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 and best practices of each style.
Synchronous Online Courses
Teaching synchronously most closely resembles the traditional classroom experience, but as a general rule, lecturing for 30 -50 is not ideal in the best of times and definitely not in the virtual environment.
Here are some best practices for synchronous classes:
- Hold class discussions
- Student presentations
- Guest speakers
- Scheduled assessments
- Work through concepts as a class in real-time
- Allow students the opportunity to collaborate with peers while engaging in course content
- Q&A for complex material
- Practice a Flipped Classroom
- Keep your presentations to 10-15 minute blocks
- Use Zoom polls and breakout rooms
- Use multimedia with Zoom Screenshare
- Allow time for class chatter to allow social engagement and peer connections
Here are some challenges with synchronous classes:
- Rigid schedule – students may be attending numerous synchronous classes or may have changing work/family schedules.
- Technical difficulties – broadband and devices are ongoing issues for many of our students.
Asynchronous Online Classes
Asynchronous classes allow you to learn on your own schedule within a specified timeframe. Lectures are recorded and captioned and available along with other course materials at any time. The most important aspect is the flexibility it offers.
Here are some best practices for asynchronous classes:
- Create a consistent schedule
- Use Modules to organize course content in the LMS
- Provide consistent announcements
- Provide explicit instructions
- Utilize rubrics
- Support learning through interaction in discussion forums among peers
- Support learning through one-to-one communication with the instructor
- Utilize peer collaboration on assignments
Here are some challenges for asynchronous classes:
- Isolation – students may feel alone and need real-time interaction.
- Lack of Apathy – students may lack the drive to stay on track in the
Finding A Balance
There is a way to balance online teaching with a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning activities.
Here are some best practices for balancing both offerings:
- Weekly asynchronous modules in the LMS with virtual office hours or virtual working sessions.
- Weekly asynchronous modules in the LMS with synchronous sessions 3 times throughout the course (beginning, midterm, and end.) These synchronous sessions must be listed in the syllabus and/or in the class schedule during registration if mandatory.
- Weekly asynchronous modules in the LMS with one weekly synchronous class session. These synchronous sessions must be listed in the syllabus and/or In the class schedule during registration if mandatory.
- Weekly asynchronous modules in the LMS with synchronous group work (each week or periodically throughout the semester.)