What is Asynchronous Learning?

When exploring online learning opportunities, one of the terms you may quickly come across is asynchronous learning. This type of learning is often mentioned in contrast to the opposite form of learning, which is called synchronous. In the briefest of definitions, online learning that is synchronous involves students checking in at the same time, while learning that is asynchronous does not require students to be online together. Below we’ll explore some of the reasons why you might want to study in an asynchronous way as well as some of the possible challenges that can come to students who engage in this kind of learning.

Why Choose An Asynchronous Classroom?

One of the elements of online learning that can be both a benefit and a challenge is the fact that the students in an online classroom are distance learners. The fact that you and your fellow students hail from different locations can add richness and diversity to the online classroom.

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However, it can also lend challenges if the classroom instructor wants all of the students to gather together to learn at the same time. That kind of learning, called synchronous, means that students need to check in at the same time to listen to teacher materials such as lectures and also to discuss things together via chat, webcam, or teleconferencing. While having students work together in this way mimics traditional classrooms and can be a good thing, it can also be difficult, sometimes due to technological snafus and sometimes simply due to students living in diverse time zones.

For some of those reasons, you may find it easier and ultimately more helpful to choose a classroom that is asynchronous.

What You Can Expect in Such a Classroom

An asynchronous classroom is set up without the expectation that distance students will check in at the same time. While that may mean you get less contact and potential connection with your teacher and fellow students, it can also build in a lot flexibility to your e-course experience. An asynchronous classroom usually provides files that students can access at any time. These may be course documents that you can download, such as PDFs, or audio or visual files with teacher content.

Although it will not be expected that you will gather at the exact same time as other students, most efficient online courses will still provide good opportunities for interaction with your fellow learners. This will usually take place in a discussion forum, but the instructor might also set up other ways for your and your fellow students to connect, such as a social media platform.

You and other students in the class may well need to address the same questions or be required to interact with each other in some way, but if the environment is asynchronous, then those interactions can be more flexible and do not need to take place at the same time.

Learning about different elements involved in both types of learning can help you make good choices when it comes to planning your online education. With distance learning on the increase, you may end up participating in and benefiting from both synchronous and asynchronous learning during your college or professional coursework.