Real-Time or Anytime Learning: Synchronous and Asynchronous…
Synchronous, asynchronous, or blended learning? If you’re confused by the terms, today’s post will explain how these different instructional approaches are being used to create more student-centered learning experiences in our virtual and blended schools.
Different Instructional Approaches Explained
When technology began transforming how, when, and where students learned, educators began using the terms synchronous learning and asynchronous learning to distinguish between face-to-face classes and self-paced learning. But what do those technology-tinged words really mean today?
Synchronous Instruction (Real-Time Learning)
In synchronous learning, students and teachers work together at the same time in the same place—whether that place is a bricks-and-mortar school environment or a virtual classroom. Typical synchronous instruction involves teacher-led or facilitated in-class lessons or lectures, group projects, and class discussions.
Asynchronous Instruction (Anytime Learning)
In asynchronous learning, students work at their own pace and place, completing coursework within defined time limits. Students and instructors are not necessarily interacting in real time. Schoolwork that students perform on their own time typically includes:
- viewing pre-recorded online classroom sessions at home;
- reviewing course materials online or offline;
- completing assignments; and
- collaborating with other students via secure message boards.
Combined Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning
While full-time online schools such as Connections Academy combine synchronous and asynchronous learning in a virtual learning environment, blended learning environments combine virtual and in-person synchronous instruction on a school campus with asynchronous, self-paced learning at a time and place chosen by students and parents. Our Nexus Academy high schools offer this type of blended learning experience.
The Benefits of Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning
So why are today’s teachers so excited about synchronous and asynchronous learning?
Some students thrive with one-on-one attention while others crave the space to work through problems independently at their own pace. Combining or choosing effectively between the two learning approaches, we can now create a more personalized learning experience geared to different learning styles.
Synchronous Learning Benefits
Interactivity is the key to synchronous instruction, online or on-campus, allowing:
- students to demonstrate their knowledge and practice their communication skills
- students to ask questions to deepen their understanding
- students to build relationships with their teacher and fellow classmates
- teachers to engage students in discussions, problem solving, and group projects
- teachers to focus class time on bridging skills gaps
- teachers to build one-on-one relationships with students
Teachers can even record class discussions and lectures, making them available as asynchronous materials to reinforce learning or accommodate student scheduling conflicts.
Asynchronous Learning Benefits
Through asynchronous instruction and materials, we can provide students the flexibility to:
- learn at their own pace, place, and peak times, unconstrained by others’ schedules
- work at their own level, moving as quickly or slowly through course materials as needed
- review difficult materials as often as needed
- explore resources that may be unavailable in the traditional classroom
Together, these two approaches provide teachers and students the best of real-time and any-time learning.
Succeeding Real-Time, Anytime and Anywhere
Whether in a blended or fully online school environment, today’s students increasingly need to move smoothly between synchronous and asynchronous learning. As they progress through grades K–12, they’ll also have to take increasing responsibility for those transitions.
If your student is moving between real-time and anytime learning activities, here are a few tips to keep him or her on track in both environments:
- Take full advantage of your school’s orientation courses or activities designed to help students succeed online and offline.
- Track asynchronous and synchronous activities as well as outside activities on the same calendar.
- Schedule time realistically for your student’s schoolwork, and be mindful of deadlines and his or her personal work pace. Asynchronous means anytime when it’s convenient, not anytime that your student happens to get around to it.
- Encourage older students to reach out to teachers, and school staff, or provide Learning Coach support for younger students when they’re “stuck”—by email, by phone, or in person. If your student is in a blended learning environment, make sure to take advantage of both on-site staff and on-site/online teachers.
- Read school emails. If your student’s teacher sent an email, there’s a reason.
- Don’t have students rush through online assessments if they don’t understand the lesson content. Have your child take advantage of the online learning environment to pause, reflect, or reach out to the teacher for help.
Whether synchronous, asynchronous, or both, each instructional approach can improve the quality of student–teacher interactions, foster increased student engagement, and improve learning outcomes. Which suits your student’s learning style best?