Asynchronous learning is a style of learning that allows your customers, workforce or partners to complete the course at their own pace, separately from the instructor.
By contrast, synchronous learning is a traditional learning style where customers, workforces or partners receive live instruction and/or complete coursework, LMS quizzes and more during scheduled training sessions.
But, while the basic definitions indicate clear differences, they don’t cover the full extent of the differences and similarities between synchronous and asynchronous learning.
If you’re putting together creating an online course, you have a lot of important decisions ahead of you. One of these decisions is whether to offer asynchronous or synchronous learning.
To help you make this decision, let’s look at some of the benefits of asynchronous learning and some of the ways you can apply it to your program.
What's Asynchronous Learning?
Asynchronous learning doesn't feature any fixed times or locations. Instructors share the resources learners need access to via LMS tools. Asynchronous classes sometimes require learners to complete their assignments by certain deadlines and other classes allow learners to do the work at their own pace.
What's Synchronous Learning?
Synchronous learning is a type of education that requires learners to attend classes at the same time as the instructor. Many synchronous courses take place virtually. There may be other assignments that must be completed outside of the scheduled class time, but the bulk of the learning happens face-to-face at set times.
Asynchronous vs. Synchronous Learning
The difference between synchronous and asynchronous learning is whether or not the coursework is completed in person on a fixed schedule. Synchronous learning requires face-to-face sessions (either in-person or virtual), whereas asynchronous online learning can be done on the learner’s own time and at their own pace.
Benefits Of Asynchronous Learning
There are some advantages and disadvantages of asynchronous learning; however, the former outweighs the latter.
A downside to asynchronous learning is that some people prefer to work with an instructor in person and may find it difficult to work independently.
This in-person style is one of the benefits of synchronous learning. For these learners, a blended learning approach might be the best option.
Here are some of the advantages of using an asynchronous learning model:
Flexibility is one of the primary benefits of asynchronous learning. Your learners can learn when they want, how they want and where they want. This flexibility is essential for people who have busy schedules or need special accommodations. Plus, it’s just more convenient for everyone. People are more likely to fully engage with your courses when they’re allowed to set aside whichever time works best for them to learn.
Another advantage of asynchronous learning is that it makes it easier to scale your education program. A program that’s entirely synchronous might work while your business is still small, but as your learner base and the number of people you employ grow, it’s most likely going to be difficult to accommodate everyone with fully synchronous learning experiences. Incorporating asynchronous courses can help you continue to offer high-quality education to all your users.
Asynchronous learning is also typically more cost-effective than synchronous learning. Since asynchronous lectures are pre-recorded, you can reuse the same lectures for any number of learners you wish. There's also no limit to the number of learners that can take an asynchronous course at once, meaning you’ll never need to organize multiple classes of the same kind to accommodate more learners.
Asynchronous courses enable all learners to access the material whenever and wherever they want. Not only does this mean learners can learn on their own terms without being restricted by geography or busy schedules. It also means they can access resources anytime to help them if they get stuck.
It's Easier to Digest
Learners work at their own pace. No one will get left behind because the course is moving too quickly and no one will get left behind because the course is moving too slowly. Each learner can break the course down and move through it at whatever speed helps them digest the content more effectively.
It Caters to Different Learning Styles
Not everyone learns the same way. One of the main contributors to the effectiveness of asynchronous learning is the fact that it enables you to meet the needs of many different learning styles. Asynchronous courses allow learners to approach the material in whatever way works best for them. They aren’t restricted to the same traditional instruction format or confined to the schedule set by the instructor.
It Makes Training Remote Workers Easier
Since asynchronous learning removes geography-based restrictions from the program, it’s great for training disparate workforces, like a gig workforce. It'd be extremely difficult or even impossible to get all your contractors together in the same location for in-person training. Asynchronous learning makes it possible to deliver consistent learning experiences to all your workers, wherever they are in the world.
How to Do Asynchronous Learning
Incorporating asynchronous learning into your education program is one of the best ways to improve it.
But, while this kind of learning has many benefits, it’s not always easy to figure out how to do asynchronous learning.
Here are a few tips for how to apply asynchronous learning:
1. Break Courses into Modules
All of us have a limit to our attention spans. Instead of making your learners sit through courses that are hours long, it’s a better idea to break up the content into shorter, more digestible modules. One of the best parts of asynchronous learning is that learners can work through the modules at whatever pace works for them. If they only have time for one 20-minute module each day, they can still get through the whole course at that slower pace. Or, if they do prefer to complete all the modules in one sitting, they still have that option as well.
2. Apply Different Types of Content
Just like your learners will eventually get bored sitting through marathon training sessions, they'll eventually get bored seeing the same kind of content over and over again. You should incorporate all kinds of different media into your asynchronous modules. Some of them could be text-based, some of them could be video lessons and some could involve interactive elements.
3. Design an Intuitive User Experience (UX)
Aside from the quality of the content, the most important consideration for your education program is how easy it is for your learners to use. Learners should not have to fight against the user interface of your asynchronous courses to to get the information they need. Creating a totally seamless user interface is essential if you want to get the full benefit from your asynchronous education program.
4. Enable Collaboration
Some learners might find it challenging to complete courses with no support network from their peers or instructors. Even though the lessons themselves are asynchronous, you can still include communication tools like message boards or a support chat within your customer education program. This can be very helpful for connecting learners with your support team or other learners if they need additional help they can’t get on their own.
To deliver asynchronous content effectively to your learners, you need software that supports asynchronous learning. LMS software also called learning management system software, is a kind of application that enables you to create, manage and deliver content to your learners, all within a convenient, central location.
Using an LMS, you can:
Deliver Content via Different Mediums: You can use a learning management system to create all different kinds of content in a variety of formats. This helps you cater to different learning styles and keep your modules interesting and engaging for all your learners.
Automate Content Delivery: With an LMS, you can deliver content automatically based on the parameters you’ve set. Specific actions that occur in your system can be used to trigger content delivery.
Track Progress: Learning management systems can also be used to gain visibility into the ways your learners are interacting with your courses. This provides valuable insight into the best ways to improve your education program. It also makes it possible to offer better support for users who are struggling with the material or start a course without completing it.
Deliver Learning at Scale: An LMS lets you store all your user education content in one location, where users can access it anytime they want via the cloud. This means you can create one course per topic (or whatever number you feel is necessary), and any number of learners can access it. No need to hold duplicate sessions to accommodate large groups of learners.