Synchronous Learning vs. Asynchronous Learning in Online Education

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What’s the difference between synchronous learning and asynchronous learning? The answer could have a huge impact on your online education experience. While online education continues to grow in popularity and accessibility, it can still be grouped broadly into these two categories. Synchronous learning is online or distance education that happens in real time, whereas asynchronous learning occurs through online channels without real-time interaction. Many hybrid learning models will include a blend of both asynchronous and synchronous online learning. But models which use a strictly synchronous learning approach or a strictly asynchronous learning approach will have some distinctly different features. Read on to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of both:

What kind of learner are you? Are you a self-starter or a social butterfly? Do you thrive in the warm embrace of a supportive instructor or do you do your best work in a virtual isolation chamber? Does professorial oversight motivate you to be your best self or does it just cramp your style? And most importantly, what kind of online experience is your best bet for success?

Sorry to get all personal. You don’t have to tell us. We’re not trying to pry. But we are here to help.

Consider the advantages and disadvantages of both Synchronous and Asynchronous learning. Once you have a clear sense of what differentiates these experiences, you’ll be better prepared to choose between the two. And once you can do that, you can truly whittle down your options as you seek an online education.

If you already know what you’re looking for, jump right to our list of The Best Online Colleges for 2019.

Otherwise, read on:

 What is Synchronous Learning?

Synchronous learning is the kind of learning that happens in real time. This means that you, your classmates, and your instructor interact in a specific virtual place, through a specific online medium, at a specific time. In other words, it’s not exactly anywhere, anyhow, anytime. Methods of synchronous online learning include video conferencing, teleconferencing, live chatting, and live-streaming lectures.

What are the advantages of synchronous learning?

Find out why so many students say online education actually leads to better professor engagement!

What are the disadvantages of synchronous learning?

If synchronous learning presents you with scheduling challenges, check out our tips for effective time management in online college.

 What is Asynchronous Learning?

Asynchronous learning happens on your schedule. While your course of study, instructor or degree program will provide materials for reading, lectures for viewing, assignments for completing, and exams for evaluation, you have the ability to access and satisfy these requirements within a flexible time frame. Methods of asynchronous online learning include self-guided lesson modules, streaming video content, virtual libraries, posted lecture notes, and exchanges across discussion boards or social media platforms.

What are the advantages of asynchronous learning?

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What are the disadvantages of asynchronous learning?

For strategies on how to overcome this and other challenges common for first-time distance learners, check out Online College Gone Wrong…and How to Fix It.

The coolest thing about online learning is that you don’t have to choose just one way of doing it. Many online college courses require a little of both—perhaps a combination of real-time conferencing and self-paced assignment completion; or a balance between pre-taped lectures and live interactive discussions. Every online education model is different, and the very best online colleges find ways of balancing these models to produce distinct and enriching online education experiences.

To find out how leaders in online education are balancing synchronous and asynchronous learning models, check out 50 Best Online Colleges & Universities 2019.

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