Asynchronous Online Learning
The boost of asynchronous online learning came with the development of internet-based technologies, only to be accelerated by the pandemic. Institutions that have adapted are incorporating online asynchronous learning into their course curricula to provide students with a wider range of learning options — and greater flexibility in how, when, and where they complete coursework. When you provide asynchronous distance learning programs, you’re expanding access to adult and non-traditional learners and students regardless of geographic location.
Asynchronous e-learning is beneficial for students and instructors alike. One of the most important effects of asynchronous learning on students is the flexibility to participate in classes on their own time and in their own way. Many students juggle multiple responsibilities outside of the classroom, including full-time jobs and caring for their families. Online asynchronous learning allows them to include education in their list of priorities, in the way that makes most sense for them. Rather than having to meet in a classroom setting at a specified date and time, they can work through course material at their own pace.
Colleges and universities continue to see the importance of asynchronous learning and are creating more online and hybrid course opportunities for students. As more students opt for online learning options, institutions are gradually making the shift from traditional classroom learning to learning that takes place partly or entirely online. This has made it possible for a diverse set of learners to continue their education. They can access the same course material that students participating in traditional learning do but in a much more convenient way.
What is Asynchronous Learning
Asynchronous learning is a learning model in which students complete course material at their own pace instead of meeting with instructors and classmates to work through assignments at set dates and times. With asynchronous online learning, students complete assignments independently online.
Understanding “asynchronous and synchronous class” meaning and their differences are critical. More importantly, instructional designers should understand the pros and cons of each in order to employ the most effective format for students and the course material.
While both synchronous and asynchronous online learning are beneficial to students, different types of students may benefit more from one than the other. For example, asynchronous learning typically best serves adult learners with jobs and families, as it allows them to work when and where it’s most convenient for them. Younger students with more free time often benefit from traditional synchronous learning because it helps keep them on track and allows for in-person social connection. The characteristics of asynchronous learning are aligned with the needs of more non-traditional students, and instructors should account for this when determining how to structure their courses.
Asynchronous vs. Synchronous Learning
While the terms are big, the difference between asynchronous and synchronous learning is simple. Asynchronous learning allows students to move at their own pace, while synchronous learning requires students and instructors to meet at set times to discuss course material and complete assignments. When considering asynchronous vs synchronous learning, the debate is not one of the other—it all comes down to the preferred learning style and incorporating an effective mix of asynchronous and synchronous activities.
For instance, one of the major disadvantages of synchronous learning is that it can inhibit working students from participating in courses when they occur at a set time/day. But this learning method can be extremely beneficial to students who struggle to stay on track when working independently. Weighing the pros and cons of asynchronous and synchronous learning is crucial for instructors and school administrators. Ideally, both should be offered as a means for students to complete degree programs. They might also participate in hybrid models, during which synchronous online learning is delivered via video lectures and group discussions, and other assignments are completed asynchronously on students’ own time.
Providing both synchronous and asynchronous distance learning is a great way to engage a diverse student population, and you can also offer a mix of on-site and online learning. There are a myriad of ways instructors can utilize asynchronous and synchronous learning to meet diverse student needs. Understanding the similarities between synchronous and asynchronous learning, as well as how they are different, can enable you to make more informed decisions about how to best deliver course material.
Benefits of Asynchronous Learning
The benefits of asynchronous learning range from greater flexibility to the development of independent thinking skills. Still, this learning model is not without its downsides, so understanding the advantages and disadvantages of asynchronous learning is critical to choosing the right learning activities for students. Viewing some of the research on asynchronous learning can give you a better idea of how this model benefits different types of students. You can also gauge the effectiveness of synchronous and asynchronous learning and determine which model may be best for your courses.
For example, one of the benefits of synchronous learning is that it helps students remain aligned on common learning objectives. However, this may not be worth the tradeoff for students who would rather learn at their own pace. Similarly, while asynchronous learning is valuable for working students who may be unavailable during the day, other students who live on campus may prefer to actually meet with their classmates at a physical location to discuss course material in a more traditional learning environment.
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to learn, and institutions should continue to offer a range of opportunities for students. By considering both the advantages and disadvantages of synchronous and asynchronous learning, you can get a clearer picture of what these models bring to the table, as well as the challenges associated with each one. As more and more students experience the benefits of asynchronous online learning, colleges are expanding access to hybrid and remote learning models.
Disadvantages of Asynchronous Learning
Although asynchronous learning offers many student benefits, there are some things to consider before building or participating in this type of course. First, asynchronous learning can be difficult for those that require regular, face-to-face interaction with peers and instructors. While students are still able to interact with each other online, some may feel disconnected from the class or unable to connect meaningfully, resulting in less favorable outcomes.
Another one of the major disadvantages of asynchronous learning is that it requires a great deal of self-discipline, which some students lack. To be successful in an online asynchronous course, students need to know how to manage their time; they need to know how to balance their work and personal lives with their schoolwork. As such, asynchronous learning can be a great option for more mature students who are more experienced in juggling multiple responsibilities. This is why it’s important for instructors to consider the ages, needs, and capabilities of the students they’re working with in order to determine how to best deliver course material.
Tools For Asynchronous Learning
There are many different types of tools for asynchronous learning. With an asynchronous learning tool, you can elevate learning for online students. For example, some asynchronous apps provide live chat functionality so that students and instructors can communicate in real time just as they would via text or social media. In most cases, asynchronous technologies also allow users to interact on camera, as is the case with platforms like Zoom and Skype. You can also find synchronous tools to help with more traditional, in-person learning, as well as synchronous and asynchronous learning tools for hybrid or blended learning models.
Harmonize’s asynchronous online learning tools for students include multimedia discussion boards, chat, Q&A forums, and integrations with synchronous meeting platforms like Zoom. The platform also offers a suite of helpful features for instructors. For example, instructors can give feedback to students with image and video annotation. You can also access activity reports that display metrics related to student engagement. This can be extremely helpful in determining who’s doing well in the course and which students may need extra attention. Harmonize allows students and instructors to access all of these features from a single, centralized app integrated within the LMS, simplifying the asynchronous online learning process for everyone involved.
Asynchronous Learning Examples
You can learn more about asynchronous learning by exploring asynchronous learning examples. For example:
- Consider building collaborative learning spaces by using online discussion boards to help students stay connected, even though they may be completing course material online at different times. Students can post questions and view the responses from other students. They can also leverage multimedia to make posts more interactive. Harmonize allows users to make posts and insert media into those posts. This can be especially helpful for visual learners.
- Build in simple interactions. During live instruction or in offline time, be sure to take temperature checks throughout the class. This could be a simple thumbs up/down or a yes/no poll. These will help you to make sure everyone is engaged and interacting. When teaching live, consciously design pauses into the lesson — using polls — that allow students moments to work with the information being presented and provide feedback.
- Use active learning techniques. Another way to reinforce continuity is by using active learning techniques. Assign activities during an asynchronous session and have the responses create the agenda or your talking points for the synchronous session. This approach provides ample opportunities for students to process course material through thinking, writing, talking, and problem solving — giving students multiple avenues for learning. It also allows the instructors to provide timely feedback.
These asynchronous learning examples, along with the right technology, can help you design a more effective online learning experience for students.