Learning September 23, 2022

Ultimate Guide to Synchronous vs Asynchronous Learning

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Synchronous vs Asynchronous Learning

The sudden onset of the pandemic has shone a new light on the art of learning. As the world shut down, educators found different ways to deliver their programs remotely. The two buzzwords that have overtaken the online academic world are synchronous vs asynchronous learning.

If you are wondering what these forms of learning represent, they mean the difference between following your course material in real time vs. studying at your own pace. So, in the age of digital learning, where millions of students are taking courses online, the question is, what’s the best delivery method of teaching to serve the needs of learners?

Before going into the synchronous vs asynchronous learning debate, let’s discuss what these learning mediums encompass.

What is Synchronous Learning?

With synchronous learning, education happens live and at the moment, as in the case of a webinar or a workshop. Before the covid-19 pandemic hit, most synchronous learning occurred in face-to-face classroom settings. However, it has changed since then! We are now seeing a shift from in-person to virtual learning environments, live training formats, video conferencing, and live chat rooms.

Synchronous learning

Why Choose It?

Why would you still opt for synchronous learning when instructors can record almost every course?

Well, it turns out that students like it. Often, learners who buy asynchronous courses do not end up completing them. Getting through the course all by yourself becomes challenging without community and accountability. That is precisely why some students still choose live learning, where they can see and interact with the instructor in real-time.

Theoretically, it might limit your scale as you cannot just sell thousands of copies of a course recording. But, synchronous learning does provide a better experience for some students. Also, some educators prefer it because it lets them feed off the energy of their students, so they bring A-game to their studies.

Pros of Synchronous Learning

There are numerous benefits to the live nature of synchronous learning, including;

Pros of Synchronous Learning

Real-Time Interactions

Through synchronous learning, learners can interact with fellow students and instructors in real time. By engaging with each other, elaborate and high-quality discussions unfold among students contributing to the overall educational experience.

Real-Time Interactions

Instant Feedback

Also, as students can ask educators questions in real-time, they get immediate feedback on their progress. Thus it allows teachers to meet students in their exact moment of learning need– rather than sharing feedback several hours or days later when the lesson isn’t fresh in the student’s mind.

Instant feedback

Accelerated Learning Curve

When students get to clarify their doubts instantly, they can quickly move on from their learning obstacles, allowing them to accelerate their learning curve.

Cons of Synchronous Learning

Additionally, synchronous learning has multiple challenges. Here are a few;

Cons of Synchronous Learning

Lacks Flexibility

Because synchronous learning happens at a set time, it is not flexible to accommodate different schedules and priorities. Students and teachers alike are expected to commit to a fixed time and place, which can be difficult for those with other commitments.

Inconsistent Learning Experience

During synchronous learning, the quality of the session depends on who the instructor is. Consequently, the quality and learning experience of such sessions can be inconsistent.

Inconsistent Learning Experience

No Personalized Attention

With multiple students participating in a single session, it’s natural to feel the need to compete for the teacher’s attention. Unfortunately, a lack of attention from educators can lead to favoritism toward some learners.

No personalized attention

What is Asynchronous Learning?

Asynchronous learning refers to forms of education that do not occur in the classroom or at the same time. So, learners can engage with study materials anytime and at their convenience. Asynchronous learning is usually delivered through pre-recorded lectures and downloadable digital content to allow such flexibility. Some common examples are e-learning courses, recorded videos, webinars, podcasts, discussion boards, and downloadable PDF resources. 

Asynchronous learning

Now that we have a clear picture let’s explore why you should choose asynchronous learning.

Why Choose It?

Like synchronous learning, asynchronous education has its benefits. The most significant advantage for students is that they can go about their studies at their own pace. They no longer have to manage schedules for a live session. They can accomplish tasks and assignments when they have time.

Moreover, learners with disabilities and different learning styles claim they have greater freedom to learn when and how they want. And for those with other responsibilities, for example, single parents juggling upskilling with work shifts, asynchronous learning ensures they’ll be successful.

Instructors can also enjoy asynchronous learning. While we do not want to create and forget during e-learning programs, asynchronous learning does allow teachers to scale their efforts without the need to re-teach their course live all the time.

Likewise, it allows instructors to reach more students who aren’t limited by time constraints.

Pros of Asynchronous Learning

The advantages of asynchronous learning are as follows;

Pros of Asynchronous Learning

Flexible Schedule

One of the most significant advantages of asynchronous learning is that students can engage with study material and resources at their preferred time and place. As a result, learners and educators can prioritize their other commitments besides training.

Interaction & Feedback

Even though asynchronous learning doesn’t happen in real-time, students can still post questions to discussion forums or send them through email and get responses later. Hence, there is still room for engagement and peer collaboration despite not interacting individually.

Interaction & Feedback

A Large Number of Learners

Additionally, as asynchronous learning occurs across multiple platforms, locations, and different times, an unlimited number of learners can participate in a single course. Therefore, it makes the training content more accessible.

Cons of Asynchronous Learning

As it has advantages, there are also some disadvantages of asynchronous learning.

Cons of Asynchronous Learning

Lack of Classroom Interaction

Without educators and peer presence, asynchronous learning lacks a personal touch. As a result, students are highly unlikely to form classroom relationships that they would otherwise have along their educational journey if it were in a real-time learning environment.

Need to be Self-Disciplined

Because asynchronous courses are individualistic, they require self-discipline. Students must stay focused and self-motivated to stay on top of their progress. That is why learners lacking discipline don’t do quite well in asynchronous learning.

How to Choose Synchronous vs Asynchronous Learning?

So how can you decide which form of learning is better and what suits your learning needs? There’s no set rule for every case. The choice of synchronous vs asynchronous learning depends on your particular needs.

You should try asynchronous learning if your students are self-directed and autonomous learners.

Likewise, if the learners have limitations in joining through synchronous live sessions, you should consider an asynchronous form of education. However, synchronous learning answers your educational needs if they require live feedback and assistance.

Why Not Use Both?

While we like the idea of dichotomy, setting up a choice of synchronous vs asynchronous learning is a bit misleading. When you can choose the best of both worlds and still generate a great course, why not use both?

One way to combine both is by hosting a live synchronous session and offering recordings to students who cannot attend classes simultaneously. Students can get all the benefits of interactions when they make it live, but they can also catch up later if they miss the session. 

Another way of utilizing both is adding an online community to your course. It will allow students to go through the course material at their own pace, but adding live Q&A sessions, office hours, and co-working times gives you the advantages of a synchronous course. You can also create a discussion forum or all-member chats to keep the conversation going. Thus this combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning gives you the advantages of accountability, getting questions answered, and relationship-building without having to worry about running a course multiple times

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