The technology we have available today opens new doors for all kinds of learning styles, including asynchronous learning.
What is asynchronous learning? It enables learners from all walks of life, from students in K-12 to busy professionals, to access course materials and submit assignments at the time and place most convenient for them.
Understanding what asynchronous learning is and how it works helps educators find places to use this format in their instruction.
Let's explore the concept further.
What is asynchronous learning?
Asynchronous learning means accessing materials — like videos, discussion forums, and peer review work — at different times. In other words, there’s no requirement for educators and learners to be in the same place at the same time. Asynchronous learning is entirely self-paced.
Students engage with course materials, complete assignments, and interact with others on their schedule. This approach requires the use of tools like pre-recorded lectures, online discussion boards, and self-paced online courses. It allows learners to digest content when and how they need to.
For example, a K-12 student may visit their school’s digital library to brush up on concepts before an upcoming math test. Or a single parent may watch a lecture video while their child naps. Asynchronous learning allows an individual to tailor education to their specific learning needs.
It’s clear that many students appreciate this level of access. Research shows that learners enrolled in asynchronous online courses take advantage of time flexibility that may not be available to them in a face-to-face course, synchronous online course, or hybrid course.
Asynchronous learning vs. synchronous learning
Asynchronous learning and synchronous learning are two distinct approaches, but they do share some similarities. Still trying to fully answer the question “What is asynchronous learning?” We’ve got you covered.
The self-paced nature of asynchronous learning allows students to complete coursework on flexible deadlines, making it easier to accommodate other responsibilities. Synchronous learning provides structure through real-time teacher and peer interaction during scheduled meeting times.
Asynchronous learning promotes self-directed learning skills. Students must motivate themselves to cover materials independently before applying concepts in discussions. Synchronous learning offers a chance for engagement between students and instructors during interactive virtual sessions.
With no location restrictions, asynchronous learners can access forums and prerecorded materials from any location with internet access. This makes the same education available across time zones. Synchronous learning requires consistent technology access during designated meeting times.
In fact, the Virtual Schools in the U.S. report shows that some virtual schools can offer courses to students that may not be available to under-resourced brick-and-mortar schools, which often face challenges with teacher recruitment that limit course access. This is especially true for advanced and remedial offerings.
Each method serves different educational preferences and lifestyles. This makes learning accessible and effective for a wider audience.
Read more about asynchronous vs synchronous learning.
Examples of asynchronous learning and synchronous learning
Now that you know what asynchronous learning is, you’re one step closer to implementing it as part of your instruction. Explore these examples of asynchronous learning and see how they compare to synchronous learning.
Pre-recorded lectures - asynchronous
A defining feature of asynchronous learning is that lessons are captured for students to access later. Students view videos on their own time, absorbing and reviewing material as they need to. They can pause and replay complex segments or rewatch the entire lesson if they need more time with the concepts.
Online forums - asynchronous
While there’s no live classroom dialogue, learners interact on discussion forums, usually organized by topic. For example, an economics student studying the stock market may exchange thoughts with peers on recent articles. Instead of the conversation being confined to a day or even a single hour, students add insights to the conversation thread over several days. Instructors also respond on the forum, guiding with perspectives learners may not see.
Digital assignments - asynchronous
Students may complete typical assignments including essays, coding projects, and graphic design files, but they’re submitted through digital tools. Getting the assignment, doing the work, turning it in, and receiving the grade can all happen in the comfort of the learners’ environment.
The common thread through all of these examples is self-direction. Instructors the materials and guidance while students have more control over their learning journey in predefined but flexible parameters.
Live webinars - synchronous
Instructor-led webinars allow groups to meet simultaneously. Learners join video calls or go to class to view slide presentations and ask questions. Polls and hands-on activities reinforce concepts in the moment. For example, a history webinar on art may include interactive polls about specific styles or pieces.
