Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning

     There are two primary forms of online learning modalities: synchronous and asynchronous.  Both types of learning have positive and negative aspects.  Facilitation strategies also differ for asynchronous and synchronous learning.  The roles of the facilitator and the student are defined by the method of academic delivery.  The differences between asynchronous and synchronous learning will  explored and compared.

Advantages and Disadvantages

     There are many advantages and disadvantages of both synchronous and asynchronous learning. It is important for the      educator to select the right type of learning environment in order to foster an efficient and successful learning experience.  The following chart lists the advantages and disadvantages of each and can help guide the adult educator in choosing the most appropriate learning environment.

Synchronous

Learning Advantages

Asynchronous

Learning Advantages

Increases arousal, motivation, and convergence on meaning

Helpful when reflecting on complex issues since an immediate answer is not expected

Learners are eager to give their input on an issue

Gives time to process information

Adult learners are more stimulated intellectually when an immediate response is expected

Important when synchronous meetings cannot be scheduled

Useful in discussing less

complex issues

Most of the time is spent

on subject

Gives the adult learner the ability to discuss more basic topics with short reflection time

Time spent off subject is kept to a minimum

Excellent for social interaction and discussing multiple topics in one session

Improves work efficiency of time committed to tasks

Synchronous Learning Disadvantages

Asynchronous Learning Disadvantages

Time spent off subject can be significant

Social interaction is limited to text or other non-interactive type media

Learners may spend time discussing issues not relevant to the topic

Students feel distant or separated from group

Can lead to distractions and a waste of time

Exchange of ideas are limited

Can be affected by personal schedules and planning

Can lead to confusion and prolonged planning of tasks

Facilitation Strategies

     Instructional strategies for synchronous and asynchronous learning environments vary because the learning environment depends of differences of time and place.  Facilitators of synchronous learning provide an experience similar to the traditional learning environment. Synchronous instructors are proactively interacting with students during class time.  The asynchronous learning environment is similar to the online modality or distance education courses.  Below is a visual organizer of strategies within a synchronous and asynchronous learning environment.

Synchronous

Facilitation

Strategies

Asynchronous

Facilitation

Strategies

Provide visuals through webcasts or webinars.  This allows the learners to follow you through your presentation.

Incorporate activities that empower student collaboration outside of forum discussion.

Using power point, blackboard or whiteboards can reinforce performance objectives visually.

Provide students with a timeline or calendar that promotes proactiveparticipation in discussion forums.

Activate an auditory element through podcast or webcast.  The inflection in your voice will help to reinforce learning for auditory learners.

Facilitate by using your online
personality.  Use emoticons to showcase your personality. Be cognizant of being too “wordy” or not providing enough
explanations for assignments.

Chat capabilities allow students to brainstorm, collaborate or ask questions with verbally interrupting the presentation and are essential for multi-tasking.

Promote forum discussions by using open-ended questioning methods.

Save teleconferences or webinars, so that students can refer back to them at a later date.

Provide audio and visual links to meet the needs of different learning styles.

Facilitator and Learner  Roles

     When deciding to enroll in an adult education course choosing an online forum compared to a face to face modality is only part of the decision.  Whether you are the instructor or student deciding on asynchronous or a synchronous modality will change the form of communication and expectations during the course. In the following diagram it shows differences in the roles that the facilitator, instructor or student play in synchronous and asynchronous modalities.

Synchronous

Facilitator

Asynchronous

Facilitator

Manage Late arrivals to class meetings

Track participation and attendance

Must be comfortable in front of camera or  microphone. Prepared for any technological issues that may arise. Prepared with different strategies to keep the students involved and participating in discussions.

Can be prepared for entire course prior to the beginning.  Complete with discussion questions, assignments and presentations.  Including presentations in this forum allows the students to create presentations where they can utilize other web tools.

Facilitator or instructor must be able to   multi task while encouraging the students to actively participate, pose questions that will keep the students involved.  Preparing a series of questions will help the instructor to anticipate questions and responses immediately.

Facilitator or instructor must answer promptly however there is a pause in time to prepare a thoughtful through response. They only have to respond to one question or response at a time.  Can ask follow up questions for further engagement of the students.

Facilitator can use different tools to   keep the students involved, engaged and participating in the course. Present for a period of time then have a period of time for the students to participate by asking questions, adding experience or point of view to the discussion.

Facilitator can see when the students are falling behind or not understand the information presented.  In this modalitythe instructor and offer other tools to help the student comprehend the information.

Synchronous

Learner

Asynchronous

Learner

Schedules time to attend live meetings.  Self disciplined to attend and participate

Learner post when convenient during class each week.

Must be able to focus on discussions and live meetings.  Avoid outside distractions and be able to actively participate.

Self-motivated to complete assignments and posts.  No set time to be on computer

Seek clarification on misunderstandings and misinterpretations and receive immediate feedback

Can ask questions of other students or instructor and receive clarification any time of the day.

Real-time interactions with other students and instructor.

Participation 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  Limits are set by learner staying organized and involved in the course of discussion and participation.

Asynchronous Delivery

      A blog is a blend of the term Web log. As most blogs are interactive providing commentary or news on   a particular subject or interest, it is the type of technology that lends itself to an educational environment particularly Adult Education. It allows the educator to be more creative in preparing the class and permits the students to link with one another and the instructor in a collaborative and knowledge sharing environment.

     The choice of a blog is appropriate for the adult learner in that it allows for the  student to attend and add to class discussions and topics within a flexible time frame. Asynchronous delivery medium works well with adult learners in that it gives them time to reflect before entering into a discussion as well rewrite agreements or rebuttals on any type of subject matter.  The answer is generally thought out to a greater extent than in a synchronous medium.

     Blogs as a mode of delivery could be applied to a current adult education teaching   environment as blogs are public and allow for interaction and active collaboration of ideas and disciplines; these are easily transferred to diverse groups of learners. Finding blogs that are relevant to the students are relatively easy. Blog posting brings together many different articles through links as well as many points of view on a particular subject from around the web.

     A synchronous medium such as a Power Point presentation can also get the instruction across and has been used in both classrooms and training for quite some time.  The Power Point presentation can engage learners on a particular subject but does not allow collaboration other than inducing discussion for later attention.

     Students should explore the differences between asynchronous and synchronous learning prior to choosing a mode of academic interaction.  Reviewing the advantages and disadvantages, facilitation strategies, facilitator and student roles, and delivery methods will provide pupils with enough information to make an educated decision about the best path for him or her.  Online facilitators should follow the same procedure which method of instruction is preferred.

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