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What Is Asynchronous Learning?

/ Patti Greco

Young adult student completing an asynchronous learning module on laptop

Asynchronous learning is a type of online learning that allows students to work at their own pace. Unlike traditional online classes, asynchronous coursework doesn’t require students to log on at, say, 10 a.m. every Tuesday. It’s flexible. No set time, no set place. 

For educators who want to understand the ins and outs of asynchronous teaching, we’ve put together a handy guide. It covers: 

Your (online) class is now in session — let’s dive in. 

Asynchronous learning lets students work at their own pace. Via Unsplash.

How does asynchronous learning work? 

Asynchronous learning is flexible, but it’s not exactly the Wild West of online learning. Teachers still assign work to students and students are still expected to plow through that work within a given timeframe. 

Course materials might include: 

The defining feature of asynchronous learning is that it’s student-centered — it lets learners wrestle with course materials on their own terms. If a night owl wants to watch a lecture at two in the morning, that’s their prerogative (and if they fall asleep to the sound of their professor’s voice, that’s on them, too).

The asynchronous approach caters to early birds and night owls alike. Via Unsplash.

What makes asynchronous learning effective?

There are loads of benefits to the asynchronous method:

It’s flexible 

An asynchronous class is a self-starter’s time to shine. They can chip away at their course load a little bit at a time or knock it out in a few big chunks. They can tackle tasks in the morning, or tick through them at night.

That level of flexibility is especially helpful for students balancing education with other time-consuming obligations like work or caregiving. It’s also a dream for to-do-list lovers.

It’s tailored 

Think of the asynchronous method as the custom-suit of online learning. Students can spend hours on material they find challenging (without worrying that they’re holding up the rest of the class) or whiz through assignments that come easily to them — whatever fits their needs. 

It’s inclusive 

Folks with spotty internet connection don’t have to worry about their screen freezing in the middle of a live-streamed lecture, and learners in far-off timezones don’t have to wipe the crust from their eyes to log on at, say, three in the morning.

Asynchronous classes are arguably the most accommodating type of online learning. 

What’s the difference between synchronous and asynchronous learning? 

Unlike asynchronous learning, synchronous learning happens in real-time. Think of Professor Lambeau lecturing MIT students in Good Will Hunting or Elle Woods sticking it to her smug classmates in Legally Blonde. That’s synchronous learning: Teachers and students showing up in the same place at the same time and participating all at once. 

That’s not to say synchronous learning has to happen in-person (even if it does make for a better movie scene). Online courses, which were the norm in the early days of COVID-19 and remain widely popular in our post-pandemic world, can also be synchronous. The key to synchronous e-learning is that it follows a fixed schedule and supports real-time communication between learners and teachers. 

So what’s the main difference between the synchronous and asynchronous approach? They’re opposites. Where synchronous learning is bound by time and space, asynchronous learning is not. 

Is asynchronous learning better than synchronous learning?

Asynchronous learning is different from synchronous learning, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better. The reality is that a student’s temperament, personality, and style of communication can influence whether or not they thrive in an asynchronous setup. 

Think about it: The asynchronous method allows for students to work at their own pace, and generally speaking that’s a good thing. But for students with a tendency to procrastinate, a self-directed learning environment could lead to last-minute cramming and eleventh-hour project completion. (Or it could lead to some hard lessons in time management, which might not be a bad thing in the long run.) 

Extroverts (and know-it-alls) might prefer synchronous communication. Via Unsplash.

Another possible disadvantage of asynchronous learning, depending on who you ask, is that it doesn't allow for real-time communication. Sure, synchronous learning means that students have to show up for class at the same time each week and that can feel like a drag to some learners, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic conditioned many of us to work on our own schedules. But synchronous learning also invites immediate, synchronous communication. Teachers can answer questions in the moment. Debates can pop off on the fly. 

Synchronous settings arguably make for livelier discussions and an easier give-and-take between teachers and classmates, and many students, especially those who are extroverted, flourish in that type of social learning environment. On the flip side, introverts might relish the more planned and predictable interactions that come with asynchronous communication. 

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to online teaching (if only!). Some e-learners will crush it in an asynchronous environment, others will benefit from a more structured, instructor-led process. 

Maximize asynchronous learning with WeVideo

An asynchronous learning experience may not be the right fit for everyone, but it’s a darn good option for many. Are you an educator who wants to give it a try? (Keep in mind that you can incorporate asynchronous elements, like supplemental videos, into otherwise synchronous online courses.) 

WeVideo makes asynchronous teaching a breeze. Via Unsplash.

With WeVideo, you can:

Create meaningful video content

Record and edit lectures and other educational videos within minutes using WeVideo’s online video editor. The tool lets you work with as much video, text, and audio as you want (choose from a media library of more than a million copyright-free assets or upload your own), and the process is so easy you’ll be splitting and scoring footage like a film-school grad in no time.

Want an even simpler path forward? Instead of starting your video from scratch, try one of our video templates. Your workload will be so much lighter you’ll feel like you’re, well, cheating. 

Make your videos interactive

Jazz up your content — and boost student engagement — by adding multiple-choice questions, polls, and fill-in-the-blanks to your videos. Plus, give instant, auto-graded feedback, or send manual messages on your own time. Students will feel like you’re right there with them — for better or worse.

How to do it? Just export your completed file directly from our video editor to PlayPosit, our interactive product. Then add all the interactions you want!

Design a guided learning experience

Want to make sure your classroom is progressing as it should? With WeVideo’s course creation software, you can organize content into sequined sections and build in interactive quizzes to test their knowledge as they can go. Learners will only be allowed to progress once they’ve aced their quizzes and proven they’re ready.

What’s more, the software lets you monitor your students’ progress using up-to-date analytics, which means you can keep a close eye on your resident procrastinators.

Use WeVideo’s Classroom space with your students

WeVideo’s collaborative video editor lets you set up and dive into multimedia projects right alongside your students — without being in-person. Learners can flex their creative muscles (and show off their grasp of a new concept), and you can keep tabs and send messages in real-time. Start a free trial today. 

Bottom line: With the help of WeVideo, you can maximize the potential of your asynchronous classroom and make it just as powerful as its synchronous alternative. Your freedom-loving students will thank you!