Synchronous versus asynchronous courses and programs: What's the difference?

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Vital Question: Should I take a Synchronous or Asynchronous Online Degree Program?

When browsing for online degree programs, students encounter two main options: synchronous programs, and asynchronous programs.

Synchronous courses resemble a more traditional coursework model, in which students “attend” a course an instructor teaches in real-time, utilizing tools such as live streaming lectures, live chatrooms, phone or videoconferences, or Google Hangouts. All students are logged in at the same time to view the lecture and to actively participate in the discussion through typing or sometimes speaking through voice or videoconference technology. Synchronous courses allow students to respond or ask questions in the moment, change the discussion, engage with other students and their instructors directly, and participate more immediately in a learning community.

Asynchronous courses take a more non-traditional approach. Students do not “attend” class at a set time, but rather, access pre-recorded lectures and digital curriculum materials and respond through email, discussion boards, social networking, and collaborative documents at a time of their own choosing. Typically, students must attend classes within a set window, such as one week from the posting of course materials, but students control when they access these documents.

Asynchronous and synchronous courses both allow for direct communication access to professors and other students.

Pros and Cons of Synchronous and Asynchronous Courses

Each method of delivery comes with pros and cons, making synchronous courses work better for some students, and asynchronous courses work better for others.

Pros of Synchronous Courses:

Cons of Synchronous Courses:

Pros of Asynchronous Courses:

Cons of Asynchronous Courses: