Course mechanics recommendations

How to decide the 12 levers of the Course Mechanics Canvas

Chelsea Wilson avatar
Written by Chelsea Wilson
Updated over a week ago


  • Recommendations and rationale for each of the 12 levers of the Course Mechanics Canvas

The Course Mechanics Canvas (invented by Wes Kao) is a useful framework to help provide structure to the decisions you have to make as a course creator.

There's no "formula" for a successful cohort-based course. But, luckily, Maven has advised hundreds of instructors and learned what works/what doesn't. Here's what we recommend for your first cohort on Maven:

12 levers of course mechanics

Maven recommendation


3 live 90-min sessions over 1 week


4 live 90-min sessions over 2 weeks

Here’s why:

  1. Less overwhelming for you and busy students.

  2. Faster feedback loop so you know what to fix and change sooner.

  3. Denser courses are better. Students want to maximize insights per minute, and minimize time spent on Zoom.




This is the current average price of courses on Maven. Price depends on:

  1. Your students' ability to pay

  2. The ROI of your topic

  3. Alternatives

  4. Your minimum earnings/hour

You might be wondering: does length affect price? The answer: only a little. The average price of a 1-week course is $450 and 6-weeks is $650. The longer course is more expensive, but it's not 6x more expensive.


Cohort size

Aim for 5-25 to start (No maximum cohort size)

  1. You can run breakouts and discussions even with 4-5 people.

  2. Ensures a minimum viable community. Students can connect with others and form deep connections.


Medium: ~4 hours/week

Students want to feel like they got a lot in a short amount of time (high ROI), especially if they work full-time. 4-5 hours/week is just right for a busy professional. Your students' weekly commitment might be:

  • 3 live 90-min workshops

  • 30 min of projects/reading

Here’s a sample 1-week course schedule:

By the way, Maven makes it easy to automate calendar invites & recordings. If your student misses a session, the recording will be automatically uploaded into the Home schedule.


High: 1 project per week

Projects don't need to be time-consuming to be effective. You could assign a simple 5-min written reflection on the students' main takeaways and how they'll apply it. Or ask them to record a 5-min Loom explaining a concept in their own words.

Projects are a key differentiator for cohort-based courses that you don't get in video-based or self-paced learning. They provide structure, accountability, and feedback for students.

Maven makes it easy for instructors to create projects and for students to submit it & get peer feedback. Learn more here.

Group interaction

High: maximize this

The top-rated cohort-based courses are community-driven. How to facilitate community-building:

  • During live sessions, create time for students to discuss & share in breakout rooms (at least one 15-min breakout per hour)

  • Reply to every students' intro post in #intros

  • Encourage students to post their takeaways #share-your-work

  • Encourage students to submit their projects to #share-your-work, and provide peer feedback to someone else's project

  • Do a live exercise then go into breakouts to give peer feedback

  • Ask an icebreaker question at the beginning of class

  • Host a social on Zoom and facilitate icebreakers

Coach/TA involvement

Depends on your cohort size

You might want to consider contracting a coach or TA if:

  1. Your cohort exceeds 25 people and,

  2. You need help on Zoom production (e.g., initiating breakouts, screenshare)

A coach or TA can help with Zoom moderation, community management, and facilitating small group discussions.


Instructor involvement


Your students will be excited to learn from YOU. Here are ways you can create an amazing student experience:

  • Host live Q&A

  • Actively engage and respond in the community—emoji every post, reply to every intro

  • DM and engage with students

  • Respond quickly to emails and DMs

  • Ask for feedback often

  • Host a live critique or teardown

  • "Hot seat" or group coaching

Production value


Don't worry about creating beautiful slides and seamless transitions. Focus on creating an amazing and engaging student experience. You can always work out the kinks in your future cohorts.

Here are a few high reward/low lift ways to improve your production value:

  • A ring light or lamp to light your face

  • Upgrade your webcam

  • In Zoom, play music when students enter the room

  • Become proficient at screenshare

Pre-recorded content

Use it if you have it

Pre-recorded content and curated resources are great for knowledge transfer, so students feel more prepared for projects and exercises. If you have pre-recorded content, then definitely include it in your syllabus.

If you don't have any existing content, don't worry. You can curate the best resources on your topic. 90% of college professors teach this way, and we recommend it for everyone.

In the Maven syllabus builder, you can upload Resources and Videos to modules. You can link to any video on the internet.


Application process

No application

We recommend a direct pay course (no application) to maximize conversion. Applications can create more friction for students to enroll.

One benefit of an application is more control over quality. For example, if your course is for CEOs, then you can filter and be more selective.

Our recommendation is to keep it simple: no application. If you want to set up applications, here's how.

Cohort frequency

5-6x a year

Most Maven instructors run multiple times a year. Running a 1-week course 6x a year allows you to iterate and improve faster, build a regular marketing cadence, and take advantage of word-of-mouth from happy students.


Additional resources:

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