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Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Learning for Course Delivery

What are the main differences between synchronous learning and asynchronous learning? Find out which course delivery format may be best for you.

A rear shot of a classroom with several male and female students sitting at their desks and a male teacher standing in front of them giving a lecture while writing on a white board; this is a perfect example of a synchronous learning environment

When we talk about learning styles, we generally refer to the way in which information is received. For example, people with an auditory learning style understand information best when they hear it versus those with a visual learning style who benefit most from seeing the data presented. However, there are a few learning styles that reference the way the information is delivered. Synchronous learning and asynchronous learning are two examples.

What Is Synchronous Learning?

Synchronous learning involves distributing course materials to all students at the same time. A prime example of this is on-campus classes. The instructor is at the front of the room and the information provided is given to (and received by) each individual student at the same exact time.

Synchronous learning can also occur in online or distance learning courses. In this case, the class materials—which includes required readings, homework, quizzes, tests, and course projects—are disseminated accordingly over time.

Real-time lectures may also be scheduled in an online synchronous learning course, requiring all of the students to tune in on a specific day and time on videoconferencing platforms like Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

What Is Asynchronous Learning?

Asynchronous learning is the opposite of synchronous learning. Instead of the course materials being released to each student at the same time, one student may be on the first week of materials while another may be at the end of the class.

Self-paced college courses are an example of asynchronous learning. All of the materials are uploaded and ready to go all at once in many cases. So, students can take the course as fast or as slow as they like with oftentimes a general deadline for all coursework to be completed by the end of the term.

One of the major ways asynchronous learning differs from synchronous learning is that there is no real-time interaction with the instructor or other students in this type of course. Because everyone is going through the class at their own pace, it doesn’t make sense to hold scheduled lessons or lectures. In many instances, students will interact in writing through discussion posts or other assignments in which students must perform a certain task within a week, for example.

A Hybrid Between Synchronous Learning and Asynchronous Learning

Some college classes offer a mixture of synchronous and asynchronous learning styles. An example of this is a class in which you can access the entire course’s materials at one time, but it also requires that students participate in online lectures or group projects on specific days and times.

This occurs in a course in which some materials are not offered in real time, such as prerecorded lectures, but others require that students go online on Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. for an hour or two to discuss a certain topic.

Real-time learning can also be introduced into the hybrid course by requiring groups of students to work together on a project. Online video meetings or group chats become necessary to do the work, even though they may not be accessing the rest of their coursework at the same time.

Pros and Cons of Synchronous Learning and Asynchronous Learning Methods

Each of these learning styles has its pros and cons. For example, synchronous learning is good because it offers students the ability to engage with teachers and other students. This creates a more dynamic learning environment. Plus, if you have any questions about the materials presented, you can ask them in real-time, which may be beneficial to other students as well.

That said, one of the drawbacks of synchronous learning is that it creates a less flexible schedule. Because it occurs in real time, you must attend your in-person or online lectures on a specific day and time, which may be problematic if you have a full-time job or have other personal commitments.

Conversely, asynchronous learning offers maximum flexibility. You are able to take your college courses on the days and times that are most convenient for you. Asynchronous learning is also advantageous to students who want to go faster or slower than typical college courses. It allows them to progress in a way that is best-suited to them as an individual.

But asynchronous learning isn’t right for everyone. Some students may not enjoy this method of learning because it does lack one-on-one interaction with instructors and students. Also, because you are responsible for setting your own schedule with asynchronous classes, it requires some level of self-motivation and self-discipline to complete them. There is no one standing over your shoulder making sure you get your work done by a specific time.

Saint Leo University Offers Both Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning

Saint Leo University offers synchronous, asynchronous, and hybrid learning formats, depending on the degree program you choose.

For instance, our campus and Education Center-based classes are all synchronous while our online programs vary. Some synchronous courses offer video-based class meetings and others are more asynchronous in that they are self-paced and don’t involve real-time interaction.

Our courses also vary by the level of courses you are taking. For example, more of our online graduate programs tend to incorporate synchronous courses while the undergrad programs are typically more asynchronous.

To learn more about Saint Leo and the type of classes we offer, contact us today. By offering all learning styles, we’re sure to find one that fits your individual wants and needs.

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