Online learning has opened up a world of possibilities to help to support students on their learning journey. Choosing the right method depends on your learning objective for the particular lesson you are delivering online. Each offers advantages and, of course, drawbacks. So, what is Synchronous and Asynchronous learning and which one should you choose?

Synchronous Learning

Synchronous learning takes place in ‘real-time’, where students are engaging in learning at the same time. This enables your students to ask questions and receive answers straight away. It also allows students to collaborate freely with others. However, it does have some drawbacks which should be considered carefully given the current education climate and workloads. Synchronous learners need to be online at a certain time, and therefore their learning has to adhere to a specific schedule. This can mean a lot more work for you as an academic when managing the schedule and attendees. Some students may feel they are not receiving the individual attention they need or struggle to understand aspects of the lesson. Therefore, group dynamics can sometimes create difficult-to-manage situations. Synchronous learning also requires significantly more bandwidth to run video conferencing and some virtual classrooms, so this another consideration to be aware of. All that being said, there can be some excellent learning and teaching opportunities using this method but you need to balance time, energy and think about what you want to achieve.

Some examples of synchronous learning:

  • Live webinars
  • Instant messaging
  • Video conferencing
  • Virtual classrooms

Asynchronous Learning

Asynchronous learning is a much more learner-centred approach and enables students to complete tasks without being bound by strict meeting schedules. It can be much less of a burden to both the tutor and student and allows a much greater degree of freedom to complete course material. It is, therefore, much more learner-centred and respectful to the learning pace of students and has fewer social obstacles and schedule challenges. While online interaction and collaboration are proven to enhance the online learning experience, many students do not enjoy socialising and feel uncomfortable about the idea of participating in online discussions. This is particularly true where their more dominating peers have the greatest impact upon the virtual classroom.

When you create asynchronous content, you can continuously refine, improve and scale up the resource(s) as time goes on. In synchronous environments, a learning experience is finite and only happens in one place in time. Asynchronous learning has the ability to grow and evolve into improved learning over time.

Some examples of asynchronous learning:

  • Email
  • Blogs
  • Documents, content and assessments uploaded to the VLE (Blackboard/TU Online)
  • Pre-recorded video lessons or webinars
  • Online discussion boards
  • Collaborative documents on the cloud

Watch the video below to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of each:

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