Today, more and more people choose to learn online. Due to its rise in popularity, educators have started to develop new tools to best use the online environment to bring about academic knowledge. So far, they have come up with two main ways of achieving that: synchronous and asynchronous learning.
What Is Synchronous Learning?
With synchronous learning, students use videoconferencing and chat to study their subject. This is done in real time, with all students and tutors taking part at the same time. Very simply put, it is a virtual classroom, meaning students can ask their teachers questions directly and converse with their fellow students. Usually, this is done through instant messaging, which means the messages arrive immediately – synchronously. It is an interactive method of learning that often requires specialized software.
While all students, regardless of how they complete a course, are expected to engage in independent learning and studies, synchronous learning focuses on giving direct interaction with students. It includes lectures just like those that are held on campus.
So what are the benefits of synchronous classes? These include the fact that:
- It is a very close replica of the campus classroom, allowing for engagement with peers and faculty
- It is delivered in an interactive, real time way. This allows the students to go along with the course as it happens. They also take part in classrooms, being able to ask questions and voice their opinions in debates and discussions, which are important learning tools.
- It allows for greater collaboration, which is also a meaningful learning factor. Students can work together with their fellow students, which has been shown to create a sense of achievement and satisfaction. Although research is ongoing, it is believed that outcomes may be better with synchronous learning than with asynchronous learning specifically for this reason.
- Students get to work together with actual teachers, who teach in real time. They are there to facilitate, assist, and guide thought progression, just as they do in an on campus classroom. This ensures that learners can continue to be motivated to take ownership of their own learning.
Very simply put, the key benefit to synchronous learning is student engagement. This is achieved through a variety of modern technological tools, including:
- Telephone conferencing
- Video conferencing
- Online seminars
Many feel that the entire learning experience can be bolstered through this this type of learning. Students can talk about what they think and be challenged or supported on that, as the thoughts happen. This could potentially facilitate more advanced learning, as people can debate certain opinions and thoughts, without relevance being lost due to the time delay of asynchronous learning.
What Is Asynchronous Learning?
Asynchronous learning is very different, in as such that students complete their coursework at a time that is convenient to them, usually offline. It means that coursework is sent to the students physically, or through online methods, after which they complete it on their own and then finally send it back electronically. What people like about this method of learning is that it allows students to be self-paced. The internet is only a tool for support, rather than to be interactive with others.
In simple terms, asynchronous learning is not done in real time. It means that the students do not have to be at a specific place at a particular time. Rather, they set their own agenda. On the other hand, in most cases, there is usually a deadline that they have to adhere to.
Because everything is virtual nowadays, asynchronous learning does use the internet as an important tool. Usually, students have access to a resource library, as well as chat facilities or email support with their tutor. They can also submit their assignments through this portal. That being said, there are still some asynchronous courses that are 100% offline, although these are now few and far between.
So what are the benefits of asynchronous learning? These include the fact that:
- Students become excellent time managers, as this is the key factor for them to complete their course.
- Students are not prevented from communicating with peers and faculty. Rather, they have to take the initiative to do that themselves. Often, there are Facebook groups set up for each course, where students can message each other.
- There is no time pressure.
- There is no peer pressure.
- Students can take as much time as they need to understand the subject material.
- Collaboration continues to be very important, although it is not done in real time. This gives students the opportunity to think outside of the box.
- Asynchronous collaboration projects are usually part of any program, which encourages peer engagement and a sense of community among learners.
In a nutshell, asynchronous learning takes a great deal of the pressure away. This is seen as essential in helping the students professionally develop, and it may also motivate them to take part in as much of the course as possible. This is particularly true if employers invest in this type of training, as it means their workforce can study around their job, instead of the other way around.
Interestingly, asynchronous learning is a lot more popular than synchronous learning, despite the many benefits to the latter. It is believed that this is due simply to the fact that people can set their own time schedule.
Which Is Better – Synchronous or Asynchronous?
Both types of learning have their own particular benefits and drawbacks. The best way to determine which option is best for you is to look at your personal learning objectives. While synchronous learning certainly has far greater levels of direct and immediate engagement, the reality is that similar levels of engagement can be established over time with asynchronous learning. What really makes one or the other better, however, is the quality of the content of the course.
Asynchronous learning is more popular, both with students and with universities. This is because a larger audience can be reached, and because students can learn without having to make substantial changes to their personal schedule. If at all possible, students should aim to combine synchronous with asynchronous learning where and when they can.