Synchronous Learning vs. Asynchronous Learning: Different ways of learning online

It is clear that in the pandemic world that we live in today, with social distance and not so much interaction (at least in person) being the order of the day, we need more teaching/learning methods that can adjust to the changes that we are suffering and the new necessities that are appearing in the world of education.

In this way, online learning is found constantly renewing itself and adding newer learning methods and styles. Here is where we find two formats of learning that are Synchronous Learning and Asynchronous Learning.

“In order to create an engaging learning experience, the role of instructor is optional, but the role of learner is essential.” - Bernard Bull

Depending on the type of learner you are (do you like to work on your own at your own pace or would you rather learn more socially, interacting in a group?), one format may suit you better than the other, each one having its own benefits and limitations. Let's have a look at what Synchronous Learning and Asynchronous Learning mean, while also trying to answer questions such as when, why, and how to use these two modes of learning.

What is Synchronous Learning?

Synchronous Learning is the learning that happens in real time, meaning that you interact with the rest of the learners and the instructor in the same place (physical or virtual) and at the same time. This is a more social format of learning in opposition to the Asynchronous one, as this takes place usually in smaller groups.

Examples of Synchronous Learning can be in-person classes, live online meetings, etc, which must be viewed in real time. As for the advantages that Synchronous learning has, we may include classroom engagement and a dynamic learning process, while the disadvantages are clear: a more strict schedule and the appearance of some technical difficulties that can interrupt the learning in real time.

What is Asynchronous Learning?

While Synchronous Learning refers to all types of learning in which learner(s) and instructor(s) are in the same place, at the same time, Asynchronous Learning means to learn at your own pace, on your own schedule and at the place chosen by you. The instructor provides with all the necessary materials for the learning process and you can access them whenever you wish, as long as you are on time for the deadlines assigned. As said, this is a more individualized way of learning, and it also has advantages as well as disadvantages. Among the advantages we can find the affordability of the format, flexibility of the schedule and the learning at your own pace. On the other hand, things like isolation and solitary learning may be considered as disadvantages.

Many instructors prefer to teach asynchronously nowadays because streaming live and connecting to online live meetings may cause many problems due to Internet connection, while also it is very hard to coordinate a large group of learners in the same place and at the same time through a videoconference.

Even so, combining both models of learning, Synchronous Learning and Asynchronous Learning, is quite possible and approachable, so, actually, you don't have to choose only one of them. And that's the best part of eLearning, you can have the best of both worlds and benefit from all of their advantages and enrich your learning experience to the best of your abilities.

"Online learning is not the next big thing, it is the now big thing.” - Donna J. Abernathy

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