June 15, 2020

Asynchronous vs Synchronous Activities Online

The online environment enables us to use powerful tools for teaching and learning.  Asynchronous and synchronous eLearning strategies have benefits and limitations and they complement each other.

Asynchronous eLearning is related to activities taking place when participants are not present online at the same time.

Synchronous eLearning happens when participants who are not located in the same place meet in the same time by using eLearning tools like web conferencing and chat.

Mainly, asynchronous activities provide time for in depth reflection, meanwhile synchronous activities engage and motivate students.

Asynchronous vs Synchronous

(Hrastinski, 2008)

We will try to provide few suggestions on how to choose asynchronous vs. synchronous activities.

When Use Asynchronous vs. Synchronous eLearning?

Asynchronous Synchronous
·       Synchronous meeting not possible due to schedule conflicts

·       Reflecting on complex issues

·       Getting acquainted

·       Planning tasks

·       Discuss less complex issues

Adapted from Hrastinski

Due to Covid-19 distancing regulations, the regular meeting hours for your class might change.  In a case like that you need to plan for asynchronous activities in addition to the synchronous ones.

Why Use Asynchronous vs. Synchronous eLearning?

Asynchronous Synchronous
·       Students need time to study and reflect on materials

·       Activities do not need an immediate answer.

·       Enhance the learning community by interaction outside class meetings

·       Get immediate feedback during lecture

·       Motivate students and enhance attention during class with quick response assessment

·       Build a learning community by direct interaction.

Adapted from Hrastinski

Blended classes make good use of both methods successfully.  Convenient access to class resources make the online environment an appreciated resource for the students. Most of the online access of the class by the student is to access content asynchronously.

How to Use Asynchronous vs. Synchronous eLearning?

Asynchronous Synchronous
·       Make course content available online

·       Use communication tools like discussion boards, blogs, journals, wikis

·       Plan group activities

·       Use web conferencing tools like Collaborate Ultra and Zoom

·       Use group breakouts and whiteboard features provided by the web conferencing tools

Adapted from Hrastinski

We selected few examples of most efficient activities:

Asynchronous Activities Examples:

  • Use the class Discussion Board to engage students in dialogue. Forums topics can include assignment reviews, questions related to the video lecture to check if students watched it, interesting lecture topics which can be debated by a two columns method (pros and cons).
  • Use Journals to document student progress with a specific topic. Journals can be used as private or shared.
  • Set students in Groups. Let student submit projects or review and submit quizzes after studying with the group.

Synchronous Activities Examples:

  • Students have preassigned content to cover (mini lectures to view, readings, discussions, etc. ). Then, at a set time, the class meets synchronously in a Collaborate Ultra session for a Content Review using clicker questions.
  • Team Base Learning activity (TBL) using Collaborate Ultra session with Breakout groups.
  • Adapting Peer Instruction techniques in a Synchronous Collaborate Ultra session.


We offer training on all the topics/tools suggested in this article (see schedule on MyUAMS tab in Blackboard).  We will also customize training at your request.

For more details please contact us at BlackboardHelp@uams.edu

Thank you

The eLearning Team



Hrastinski, S., (2008) Asynchronous vs Synchronous E-Learning. Educause Quarterly, 31(4), 51-55.