Two words you may have heard a lot about in the world of eLearning are asynchronous and synchronous. But what exactly do they mean, and why are Learning Management System (LMS) users talking about them? Let’s take a look at these FAQs to discover the benefits of asynchronous and synchronous learning for educators and students alike.
What is synchronous learning?
The main idea behind synchronous learning is that students learn simultaneously and collectively. In other words, synchronous learning represents the dynamic of the traditional classroom, where classwork is ‘live’ and undertaken as a group. Just because traditional classes use a synchronous learning style, however, does not mean that synchronous learning should be thought of as ineffective or outdated. Developments in eLearning technology mean that the digital environment is more suited than ever for synchronous lessons. LMSs such as Moodle allow students to engage in collaborative face-to-face activities, despite not being in the same room.
What is asynchronous learning?
If the essential feature of synchronous learning is a live, collaborative experience, then the opposite is true for asynchronous learning. This learning style is defined by independent, self-managed study. For eLearning, this might mean students are accessing the same material at different times, with progress tracked by educators through an LMS. Because students are required to make the independent decision to access lesson materials, asynchronous learning encourages student focus, helping them organize their time effectively.
What’s the difference between the two learning styles?
Think of the difference between synchronous and asynchronous learning in terms of the difference between Netflix and cable TV. Having content available on demand allows students to learn at their own pace, even ‘binging’ on lessons if they so wish. Likewise, if students miss a lesson or resource, an asynchronous learning platform ensures that they still have access to class materials. On the other hand, scheduling live group lessons helps students to feel on the same page about content, and take part in a social learning experience.
Which method of learning is better?
As might be obvious, each learning style has its own advantages and its own areas of weakness. Synchronous learning is a fantastic way of encouraging discussion and engagement among students, whereas asynchronous learning is excellent for creating a highly focused, intensive environment. Synchronous learning can offer more opportunities for spontaneous digressions, whereas asynchronous learning helps students to reflect deeply on their understanding of materials. Ultimately, the relevance of each learning style depends upon two main factors: the content being taught, and the needs of students. If student schedules are incompatible or unpredictable, then asynchronous learning offers obvious advantages. However, if course content requires lots of discussion and deliberation, then synchronous learning provides an effective platform.
How should I integrate asynchronous and synchronous learning into my teaching?
The best way to combine both styles of learning into your teaching environment is to create a blended learning curriculum. Blended learning incorporates digital and online resources into a traditional classroom setup. For example, each student could be supplied with an online reading list to be completed individually, while at the same time being required to take part in a regular face-to-face seminar. Once a blended learning format such as this is established, asynchronous and synchronous options will be available for you to use anytime you wish to create an effective and efficient learning system.
The Blended Learning Breakthrough is a free on-demand webinar that will show you the most successful models you can implement with your LMS, as well as providing a toolkit of activities and resources that can be utilized to implement a blended learning approach.
How can I use my LMS to implement asynchronous and synchronous learning?
The unique benefit of an LMS is that it combines asynchronous and synchronous learning into one digital workplace. Educators can schedule assignments and activities using the most relevant mode of delivery, whether that’s a forum based inquiry or a video conference. An LMS also allows teachers and managers to oversee progress without impeding on student freedom. Tracking assignment completion from one organized place makes it easy to identify patterns in attainment or areas in need of further attention. Likewise, the ability to connect overarching organizational goals to individual learning plans helps meet the learning needs of the individual and the entire class at the same time.
If you’d like to read more about how asynchronous and synchronous learning can benefit your eLearning initiatives, Lambda Solutions would love to help! We specialize in streamlining eLearning experiences, helping companies implement an LMS into their eLearning program, and learner data analysis through our Zoola Analytics service. To learn more about what we can do for you, click here, or contact us:
Disclaimer: This article was contributed by guest blogger Joe Hitchcock. Joe is a content writer from Vancouver BC, interested in culture, education and fiction. The views and opinions expressed belong to the guest blogger alone, and do not necessarily reflect the official policies or opinions of Lambda Solutions.