In asynchronous online classes, students can access their studies on their own schedules. Teachers may mark attendance in different ways, such as by tracking who watched the lecture or posting comprehension quizzes. More interactive lessons can require learners to answer polls or click buttons, which also tells the instructor who has engaged with the content.
An asynchronous class allows learners to digest the material in different ways: Students can dedicate more time to challenging content and breeze through lighter content. Since teachers cannot evaluate a student’s readiness in person, online participation plays a large role in asynchronous classrooms. This delivery mode also requires a great deal of self-motivation and proactiveness, especially if a student is having trouble with a topic.
Asynchronous learning environments differ greatly from traditional classrooms. Below are a few pros and cons of the format.
What Is Asynchronous Learning?
Asynchronous learning is any type of learning that you undertake on your own schedule and which does not require consistent real-time interactions with an instructor. It differs from synchronous learning, which can be done online or in person, and typically requires you and your classmates to attend scheduled classes with your instructor.
There are many benefits to asynchronous learning. Let’s take a closer look at this learning structure so you can better understand whether it’s the right choice for your education.
What makes learning asynchronous?
When used in an educational context, asynchronous learning refers to courses where students access course materials—lectures, readings, and assignments—on their own time. Learning, in other words, takes place at all different times for students enrolled in a course, because there’s no set class time.
Asynchronous learning can include:
- Watching pre-recorded lectures
- Undertaking independent research and writing projects
- Participating in an online discussion forum
- Watching online videos and taking a quiz to evaluate your understanding
- Completing a guided project
- Emailing with classmates when completing a team project
An in-person instructor may use elements of asynchronous learning to supplement a synchronous class. For example, they may choose to move one lesson online and have students complete it on their own time. But typically asynchronous learning refers to online courses designed so students can learn on their own time.
Online learning: Asynchronous vs. synchronous
When you take a course online, it will either be structured synchronously or asynchronously. You likely won’t have a choice because your college or university will determine how it’s taught, though your online degree program should clarify which structure to expect.
Online asynchronous courses
There are different asynchronous models. If your courses are offered through a college or university, you may have an assigned instructor who is available to grade your assignments and answer your questions. Your courses will also likely follow the school’s semester or quarter system, where assignments have various due dates or follow an overall timeline. In that case, you can learn at your own pace but within a set timeframe.
However, some online courses have an instructor who has prepared all materials but who does not oversee the course each time it’s offered. Instead, you’ll likely be expected to watch video lectures that require you to pass quizzes or tests in order to advance—without direct feedback. You may have more time to complete your work in some instances or have the option to extend your deadlines if you need more time.
Online synchronous courses
An online synchronous course means that you will likely meet for the class using video conferencing software. You and your peers will learn from your instructor in real time, but that learning primarily takes place virtually.
Are self-taught courses asynchronous?
Asynchronous learning typically involves a course or program with an instructor, even if you don’t meet with that person in real time. Self-taught programs, like tutorials or learning software, that do not involve an instructor are generally not considered asynchronous because you often determine what you will complete without more formal guidance.
Benefits of learning asynchronously
Asynchronous learning has gained a lot of popularity since the pandemic moved a good deal of education online. There are many benefits associated with learning asynchronously—let’s go over a few of them:
- Flexibility: Because there are no set classes to attend, you can work on your studies in between your other obligations.
- Self-paced: Oftentimes, you can learn at your own pace, taking your time to fully grasp new concepts and become more familiar with key lessons.
- Review: You can return to past lessons or lectures to review something you might have missed.
- Skills development: Learning on your own schedule and at your own pace often requires a certain amount of drive and dedication. Learning with this structure often means you get the opportunity to refine valuable workplace skills, such as time management, attention to detail, and problem-solving.
Learn more: 10 Surprising Benefits of Online Learning