We’re back with another terminology Tuesday, and today we’re going to discuss the differences between the terms asynchronous and synchronous learning – hold on to your hats!
Within the e-learning industry you may hear the terms ‘asynchronous’ and ‘synchronous’ tossed around willy nilly; however, these terms can be easily confused. I don’t want you to use these terms interchangeably or sound unprofessional mixing them up, so I thought I would provide a little bit of clarity. Here we go!
When we refer to asynchronous learning, we’re referring to a student-centred learning model based on constructivist principles. Here, content is presented, and students learn the material in a self-paced manner; learning is often facilitated by an instructor, but the network of learners will engage within asynchronous interactions, such as discussion boards, to share information on the subject matter and build on one another’s knowledge – therefore constructing more knowledge or greater understanding of the subject matter.
Basically, asynchronous learning can occur at any time – students can pop in and out of the learning environment whenever they choose, interacting with other students as they see fit. The obvious benefit to asynchronous learning is that the learning does not need to occur in real-time; another benefit is that the pedagogy behind asynchronous learning recognizes an individual’s prior learning and seeks to build upon it through interactions with other students, the course facilitator or instructor, and the materials.
Synchronous learning occurs in real-time and involves all students learning and the same time. This is how we experience traditional classroom education.
In recent years, technology has allowed for collaboration between synchronous and asynchronous learning, creating blended learning environments. For example, an instructor may offer a standing face-to-face lecture, but may choose to leverage technology (e.g. Blackboard Collaborate or Adobe Connect) to allow students to attend the course without having to be at the physical location where the face-to-face course is being offered. Essentially, the instructor would stream their lecture, in real-time, allowing students to participate at a distance or within the face-to-face environment.
But How Do I Remember These Differences?!
Because asynchronous learning is of the constructivist kind, the mnemonic I use to remember the difference is to remember that I am constructing upon a previously developed term – ‘synchronous’ by adding the prefix of ‘a’.