SYNCHRONOUS vs ASYNCHRONOUS LEARNING
e-Leaning is the use of electronic technology to create learning experiences.
It can be divided into two key types: synchronous and asynchronous
Synchronous learning is face-to-face instruction. In an e-Learning context, this means using video conferencing applications such as Zoom and Skype to hold live classes and tutorials with students.
Asynchronous learning is defined as anything that is not synchronous, so any teaching that is not live. This kind of instruction does not require the teacher and student to be face-to-face.
The definition of asynchronous is quite broad; it encompasses everything from emails that discuss the topic being learned, to videos, images, worksheets and projects.
William Horton (2006) proposed a model of e-Learning that can help us to structure distance learning courses. He suggested that we should split the learning into three distinct parts.
'Absorb' activities are designed to inform and inspire. These activities should provide the learners with the information that they need to understand the topic.
The 'Do' activities turn information into knowledge and skills. This could mean completing projects, accessing individual tasks and participating in games.
'Connect' activities are designed by Horton to 'close the gap between learning and the rest of their lives'. In essence, they act as consolidation activities and include discussions or presentations about what they have learned amongst other things. You can think of them as being the plenary - a time when the learning is strengthened and stretched.
Many e-Learning scholars suggest a mixed approach that uses elements of both synchronous and asynchronous learning. Ideally, asynchronous activities should be used for the 'absorb' element. This is because they allow the learners to move through initial learning at their own pace. Whereas a combination approach should be used for the 'do' and 'connect' elements - with live sessions where learners can apply their new skills, supported by a range of useful asynchronous resources.
Teachers should avoid using only synchronous learning as this overlooks the key benefit of e-Learning, flexibility. If all learners have to adhere to strict time constraints of when they learn, we miss an opportunity to personalise the learning to their needs and circumstances. After all, when we can not control their learning environment, as they are not in a classroom. We can not say when the best time will be for a learner to sit down and engage in materials. They may have other distractions at home; it means the best times for people to learn are divergent of one another.