Synchronous VS Asynchronous Learning

The standard learning experience is for students in a classroom with their instructor to learn in real-time with their classmates. This means they are learning in sync with the other students.

This system is more than likely as old as education as we understand it and is known as synchronous learning.

A synchronous class. No, not asynchronous!

Asynchronous learning is more flexible and means students learn at their own individual pace from wherever they can access the internet.

Not all online learning is asynchronous though, as it is possible for a lecture to be live-streamed with students attending virtually and participating in real-time through webcams, chats and other such technology.

The innovation of cloud-based document sharing, social media platforms and technology laid the foundation to make asynchronous learning possible but Covid-19 was the match that lit the fuse. With schools closed and very little alternative, the adjustments were made to find a way around in-person learning so students didn’t lose too much time in their education and get too far behind.

Synchronous Learning Benefits

Synchronous learning involves all participants learning at the same time in real time which facilitates interaction. In online learning that is synchronous, all involved parties may not share physical proximity but they are all interacting at the same time. There is also not a lot of room for flexibility since it is not driven by individuals but the needs and requirements of the group.

  • Group interaction

With this point, students learn how to interact with their peers which teach them about working with others, social boundaries and accepted norms, as well as experiencing conflict and how to manage it. It is also a great networking facilitator as relationships build more organically from direct interaction.

  • Lack of Flexibility

The structure dictated by the group confines force the development of productive habits by fostering an environment with external deadlines that come with consequences. This helps develop time management skills and finding the balance needed to keep all the necessary requirements attended to.

Synchronous Learning Drawbacks

  • Lack of Flexibility

The points above that are considered benefits can also present challenges mainly around the lack of available options within the system. For a student who is well organized and isn’t in need of the forced structure this can prove very frustrating and the lack of opportunities to adjust the schedule to what works for them is more of a barrier than a welcome inclusion.

  • Mature Students

For mature students who have several other responsibilities and require the flexibility to balance all their tasks, the rigid nature of synchronous learning will be a put off and counterproductive. Their already present tasks like a fulltime job will take precedence over school and lead to a less than fulfilling overall experience.

Having the option to work around their busy lives is paramount to them achieving all they require to get what they desire out of life.

Asynchronous Learning Benefits

  • Independent Learning

In asynchronous learning students work at their personal pace and set their schedules around their personal needs which doesn’t only include timetables but also learning needs. If a person learns better at night then they can do that, if a person needs more time with material they have that option. They do what works best for their needs and their lives.

E-learning Online Study Learning Website Concept
  • Work-Life Balance

Finding and maintaining the balance of academic and personal needs and responsibilities is solely up to the student and so they have to do what will give them the most efficient results. Making sure to include rest and recreation is important. So with the autonomy laying in the hands of the student the chances of finding something that tends to all requirements is more likely than when they have rigid barriers.

Asynchronous Learning Drawbacks

  • Distractions

In the same vein with all the options and flexibility comes the possibility of challenges like distractions and inconsistency. When learning outside of the walls of an institution there is exposure to more distractions for even the most focused mind so a high level of discipline and self-control will be needed to successfully work with the asynchronous system.

  • Inconsistency

Given the self-imposed limits there is a chance for inconsistency with schedule and work flow since the option is there to not commit to the time limits placed or self-imposed work pace. Even given an individual with discipline there is a chance for inconsistencies to arise given the availability of freedom and choice as well as those other responsibilities like family, work etc.

Whatever method works better for you, the fact that the options are available open up a whole new world of possibilities that I hope you are able to maximise to the best of your abilities. As with a lot of things in life the best outcome might lie somewhere in the middle of both these extremes and so each person has to determine what suites them best and what can help get them to their goals.

Wish you all the best on your journey onwards!


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