Synchronous vs Asynchronous Learning

4 min reading time

Synchronous vs Asynchronous Learning: Which is Right for Your Learners?

Online training has opened up a world of possibilities for businesses. Whether learning a new skill or completing mandatory training, as a business you’ll need to decide one thing when implementing it – whether synchronous or asynchronous learning is the most effective way to support your learners.

Depending on the learning objective, learners can benefit from both synchronous and asynchronous learning. Each offers its bright sides, and of course, its drawbacks. But which one is right for you and your learners? 

Here’s a quick explainer of each, the pros and cons of both, and how you might best utilize these methods.

What is synchronous learning?

Synchronous learning is any type of learning that takes place in real-time, where a group of people are engaging in learning simultaneously. Although learning occurs at the same time, learners don’t have to be there in-person, or even in the same location. Synchronous learning enables learners to ask questions and receive answers on-the-spot, while also collaborating freely with their co-learners. 

For employee training, synchronous learning is a popular choice. It’s a method that lends itself well to learning about updated company policies or new software that’s being rolled out. When done right, it’s also useful for customer and partner training as it creates an invaluable feedback loop.

Some examples of synchronous learning include:

  • Live webinars
  • Video conferencing
  • Virtual classrooms
  • Instant messaging

What is asynchronous learning?

Asynchronous learning is more learner-centered. It enables your learners to complete courses without the constraints of having to be in a certain place at a certain time. In essence, asynchronous learning doesn’t hinder learners by place or time. As long as they have access to the internet, asynchronous learners have the freedom to complete course materials whenever they choose, and from any location.

Although not taking place then and there, asynchronous learning still allows the opportunity for feedback. Learners are free to share thoughts and questions with instructors and fellow learners, though they may not receive an immediate response.

Some examples of asynchronous learning include:

  • Online courses
  • Email
  • Blogs
  • Pre-recorded video lessons or webinars
  • Online forums and discussion boards

Synchronous vs asynchronous learning: Pros and cons

When comparing synchronous and asynchronous learning, both have advantages and disadvantages; what may appeal to one learner may not appeal to another. Let’s look more closely at some of the main pros and cons of each:

Pros of synchronous Learning:

  • Because of the social nature of synchronous learning, learners can easily interact with instructors and other learners, making group activities possible.
  • Synchronous learning takes place in real-time, which means learners can get immediate feedback. Ideas and opinions can also be promptly shared with fellow learners.
  • Similarly, if your learners are having trouble with any of the course content, synchronous learning allows them to ask questions and get instantaneous answers.

Cons of synchronous Learning:

  • Synchronous learners have to be online at a certain time, and therefore their learning has to adhere to a specific training schedule. Learners can’t access content where and when they like. To accommodate your learners and offer more flexibility, you could provide a webinar recording of the training session through your LMS.
  • Due to the group dynamic of real-time synchronous learning, some learners may feel they’re not receiving the individual attention they need. This is especially true if there’s any part of the training they do not fully understand. To bypass this, try checking in on the progress of your learners by setting aside time during training for one-to-one or group Q&A sessions.
  • The effectiveness of how well your learners understand the course content depends more on the quality of the instructor than the learners themselves. To overcome this, ensure your instructors receive relevant training so they’re fully prepared for their role. Requiring instructors to plan their sessions ahead of time will also ensure they’ll deliver a great learning experience for your learners.

Pros of asynchronous Learning:

  • Asynchronous learning offers lots of flexibility. Although there’s usually a deadline in sight, asynchronous learners can progress at their own pace and access their course at any time they choose and from any place.
  • It’s a cost effective way to train learners that are based in varying locations. Asynchronous learning means your learners can engage in courses regardless of their time zone or location.
  • With asynchronous learning, learners have significantly more time to reflect on the material they are learning, which means they are likely to understand it more thoroughly.
  • Additionally, asynchronous learning lends itself better to a fast-growing business. If you’ve hundreds or thousands of learners to train across the world, you can get them up to speed without the need for face-to-face training. 

Cons of asynchronous Learning:

  • Although learners may have access to an instructor, contact through asynchronous learning may be limited. Answers to queries cannot be given instantly (for example,  learners may need to wait for an answer to an email). This can be overcome by ensuring you choose an LMS that makes communication as easy as possible.
  • The lack of interaction with instructors and fellow learners leaves some individuals feeling isolated. This could lead to a lack of motivation and engagement in courses. So, combat learner isolation by focusing on creating great course content.
  • Asynchronous learning is learner-centered, so those taking courses in this way need self-discipline and focus to be successful in completing the required course work. Using tools like Gamification or a Forum helps to keep your learners engaged.

Synchronous vs asynchronous learning: Which is best for your learners?

Ultimately, the method of learning you choose for your learners will depend on a number of factors – learning objectives, the types of course content you create, how you deliver your training, and the availability of your learners. However, if you have the resources, using both synchronous and asynchronous learning is a winning formula. 

For example, creating a largely asynchronous course with supplementary live webinars scheduled for varying days and times, ensures that learners have the additional benefit of interacting with each other and instructors. Alternatively, blended learning is another option that supports both synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities.

No matter which method you choose, variety is the best approach. Especially if you’re building a course; aim to keep your learners as engaged as possible by mixing different methods of content delivery. A combination of elements like video, text and images are sure to keep your learners interested.

43 Comments

  • Paula Euerle

    This article had a lot of helpful information.

    Reply
    1 reply 2020-08-12 15:17:59
    • Hildebran

      Very informative!

      Reply
  • Sheila

    This was very informative in helping be to understand my new role as an online educator.

    Reply
  • Cindy Lehman

    I like the idea of both synch/asynch approaches. Many of our parents are working still, and the different approaches are more apt to include more of our students.

