As you research the right online program for you, you may come across the terms asynchronous and synchronous learning. Synchronous learning occurs when students and instructors gather together in real-time. This can mean in-person instruction on campus, but it also can mean designated online meeting times. If the class is expected to be together regularly and at certain times for instruction, it’s synchronous learning.  While asynchronous learning is done more at your own pace. Instructors will link to pre-recorded lectures or videos for students to watch when it works for them. This does NOT mean there are no deadlines or that you can get the work done whenever you want. Asynchronous classes still usually require that students get a certain amount of work done at a certain time; however, students can do the learning or view the instruction anytime and anywhere up to that date. In this guide, we will dig deep into what Synchronous Learning and Asynchronous Learning mean and identify the key differences.

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Synchronous vs Asynchronous Learning – Key Differences

Depending on what kind of a student you are, full time, part-time, only a few hours a week kind of a student, but if you are here on this page, it means you are probably looking to see the differences between an asynchronous vs synchronous teaching program and depending on your work schedule and other responsibilities trying to assess how well each program would fit into your life. Are you able to log on and attend classes at specific times? Or is it more realistic for you to complete work each week at times that suit you best – no matter if it’s 3 p.m. or 3 a.m.?

Here’s what one should know about synchronous vs asynchronous classes: Asynchronous online learning allows students to view instructional materials each week at any time they choose and does not include a live video lecture component. On the other hand, synchronous online learning means that students are required to log in and participate in class at a specific time each week. The main difference between asynchronous learning and synchronous learning is this live instruction component occurring at a set time. We’ll describe more differences in the sections below, as well as some of the pros, cons, and best practices of each style.

Synchronous Learning

Synchronous learning means that although you will be learning from a distance, you will virtually attend a class session each week, at the same time as your instructor and classmates. The class is a firm, weekly time commitment that cannot be rescheduled. Much like an on-campus class, you will have readings and assignments to complete outside of class time to help prepare you to participate in the discussion. This kind of preparation from students, along with a dedicated agenda set by the instructor, ensures each class session is productive.

Online synchronous learning doesn’t always just take the form of a live video lecture or an instructor-led discussion. Often, students will lead discussions themselves or give presentations to the rest of the class. In an online class, group work doesn’t go away, it just looks a little different. Teachers explain that some instructors will pose case studies to students, who then must negotiate an answer first as a small group and then together, as a class. Specific types of activities included in a synchronous course depend on the course and the program.

Example of Synchronous Learning –  Professor expects the class to be in-person or to tune in on Zoom Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:30 am.

Asynchronous Learning

Asynchronous learning allows you to learn on your schedule, within a certain timeframe. You can access and complete lectures, readings, homework, and other learning materials at any time during a one- or two-week period.

A big benefit of online asynchronous classes is, of course, the flexibility.  An asynchronous learning example is that you don’t always need to be online at the same time as your instructor or classmates, giving that freedom to students who are looking to take an entire program online are partially looking for that flexibility. The online asynchronous format might include short videos teaching key concepts that you can watch repeatedly, if necessary. Asynchronous learning means In some classes, students can also complete homework assignments and receive immediate feedback, as opposed to waiting for instructors to grade them.

But don’t get the idea that asynchronous classes are any less rigorous than their synchronous or on-campus counterparts.

Just like a student on campus, students should expect to be doing work one week at a time, they should also expect to have contact with their instructor and classmates every week in a substantial way.”

Example of Asynchronous Learning –  Professor expects students to complete video assignments and respond in a forum by Friday at 5 pm.

Synchronous vs Asynchronous Learning – Details

We discussed the outline of the differences between Synchronous vs Asynchronous Learning. In this section, we detail the difference.

Reflecting on complex issues When synchronous meetings cannot be scheduled because of work, family, and other commitmentsDiscussing fewer complex issues Getting acquainted Planning tasks
Students have more time to reflect because the sender does not expect an immediate answer.Students become more committed and motivated because a quick response is expected.
Use asynchronous means such as e-mail, discussion boards, and blogs.Use synchronous means such as videoconferencing, instant messaging, and chat, and complement with face-to-face meetings.
Students expected to reflect individually on course topics may be asked to maintain a blog. Students expected to share reflections regarding course topics and critically assess their peers’ ideas may be asked to participate in online discussions on a discussion board.Students expected to work in groups may be advised to use instant messaging as support for getting to know each other, exchanging ideas, and planning tasks. A teacher who wants to present concepts from the literature in a simplified way might give an online lecture by videoconferencing.

FAQs about Synchronous vs Asynchronous Learning

 FAQs about Online MBA

Is asynchronous learning better than synchronous?

Certain majors or classes may work better in synchronous or hybrid environments. If students wish to fast-track their training, asynchronous classes might be best. For those looking for a more immersive college experience, synchronous training might work better.

What are a few examples of asynchronous learning?

What are the challenges in synchronous teaching?

How effective is asynchronous learning?

Do students prefer synchronous or asynchronous learning?

Is Google classroom synchronous or asynchronous?

Conclusion & Additional Resources about Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning

Synchronous and asynchronous online learning each have their place, depending on what an instructor is trying to achieve, and the guidance they may have received from their institution, faculty, or department. For example, a live synchronous presentation allows students to ask questions while the presentation is in progress, and a recorded asynchronous presentation allows students time to deliberate and reflect before asking their questions, perhaps in an online discussion group. Live, synchronous chat office hours allow the instructor and a student to have an interaction that resembles a real conversation, using an asynchronous discussion board to collect and respond to questions works better for students whose schedules wouldn’t permit them to engage in a live chat. Here are two most important points to deliberate when picking up a synchronous or asynchronous learning course:

Immediacy and Bandwidth:

Some students’ access to technology may be uncertain, therefore low bandwidth – low immediacy tools (green tools in the diagram below) are your best bet. Use higher immediacy and higher bandwidth tools when you have a clear learning purpose for doing so but have a backup plan.

Both immediacy and bandwidth should be considered when choosing an online tool. Using limited or compromised bandwidth – for example, a data plan on a smartphone – students will be challenged to participate in a live video presentation. A recorded version might be preferable. If an online meeting with a student doesn’t require video, use just audio. If the student needs to see something the instructor is doing during the meeting and needs to be able to ask questions while it is taking place, then live video may be the best option.

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