Asynchronous Learning

What is Asynchronous Learning?

Asynchronous learning, also known as self-paced training, is a learning model in which students engage with content at any time and from any location. While asynchronous classes may still have completion deadlines, submission deadlines, or recommended timeframes, they otherwise do not follow a set schedule. Asynchronous content may either be delivered on its own or provided as a supplement for a course.

An asynchronous training program may facilitate communication and collaboration between students through the use of a messaging app, discussion board, or both. Some asynchronous courses also give students the option to request an instructor’s intervention if they are struggling with a particular topic or concept. 

Examples of asynchronous learning materials include:

  • Pre-recorded video tutorials and walkthroughs.
  • Pre-recorded audio guides. 
  • Slide decks. 
  • Virtual sandboxes. 
  • Written content such as a knowledge base or textbook. 

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Asynchronous Learning

Asynchronous training provides much greater flexibility and accessibility compared to synchronous training. Learners can proceed through the content at whatever pace they feel is most effective, spending as much time with the material as is necessary to understand it. Neither learners nor instructors need to worry about scheduling, potentially freeing up time and resources to focus on other matters.

While asynchronous learning has many benefits, there are also several drawbacks of which one must be aware. 

The lack of in-person interaction is foremost among this learning technique’s weaknesses. There is ample evidence pointing to the effectiveness of social learning and how it can improve both comprehension and retention. Students pursuing self-paced training miss out on this collaboration. 

That disconnect can also be a morale killer if a self-paced course is part of a new employee’s onboarding process. Rather than feeling as though they are part of a team, the new hire may begin to feel isolated. Consequently, rather than beginning their tenure at a company on the right foot, they start things on a sour note. 

Asynchronous learning can also be incredibly challenging for anyone with a tendency to procrastinate. Because there are usually so many more distractions at home — which is where most learners are likely to be — it can also take longer for a student to get through the course materials than if they were in the classroom. Learner engagement is, therefore, even more important for asynchronous learning than for synchronous learning.

Unfortunately, depending on how an asynchronous course is delivered, an instructor may find it difficult or even impossible to personalize it. Thankfully, technologies such as adaptive learning help mitigate this problem to an extent, allowing materials to be personalized dynamically and autonomously.  

Lastly, students who lack access to a strong and stable Internet connection may find it difficult to progress through an asynchronous course. 

Asynchronous Teaching Strategies

Tips and best practices for delivering an effective asynchronous training program include: 

  • Make sure all training materials and instructions are as clear and concise as possible, particularly if students are required to complete assignments or assessments. 
  • Embrace interactive content. Hands-on training is both more engaging and more effective than passive material, and engagement is everything for a self-paced training program. 
  • Encourage interaction between learners through the use of a discussion board or chatroom. 
  • Make sure there are one or more instructors available to provide support or feedback as needed. 
  • Do not try to adapt materials developed for a synchronous course or physical classroom to an asynchronous environment. While the core content will still be similar, different training modalities require different approaches and instructional design considerations. 
  • Understand that asynchronous training may actually be the wrong choice in some cases. Some content, such as highly technical product training, is best delivered in the classroom. 

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