What is Synchronous Learning V.S. Asynchronous Learning?
When you think synchronous learning, think about synchronised swimming. It is the same action performed by different people at the same time and (usually) in the same place. Synchronous learning doesn’t have to happen in person, though: thanks to things like Zoom, Instagram Live and streaming on sites like Twitch or Youtube, large groups of people can participate in the same ‘live’ event even though they are physically distant. That is essentially what synchronous learning is: people doing an activity at the same time, even though they aren’t necessarily in the same location. Instead, they are “together” virtually, experiencing the same lesson live and (usually) able to interact with one another and with their instructors.
Asynchronous learning on the other hand is a solo performance, like diving at the Olympic Games. Everybody is doing the same task, but when they do it varies, and they don’t really interact with one another. You can also think of it like assigning a class to watch a documentary as homework, then telling them there’s a quiz on Monday. It doesn’t matter when they watch the film so long as they do it before test day. Everybody ends up doing the same thing, but they do it in their own way and in their own time.
What are the Pros and Cons of Synchronous Learning?
Synchronous learning’s primary benefit is that it is most similar to a traditional classroom setting which almost everyone is used to in one fashion or another. That closeness to the familiar makes it easy for most people to understand how it works and can take away apprehension from the learners.
The downside of synchronous learning is that it requires everyone to be available at the exact same time to all participate in the event in question. This can cause scheduling errors or mix-ups, delays if certain folks cannot make the event, and frustration.
Pros of Synchronous Learning:
- It feels like learning in a classroom.
- You can have a much larger audience than would fit into a building because it is done digitally.
- You can integrate tools like PowerPoint, videos, and audio clips much more easily into the lessons since all participants have access to a digital device.
- No need to coordinate, rent out or clean up a space.
- No commute or travel time.
- Students, instructors and trainees can interact with one another, ask questions and get feedback in real-time.
Cons of Synchronous Learning:
- Requires all participants having access to a computer or smartphone with a stable internet connection.
- Interacting with others digitally instead of in-person can feel taxing and hollow.
- Forcing all learners to fit into a single time slot can leave people out if they do not have availability.
- Instructors not used to teaching virtually may struggle to connect with students.
What are the Pros and Cons of Asynchronous Learning?
Asynchronous learning’s primary advantage is that it can be engaged with at the leisure and convenience of the student. It can be slowed or sped up, repeated, and annotated after the fact.
The primary disadvantage is that asynchronous learning struggles with student-to-student and student-to-teacher interaction. It can be difficult for instructors to respond to questions and fix errors if they happen, since there is a time-lag.
Pros of Asynchronous Learning:
- Can be viewed more than once.
- Convenience; learning can happen when it is most beneficial for the student.
- Students who learn better more slowly can often decrease the speed of the video or audio presentation so it is easier for them to understand.
- Flexibility to participate whenever.
- The content of the lessons is typically evergreen: meaning it can be reused many times.
Cons of Asynchronous Learning:
- Little-to-no interaction between learners and the instructor.
- Lack of a “live” lesson can make it feel lonely to some.
- Procrastinating students are not motivated by asynchronous learning as much as synchronous.
- No ability to adapt and immediately respond to questions on the fly.
What are Examples of Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning?
Examples of synchronous learning include:
- Facebook or Instagram Live
- Video Conferencing like Zoom or Google Hangouts
Examples of asynchronous learning:
- Youtube or other video lessons
- Text chains like email
- Blog-post comments
- Online reviews
Which Option Should You Choose?
The answer to this depends upon the priority of your organization, school or business. Asynchronous learning’s benefit is the flexibility it offers, but synchronous learning offers a social aspect and the ability to adapt in real-time to questions and concerns. To get the most benefit, it is typical to use a hybrid of both learning methods. Often a live session done synchronously is recorded and then made available for those who could not make the live showing: sort of like taping a comedy show and then putting it up on Netflix. The audience (or the student) can’t directly interact, but they still get much of the benefit.
When considering how to teach students, it is also important to consider if you should use a learning management system, how to implement vicarious and cognitive learning theory, and how to best lean on video to educate your students.