Online classes can be taught via two different methods: synchronously or asynchronously. What is the difference between synchronous and asynchronous learning, and how do students learn best? While there are benefits to both approaches, synchronous learning offers many advantages for online learners. Find the best approach for your adult learning needs with Achieve.
What is synchronous learning?
Synchronous means “in sync” or “happening at the same time.” In regards to education, synchronous learning refers to classes where all students are receiving information at the same time at the same pace.
Synchronous learning puts students on a path together, with an instructor providing guidance and insight along the way.
Examples of synchronous learning include:
- Traditional classrooms where students attend in person
- Online courses taught live at scheduled times
Benefits of synchronous learning:
Live class discussions
Ask instructors questions in real-time
Connect with classmates
Keep students accountable
Move through material at steady pace
What is asynchronous learning?
Asynchronous means “out of sync” or “happening at different times.” This format of online classes is pre recorded and doesn't require students to log in at a specific time. Students can work through classes whenever they please; there are no live instructors or peers involved.
Asynchronous learning puts students on a path on their own, requiring self discipline and motivation to grasp topics and push through to the end.
Examples of asynchronous learning include:
Learning platforms such as Master Class, Skillshare, etc.
Tutorial videos on YouTube or social media
Any online course without a live instructor
Benefits of asynchronous learning:
- Take classes at any time
- Move through material at own pace
- Own the learning process without waiting for new lessons
What is the difference between synchronous and asynchronous learning?
The biggest difference between synchronous vs. asynchronous learning is structure. Synchronous classes come with built-in learning structures such as set class times, live instructors, firm due dates, and more. This ensures students move through material at a manageable pace and complete at a determined time.
While asynchronous classes have some structure in that lessons are pre-planned and recorded, students must rely on their own self determination and motivation to work through all the material. Since lessons can be accessed at any time, there’s a lower sense of urgency to log in and finish learning by a certain date. This can prolong learning time for those who struggle with procrastination.
Learning styles: how do students learn best?
Every student learns differently. There’s no one learning style that fits all.
Three main learning styles are:
- Visual: Learning by seeing. Visual learners take in information best through reading or visual aids such as graphs, charts, and diagrams.
- Auditory: Learning by hearing. Auditory learners prefer information spoken aloud through lectures, speeches, or group discussions.
- Kinesthetic: Learning by doing. Kinesthetic learners need hands-on experience to understand concepts, such a simulation or practice assignment.
Effective online learning should incorporate several learning styles to appeal to a wide range of students. Whether the class is synchronous or asynchronous, online material is usually presented through:
Live or recorded lectures covering the main topics of each lesson
Visual aids demonstrating key concepts
Assignments or example problems to apply learning
With so many different learning styles, how a student learns best depends on their individual needs. It’s important to find education programs that fit your preferred style.
Which is more effective: synchronous or asynchronous learning?
When comparing synchronous vs. asynchronous learning, determining which will be more effective depends on several factors beyond your learning style.
Study habits: If you thrive at setting schedules, meeting deadlines, and staying motivated, asynchronous learning will work well for you. But if you need extra support with accountability and avoiding procrastination, structured synchronous courses will help keep you on task.
Screen time: Logging onto an online class is a much different experience than sitting in a physical classroom. While both options will be an adjustment for those unfamiliar with screen-based learning, synchronous classes more closely resemble traditional classrooms in that you can interact with your instructor in real time. If you’re nervous about how you’ll adjust to an online format, having more familiar class elements may help ease the transition.
Subject matter difficulty: Topics that are extra challenging or unfamiliar to you may require more personalized attention to ensure you’re grasping the material. For example, if you’ve struggled with science-based subjects in the past, chances are moving through classes on your own may cause frustration.
Why synchronous learning is better for online classes
When you’re not in a physical classroom, learning dynamics can change. Factors that contribute to your accountability—like your teacher or even sitting amongst your peers—are removed when you’re in front of a screen. No one expects you to work through challenging subjects all on your own when you show up to a classroom, but without synchronous learning, students have to read textbooks, all without the ability to ask questions from a live instructor.
Synchronous learning is better for:
Adult learners who’ve been out of school for a long time
Students who want extra guidance and support
Achieve offers synchronous courses for added support
Achieve Test Prep believes synchronous learning is the most supportive way to reach your educational goals. Our flexible, online RN Bridge Program empowers busy healthcare professionals to test out of nursing prerequisites.
- Live instruction from subject-matter experts
- On-demand tutoring for extra guidance
- Flexible class schedules with day, night, and weekend availability
Connect with our Advisors to learn more about how our synchronous online classes can help advance your RN education.