds learning how to build mobile apps and 55-year-olds learning how to scale their D2C brand,” he adds.

Newton School is another ed-tech startup that has mastered this format. It was founded in 2019 with the goal of empowering people to upskill with industry-relevant skills and become full-stack developers. It offers a six-month program taught in a group mentor setup, not only to equip its graduates with industry requirements, but also to make this talent pool available to hiring partners. RTP Global led a $5m Series A funding round for this Bengaluru-based Edtech startup.

“Cohort learning, which has traditionally worked best in academic settings, is also becoming the preferred teaching method in fields outside of higher education,” says Siddharth Maheshwari, co-founder of the Newton School. “Newton School courses are entirely cohort-based to promote a highly interactive, immersive and personalized learning experience for our students,” he says.

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