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Synchronous vs asynchronous learning – which one is more effective?

Synchronous vs asynchronous e-learning

Teaching methods are constantly evolving to meet the changing needs and expectations of learners. The pandemic has undoubtedly become the catalyst for change, which has forced many organizations to give up classroom training and move to the online world – at least temporarily. It turns out, however, that even in this form, it is possible to organize effective training and achieve the assumed training goals. What is synchronous learning and what are its benefits? How does asynchronous learning compare with it?

This article will explain the following:

  • What are synchronous and asynchronous learning?
  • How to implement the right teaching model in your organization?
  • Which model should you choose to improve efficiency and motivation?

How is synchronous learning different from asynchronous learning?

As the name suggests, synchronous learning is a teaching method that involves a group of learners in the teaching process that takes place at the same time for all. Such a course can take place in a training room, but also in a completely remote form, e.g. via a Learning Management System (LMS). It is key that the participants all meet at the same time, due to which various interactions are possible – questions, discussions, joint problem solving, etc.

The opposite of synchronous learning is asynchronous learning where the students invited to participate in the training gain knowledge at a convenient time and pace. They use previously prepared training materials, review them in case they need to, and take a test when they feel that they are ready for it. Due to the unlimited duration of such a training course, there is no interaction with other students or the trainer.

Although these methods are in contrast to each other, they allow organizations to achieve their training goals equally effectively, as well as to offer employees the opportunity to acquire knowledge and improve qualifications – which are in high demand nowadays. Moreover, both synchronous and asynchronous learning can be supported by the company’s Learning Management System (LMS). With its help, companies can not only provide employees with educational materials and assign them to specific training paths. They can also organize real-time training sessions with the participation of trainers or company experts.

Examples of synchronous learning

Synchronous learning primarily consists of all kinds of stationary training, lectures, workshops, conferences, and seminars. Of course, this does not mean that synchronous learning cannot be conducted online. Recent years have proven that it is not only possible but also keeps gaining in popularity. Live webinars, teleconferences, and training sessions organized using an e-learning platform are just a few examples of synchronous learning that take place via the Internet.

Examples of asynchronous learning

Asynchronous learning is successfully used in many organizations today. Almost all large organizations use remote learning platforms, where they share various training materials, recordings, manuals, and procedures. In other words, companies equip their employees with everything that allows employees to broaden their knowledge and raise qualifications. These materials are available to everyone, and viewing them is possible at a time and place convenient for the employee, and often on any device. All MOOC (massive open online course) platforms, which work in the same way as corporate LMSs, are also examples of asynchronous learning.

Which model is more effective?

Effectiveness is essential when choosing the optimal learning method. However, its effectiveness depends on many factors that should be taken into account at the planning stage. The key issues include the following: the subject of the training, the difficulty of the topic, the number of participants, or the level of the course attendees.

Synchronous learning is primarily about real-time interactions, i.e. the possibility of discussing problems, asking questions, and jointly searching for solutions to specific problems. It also offers immediate feedback on the progress made, the possibility of obtaining immediate answers to questions or dispelling any doubts. It is all conducive to the learning process, affects the level of student involvement, and improves the effectiveness of the training process.

On the other hand, synchronous learning translates into a lack of flexibility. It requires presence and commitment at a precisely defined date, which may not be optimal for everyone. As long as the participant of such training has no other priorities or urgent tasks, he or she can concentrate on training, but this is not always the case. Especially in large organizations and training sessions organized for a wider audience, it is difficult to choose a date that suits everyone. A significant disadvantage of synchronous learning may also be its dependence on the instructor and the group of students – each training session is slightly different and it isn’t always possible to discuss all the key issues in equal detail.

It is worth considering this form of learning in the case of training courses conducted in a relatively small group of participants where the focus is to discuss issues that are not overly complex, but require group work, exchange of views, or brainstorming. It is also an option worth considering when training new employees, as it allows them to get to know each other and build relationships.

Asynchronous learning also has advantages and disadvantages. Its great advantage is undoubtedly the possibility of acquiring knowledge at a convenient time and pace. This is especially important in the case of organizations where it is difficult to find a training date that would be convenient for all participants, as well as training sessions for participants with varying levels of knowledge. E-learning is also convenient from the corporate point of view – it is scalable, guarantees constant quality, and allows for considerable savings.

When writing about the disadvantages of asynchronous learning, it is impossible not to mention the limited possibilities of interaction with other students and, as a rule, the lower level of student involvement. However, a modern LMS can help eliminate these imperfections, thus improving the effectiveness of training courses and effectively motivating employees to maintain self-discipline. It provides an e-learning environment that is conducive to the exchange of views and experiences – it allows participants to make comments and ask questions to the authors of the training or other trainees. It automates training, motivates attendees to complete started courses, and rewards commitment and being active.

Do learners prefer synchronized learning?

The younger generation of employees is perfectly familiar with new technologies and many apps that allow them to, e.g. order a taxi, share a photo on social media, watch a movie or plan a weekend trip. They expect equally high flexibility and diversity from their employers regarding qualification improvement. Asynchronous learning perfectly meets the needs reported by students and younger employees. It provides them with the much-needed flexibility and availability at any place and time – on the road, during a business trip, or during a break from other activities.

In order to ensure a sufficiently high level of student involvement, effectively motivate them and support self-discipline, it is worth preparing a variety of formats and teaching methods when designing training courses. Employees are willing to use modern technology, do tests and perform tasks, as well as take advantage of elements of gamification. It is also helpful to design complete training paths and give employees the chance to acquire certificates. Course participants should also get engaged in the process of creating training materials – they can actively provide feedback, help improve the courses or cooperate with company experts. Such involvement should positively translate into training effectiveness and the improvement of the company’s Learning and Development strategy.

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