The pros and cons of synchronous and asynchronous learning: which is better?

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Photo by Lauren Symbolik-Berger

While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about many changes, perhaps one of the most significant changes for students is the newly adjusted methods of online learning.

When registration for the current fall term began to approach, faculties worked to clarify the different course styles. Courses were defined as either “online” or “remote”. 

Online classes, also referred to as “asynchronous” classes, were specified as not being scheduled on a regular day and time each week. 

Remote classes were explained to be courses that would have been delivered in person under regular circumstances. These classes are scheduled for a set day and time each week and are referred to as “synchronous”. 

This year, synchronous classes are taking place via Zoom and are facilitated by professors and teaching assistants. 

Although remote learning is not the traditional learning style at Laurier, asynchronous and synchronous learning are not new concepts. There have been ongoing debates to address the usefulness of both styles.

As a student, it’s important to be able to recognize which courses are better suited to your learning style and schedule. 

Many students may be familiar with the asynchronous style, particularly those who have taken courses in the summer months, as most classes in that period are offered online. 

The asynchronous style requires students to create their own schedule and do their class work on their own time. Professors will typically prepare slideshows or even pre-recorded lessons for students to work through.

The hardest part of asynchronous learning for many students — —is time management and self-discipline. It can be hard to make the time to do 

Although it may seem as though it would be easier to do with most students at home for the majority of their days, it can actually be quite difficult to become motivated, especially now that we’re working from home and each day blends into the next. 

Students may also feel less connected to the professor and their classmates, as they’re rarely required to be personally engaged in the lessons. This could lead to feelings of disconnectedness. 

On the other hand, this style of learning may be preferred for those who are working during the semester, as it allows you to fit your classes around your other priorities. 

Many students’ finances may have been affected by COVID-19, requiring them to work throughout the semester. Asynchronous learning may allow for students to find their ideal balance between work, extracurriculars and school. 

However, there are many positives to synchronous learning as well. Despite it being remote, synchronous learning most accurately mimics in-person learning, as classes are live and are scheduled for the same time weekly.

This means that professors and students can all engage together at the same time, which is useful for those who are looking for some normalcy in their schedule this year.

Students can also participate and ask questions in real-time which is useful when compared to asynchronous learning, where questions are asked via email and take longer to be answered. 

Opposite to asynchronous learning, students may also find that they’re more motivated to do work synchronously, as they have to hold themselves accountable for showing up to class each time. 

The disadvantage of synchronous learning is that it may be less accessible to students for a variety of reasons, including time-zone or internet connection issues. Synchronous learning may also cause more difficulties for students who need note-takers or close-captioned lessons. 

Ultimately, while asynchronous learning requires a higher level of independent learning skills, synchronous learning seems to be the more favourable option for students who would like to maintain a sense of normalcy this school year. 

Whether students prefer synchronous or asynchronous learning, it almost goes without saying that this school year will be different than most. Either way, there’s a personal element that is being removed from classes, and it can be hard to be social, present and engaged through a screen — regardless of which courses you’re taking. 

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