    Reply
  • Heather Piccoli

    I like both concepts. Just need to understand how to use them with such a large number of students.

    Reply
  • JM

    The information you provided was quite clear and concise. Thank you for clarifying the difference. Food for thought as we have been thrust into a season of remote teaching and learning.

    Reply
  • Debby B

    This article was very informative. I will utilize both synchronous and asynchronous learning!

    Reply
  • PL

    Good article - for most training I think a blend of asynch (for tasks, processes, procedures that are standardised, simple, unequivocal) and synch (for topics open to discussion, Q&A, social learning or more complex processes) works best

    Reply
  • Jonathan

    Excellent - thank you !

    Reply
  • Karen Fletcher

    There is also a hybrid model that uses both. Zoom with one student: real time, not a group of learners, learner centered, collaborative with teacher and staff (related services, paraprofessionals, etc.),

    Reply
  • Nikki Vinson

    A combination of both offers the flexibilty needed to reach different people, with varied schedules, and a common objective. For instance, you may need a synchronous Zoom meeting to clarify questions about grading during remote learning. On the other hand, asynchronous professional development might be assigned to be completed independently by all teachers in a district by a set deadline.

    Reply
  • Margaret

    Great article that really explained the online process and what my role as an educator will be as we move forward.

    Reply
  • Susanne Lewis

    This is really an eye-opener. Using both synchronous and asynchronous approaches will certainly get the job done providing a lot of planning, great delivery, and support from all stake-holders are present.

    Reply
  • Denville Hyre

    The article confirms what I already know. I always believe that both approaches must be employed where applicable, to get our students to achieve their next steps and individualized goals.

    Reply
  • Emy Clark

    Synchronous learning itś when the instructions happen at the same time while the scholar is present. Like any other type of leaning It has its pros and cons. One of the pros is that questions can be answered right away making learning possible. One of the cons can be that scholars may feel they are not receiving the attention they are seeking. On the other hand, asynchronous learning offers flexibility for scholars to do the work at their own pace. At the same time, I feel the lack of interaction with the facilitator is huge. I understand the necessity for clarification, I want to be there for my students. I rather use the first method of instruction, that way I am sure the scholars are getting the amount of time they deserve. I will provide tutoring if need it.

    Reply
  • Judith Banez

    Thank you for this information, this is much helpful. I think I should use both for a win-win situation.

    Reply
  • Maria Lilibeth Castil

    I definitely agree that a variety of approaches would make learning more dynamic, motivating and engaging. Depending on context, the synchronous or asynchronous learning could a better approach, but best is the mixed approach.

    Reply
  • Brad

    Thank you for this information.

    Reply
  • John Fox

    Asynchronous learning is not learning. It is an informational video.

    Reply
  • Roseanna Zimmer

    Thank you for this detailed explanation. It was very helpful!

    Reply
  • Lisa Bass

    Thank you for clear explanation of both types of learning. A blended approach would be my choice.

    Reply
  • Monica Mastin

    In the times we are in I can understand the importance of both. In a realistic situation depends on the learner and the resources they have available to them.

    Reply
  • Melissa

    Thank you for the information. Both are very useful in this new normal.

    Reply
  • Kimberly Alexander

    Very informative article. I understand the pros and cons of both, and I will use both learning styles.

    Reply
  • Jennifer

    This is very informative. I like the idea of using both not just one or the other.

    Reply
  • Amber Womble

    i think you have to use a combination to fit your students needs!

    Reply
  • Rehana Musa

    Thanks for sharing such a useful information.

    Reply
  • cathy

    thanks for explaining the difference between the both. it was very helpful

    Reply
  • Margarita Gonzalez

    Excellent! Thank you! I will utilize both synchronous and asynchronous learning!

    Reply
  • Sharon Mansfield

    I agree that it's a combination of both, especially for art!

    Reply
  • Lee Lestik

    This was a good way to bring clarity to the whole Synchronous vs Asynchronous question. I think a combination of both is probably the most beneficial.

    Reply
  • Mary Anne Sedanza

    It was well explained. Thank you. It was reassuring that we are encouraged to use both synchronous and asynchronous in the new normal academe set-up.

    Reply
    1 reply 2020-09-29 17:07:02
    • Olivia McGarry

      Hi Mary, thanks for your comment!

      Reply
  • Paul Muia

    Well analysed.Facilitators should use both synchronous and asynchronous method of delivery.

    Reply
  • A Frazier

    This was a great read. I have more strategies for asynchronous learning.

    Reply
  • Mona

    wow

    Reply
  • Edwin Brophy

    My experience is that synchronous learning is more respected as you get individually tailored lessons from someone with experience and knowledge in the field. Asynchronous learning can give you the answers, but synchronous learning allows you to understand why. Synchronous learning has more influence on student focus and behaviour online, asynchronous is for self education. It is not entirely clear how I would approach learning a new skill I have never studied before without synchronous learning. Synchronous learning gets bad reputation for being inflexible, but flexibility may not be real learning.

    Reply
  • Frenchs Forest

    This was very helpful information.

    Reply
  • Belinda  Calibo

    Based on experience, we use both synchronous and asynchronous methods of online teaching and learning.Thank you for deepening my knowledge on how to heartily do the asynchronous session with my learners. I can apply it to my other classes in the offing! More power to us online facilitators.

    Reply
  • Alexis Maristaza

    Thank you for this information.

    Reply
  • Phuc HC

    Clearly and understandably blog. Clap clap

    Reply
  • KARL WYNE

    Comprehension is enhanced because of how the information is structured in this blog. Thank you!

    Reply
  • Peter

    I hope that you'll have another blog sharing the characteristics of synchronous and asynchronous learners.

    Reply

 

 

 

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