Real-time discussions - synchronous
Discussions connect learners in person or by voice, text, and video chat. Guided by prompts from the teacher, they talk through topics related to the lesson that’s happening that day. If the class is large enough, this may happen in small breakout groups. Then, groups return to the main room to summarize their takeaways.
Labs - synchronous
Labs provide an interactive environment for students to perform experiments or simulations in real time. An instructor can guide students through a scientific process, offering immediate feedback and assistance. For instance, a biology class might do a dissection and discuss their findings.
While asynchronous learning allows more control for students, synchronous models use technology to nurture community.
Pros and cons of asynchronous learning vs. synchronous
Curious about what the outcomes of both types of learning look like for students and instructors? Here are some of the pros and cons.
- Flexibility: The self-paced asynchronous format allows students to complete coursework on flexible deadlines, fitting education around jobs, childcare, and other commitments.
- Equality: By removing restrictive scheduling and location barriers, asynchronous learning expands educational access.
- Self-directed skills: With greater responsibility over pacing and tasks, asynchronous learners build valuable time management and prioritization abilities.
- Procrastination: The flexibility of asynchronous learning can lead some students to push off deadlines and delay course progress.
- No instant feedback: Response time lags on discussion boards and assignments may leave questions unresolved.
- Lack of connection: Developing relationships and collaborating on projects can be challenging for some learners without face-to-face interaction.
A high-value option for asynchronous learning? Creating interactive video experiences.
- Real-time interaction: Synchronous models promote engagement between students and instructors during sessions and often require collaboration.
- Immediate feedback: Asking questions during live lectures allows students to receive instant clarification and resolve any areas of confusion.
- Better direction: With constant instructor oversight, students receive clear guidance and accountability during each step of the learning process.
- Scheduling conflicts: Mandatory real-time participation can pose challenges for learners balancing jobs, childcare, or other obligations.
- Limited accessibility: Learners who don’t have access to transportation for in-person learning or the right devices for virtual learning may not benefit from a synchronous style.
- Mental overload: While they are more social, long stretches of live classes and meetings can cause mental fatigue for some students, especially if these sessions are online.
How to create asynchronous learning experiences with PlayPosit by WeVideo
Did you know? WeVideo's interactive video design studio, PlayPosit, helps educators easily create multi-layered asynchronous learning experiences for students. Here are a few ways to do this.
Create your own content, or use preexisting videos for your asynchronous lessons that engage and teach learners with a plan tailored to your goals.
Design a guided learning experience
Want to make sure your classroom is progressing as it should? Organize content into modular sections and build in interactive assessments to test their knowledge as they go. Learners will only be allowed to progress once they’ve aced their quizzes and proven they’re ready.
PlayPosit by WeVideo lets you monitor your students’ progress using up-to-date analytics, which means you can keep a close eye on your resident procrastinators.
Offer interactive assignments
Hands-on digital activities allow students to apply course concepts. An art course may have students curate an inspiration board based on their style. A coding course may assign small app projects for students to build online. Creating interactive assignments can give practical experience while making learning fun.
Use self-paced assessments
Implement short assessments into your video lessons. With PlayPosit, instructors can control how many times learners are allowed to take a video assessment, and all results are delivered in real-time!
Add discussion boards
Thoughtful discussion boards allow educators to start an ongoing dialog that synchronous sessions sometimes lack. Spark commentary by posing real-world problems, current events, or open-ended prompts related to the concepts students are learning in your class.
Include curated materials
As an educator, you can motivate your students by finding interesting materials for them that are related to your course topics. You might include textbook chapters that explain the basics, stories about people who used these concepts in the real world, and videos showing how concepts apply now.
Expand options and access with asynchronous learning
The possibilities for inclusive, flexible education continue to evolve thanks to technology. With planning, educators can provide impactful asynchronous experiences as stand-alone options or use them in combination with other styles. Dynamic interactive tools make it easier than ever to provide resources of all kinds to students.