Asynchronous vs Synchronous Learning and How You Can Equip ShareTheBoard to Do Both!

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In some of our previous articles you could learn a bit about different education models, but only so briefly. In this blog post, however, we want to really get into the nitty-gritty of what “asynchronous” and “synchronous” learning models actually mean.

But why though? Well the differences between those two, play a crucial role in determining the structure of your learning experience. Whatever you imagine your edu-journey to look like, the reality might be different. After all, everyone has different strengths and abilities and it’s important to remember about those before paying for a course that might not work for you. And to do so, understanding the nuances of these two approaches is crucial in making an informed decision that suits your lifestyle and learning preferences best.

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What’s the difference?

Some of you might be already familiar with both of those terms but if you are new to the topic let us explain.

To answer shortly, asynchronous learning basically means that students can engage with their learning materials at their own pace, without the limits of real-time interaction. Usually, in this format, students are given access to pre-recorded lectures, articles, and assignments, giving them the ability to navigate through the curriculum according to their schedules. This makes asynchronous learning especially appealing to people who already have other responsibilities, whether it’s their job, other educational assignments, or children.

Synchronous learning, on the other hand, is more in line with what we imagine traditional learning models to look like. It usually entails real-time engagement with instructors and other participants. Students in this model are expected to attend classes at scheduled times, engage in class discussions, and interact with course content at the same time as their peers. Even though it lacks flexibility, it allows students to gather immediate feedback and learn how to discuss and explain their standpoints, something that a lot of asynchronous online courses lack.

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To sum things up:

Asynchronous Learning

Pros:

  • It allows learners to study whenever and wherever it’s convenient for them, accommodating their pre-existing schedules.
  • Students can go through their educational materials at their own speed, without the worry of falling behind.
  • Since classes are pre-prepared, students can watch videos and/or revisit content, as many times as they might need.
  • It’s great for developing skills such as self-discipline and time management.

Cons:

  • Unfortunately, purely asynchronous courses lack real-time interaction, making the learning experience less engaging.
  • It may be troublesome for some students to navigate course materials on their own, without the help of instructors.
  • It can limit opportunities for interacting with peers and motivating one another.
  • It might not be a good option for chronic procrastinators. Sometimes self-motivation is just not as strong as the pressure to come to the class already prepared.

Synchronous Learning:

Pros:

  • Probably nothing boosts the students’ engagement as much as real-time discussions and various group exercises, enhancing both their involvement and comprehension of the topic.
  • It allows students to gather instant feedback for teachers and clarify whatever topic they might be struggling with.
  • It creates not only learning opportunities, but social ones as well. Such courses allow students to interact with each other during various activities, such as group work, projects, or even breaks during the class.
  • Some people just function better in a structured environment. Getting ready for classes provides students with a routine, making it easier for them to organize.

Cons:

  • The synchronous model means students have to stick to fixed class times, even if they conflict with their other responsibilities.
  • If the course is online, it relies on a stable internet connection and good-quality mics and cameras, making it inaccessible for some people.
  • It depends on the instructor, but not everyone is willing to share their materials, which means you have to really focus on note-taking during classes instead of participating in live discussions.
  • If the meeting is offline, there is another concern: not every place is accessible to everyone. Whether it’s a wheelchair or visual impairment, those challenges might determine whether they decide to take part in the class.
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In case you’re looking for a course: What’s better for you?

Well, when selecting between asynchronous and synchronous learning there is no one clear answer. It all comes down to your own preferences, learning styles, and lifestyle considerations. And while there are a great deal of classes on the market that try to blend these two models, from my experience, one style clearly dominates over the other.

Last year, I took part in an online course that worked this way: we were given a week’s worth of video classes, and at the end of the week, we would have a shared class with an instructor whose role was to clear any misunderstanding about certain topics. As you may guess, it didn’t work that well because it’s nearly impossible to cover around 10 hours’ worth of materials in 60 minutes. And even though it didn’t necessarily inconvenience me, I’m sure some people wished for more guidance.

That’s why understanding your needs and priorities is essential in choosing the most suitable approach for your own education.

Here’s a short check-list:

  1. How available are you? Probably the most basic thing you need to ask yourself: do you have any commitments that make it impossible for you to commit to a synchronous class schedule?
  2. What type of learner are you? Look back to your school years and think about which methods you preferred (and if you are still in school, think about how you like to learn now): were you a person who would rather read and work on the assigned materials on your own or the opposite?
  3. How is your Internet connection? Is your laptop and microphone still working? Or maybe you don’t like to use computers to learn at all?
  4. Do you like social interaction? If you always thrived among your peers and liked to discuss your knowledge with instructors, maybe synchronous learning is the best for you. On the other hand, if you feel nervous around strangers and don’t feel comfortable interacting with them, asynchronous learning is the way to go.
  5. Consider the nature of your course! Your preferences are, of course, important, but in my opinion, certain subjects just work better with certain learning models. For example, if I were taking a marketing course, I would probably be fine with an asynchronous style. However, I wouldn’t take an asynchronous language course.
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In case you’re organizing a course: Have you heard about ShareTheBoard?

During the COVID pandemic, we witnessed a dramatic shift in learning preferences. This change affected not only kids and teenagers, who needed to keep up with their grades but also adults, who suddenly had more time on their hands. This change accelerated innovation in education, forcing educators to experiment with their teaching methods and new technology.

It also pushed them to adopt a blended approach that merges the best of both asynchronous and synchronous learning. This hybrid model can really take advantage of the strengths of each format, making sure that education is accessible, dynamic, and effective.

ShareTheBoard is one of those tools you can use for any type of teaching method you prefer.

Synchronous Learning Asynchronous Learning
You still use the most convenient tool at hand – an actual whiteboard, but this time online participants can actually read its contents and interact with them via annotations. The whiteboard content is automatically saved, allowing you and your students to use it for future reference.
Using STB allows your students to focus on listening and participating in the discussion instead of copying every dot from the board to their notebooks. Similarly to the point above, STB makes creating a script a breeze. It can turn your own handwriting into a digital form, as well as interpret its content, making the creation of additional material faster than ever.
Some people just can’t see. Whether it’s because of ill-fitted glasses or the fact that they feel more comfortable at the back of the class, what matters is that they have access to what is currently being written with their own laptop. Your students not only have access to the outcome but also to your thought process and how it evolves over time (without the redundant frames, of course).

 

So… Would you like to give it a try?

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Summary

Picking the right learning or teaching method is never easy; there are many things you need to consider beforehand, starting with your schedule and ending with your tech setup. Ultimately, understanding those needs helps you pick the best approach for you, making the whole experience not only effective but, most importantly, enjoyable.

Luckily, there are numerous materials and tools available on the internet to help you make an informed decision, with this article and ShareTheBoard being just two examples.

We hope we’ve helped guide you a little, and if you’re interested in even more educational content, be sure to check out our other blog posts!

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