When schools decide to move to online courses, they have two options they can choose from: synchronous courses or asynchronous courses.
What’s The Difference?
Synchronous courses are live online courses that are conducted in real-time. The instructor and students are together in the same session, which will begin and typically end at a fixed time.
Asynchronous courses are made up of prebuilt course components, allowing students to complete them at the time and pace of their choosing.
While both course formats have their pros and cons, synchronous courses are much more conducive to student learning and course progression.
A Sense Of Community
Synchronous courses are conducted in a live learning environment, creating a platform for students and instructors to interact in the same session together. Maintaining a sense of community and personal connection is a big motivating factor for students to attend class each day, which rarely happens in an asynchronous course format.
Some instructors even ask students to have their webcams on during the session, which lets students see their classmates and know that they’re not alone in the session.
It’s easier to keep students engaged in an online course when students are online at the same time. Instructors can plan out and administer classwide activities like polls, assignments, and quizzes, and even present live results immediately afterwards. Frequent involvement helps students learn and retain course material.
Live learning environments give students the chance to ask questions and get answers in real-time, as if they were raising their hands in a classroom. While instructors are teaching, students can submit questions for instructors to answer. The opportunity for each student to submit a question or idea to the session increases the scope of learning because students can be exposed to the viewpoints of their classmates. For example, a student may ask a question that sparks debate or discussion, taking the level of depth into a topic further than the instructor’s original presentation would.
A Smoother Transition
Many programs are being forced to move from in-person classes to online education. Change management in the transition to online is easier with synchronous courses since students signed up for live courses, not self-paced courses. This makes the transition to online instruction feel less complicated and foreign to students.
Easier Attendance Management
Because synchronous courses have fixed start times, it’s possible to record how long a student was checked in to a session. For programs that need to prove that students actually completed their required hours, synchronous courses make it possible. Attendance solutions like CourseKey make it simple to track accurate, time-based attendance in live online courses.
Weaknesses Of Asynchronous Courses
Asynchronous courses can be beneficial for students with sporadic schedules because students can pick and choose when they work on their course work each day. In addition, students can progress through their courses at their own pace, meaning if they need extra time on a section they can take as long as they need to before moving on.
While this style of learning is convenient and seems empowering, there are many risks to asynchronous courses.
Because students don’t get the opportunity to connect with their instructor or peers in asynchronous courses, they can feel very isolated. Students can’t contact their instructors very quickly — certainly not in real-time. Instructors also typically pre-record their lessons or simply do no more than assign readings and homework questions. Most students want their tuition dollars to give them more interaction than watching video lectures and following a reading schedule.
Students also don’t get many chances to interact with their classmates. At best, a course might utilize a discussion board, but when students are submitting at their own pace, engagement stays low.
Without the oversight and consistent encouragement of an instructor, students have to hold themselves accountable for their progress. When things get tough, it can be hard for students to persevere and convince themselves that their continued effort will pay off in the long run.
The Bottom Line
If you’re still wondering which style of online courses to adopt for your school, choose the option most conducive to students’ learning and progression: synchronous courses. The live learning environment possible through synchronous courses offers a sense of community, keeps students engaged and focused, and allows for live debates and discussions. Not to mention, it’s more similar to physical in-person classes, making the transition to online courses smoother for students and instructors alike.
CourseKey can help you set up synchronous online courses in just a matter of days. Find out how by filling out the form below.