Wednesday, May 12, 2010

E-Learning: Synchronous vs. Asynchronous

What are the advantages of anytime, anywhere learning over a fixed time for a class? I recently read an article from Education Week written by Ian Quillen that looks at the benefits of synchronous and asynchronous learning.

Here are the main points about Synchronous e-learning
  1. Problem-Solving - depending on the subject, such as math and science, having immediate feedback could benefit the students. According to Christa Ehmann Powers, the vice president of education at Smarthinking, a Washington - based online-tutoring service, certain subjects are more relatable and appropriate for synchronous work.
  2. Discussion Flow - the teacher may be needed as an active mediator and when students are hesitant to speak out in class the teacher can keep the discussion on track and moving. According to Myk Garn, the associate director of the educational technology cooperative of the Atlanta-based Southern Regional Education Board, a skillful instructor needs to insert themselves into the asynchronous discussion.
  3. Younger Students - when students lack keyboard skills they could benefit from synchronous instruction in a webinar format according to John Watson, the primary author of Keeping Pace With K-12 Online Learning, a study from the Evergreen Education Group, a consulting group based in Evergreen, Colo.
  4. Teacher Access - teachers can provide one-on-one access for students before, during and after school hours by video, online chat, texting or email.
  5. Standardized Testing - many virtual courses require standardized testing and to maintain a test's integrity a synchronous online format is best.
  6. Clubs and Socialization - many clubs and organizations that are offered at a school can be offered through real-time online meetings.
  7. Synchronous Archives - a video lecture, live chat or webniar can be archived for all students to access.
Here are the main points about Asynchronous e-learning
  1. More Time - students can access the course at anytime and spend as much time as needed to master the course material. Teachers and students engaged in discussion may continue the discussion after the class ends through an online forum. The class day is no longer depended on the school bell according to Liz Pape, the president and chief executive officer of the Virtual High School Global Consortium, based in Maynard, Mass.
  2. Critical Thinking - since writing can be personal, the asynchronous setting may be best and the student must take more ownership in the work. The asynchronous setting also gives students more time to think critically before responding.
  3. How Students Live - students have social lives through texting, Fackbook, online chats and e-mail chains which means students want to access information and answers anytime from anywhere. Teachers are able to give feedback and tutorial help through text messages, the phone or an audio online format.
  4. Less is More - online instructors are usually proactive in communicating with the students to better understand their needs and are better able to keep students on task.
  5. Global Standard Time - having students from other countries enrolled in a course brings a new prespective to discussions especially on world issues, geography and history. The problem is finding a common time for synchronous instruction.
  6. Asynchronous Doesn't Mean Slow - the difference between synchronous and asynchronous communicatioin is less today because of the new communication platforms that students and teachers use and the availability of computers at school and in the home.
When you think about it an e-mail is asynchronous communication and instant messaging is synchronous communication. What truly makes the difference in synchronous and asynchronous learning is the attentiveness of the teacher and the students rather than the method of instruction , that dictates the time lapse, according to Mr. Watson.

To read the entire article from iNACOL please go to:

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