Rhonda Partney-Wakelyn, MA, M.Ed
What does Asynchronous mean?
In an asynchronous learning environment, communication does not occur in real time. In other words, different time/different place. Course materials are self-navigated, and students progress through the learning materials at their discretion. Students often find this design more convenient. However, interaction can be minimal, and many may find this style of learning isolating. Traditional course style, in contrast, requires students to engage with course members and is actively monitored by an instructor. This method is known as synchronous learning- same time/same place. There are benefits to both course styles. However, given the limited interaction of an Asynchronous course, what can we do to improve your students’ experience and their ability to communicate when they experience a problem or have a question? Before we dive into the best practices of Asynchronous learning, let us look at some of its benefits.
The Benefits of Asynchronous Courses
Students find asynchronous courses very convenient. They enjoy having the ability to complete coursework on their own time. What are some other benefits of participating in an asynchronous course?
- Asynchronous learning offers a more flexible learning environment
Students are provided with flexible options for completing coursework in asynchronous learning environments.
- Erases time zone requirements
Students can join your course anywhere, and barriers to time and place are removed.
- Saves time
Students do not have to arrange their schedules around coursework and meetings.
- Improves Accessibility
So, what can we do to improve our asynchronous courses and provide students with the interaction they need but with the flexibility they enjoy? The focus lies in communication. Let us consider the following ideas.
- Provide a dynamic syllabus that is flexible and detailed
Make sure the content and requirements are clearly outlined for students. Include information regarding the types of tools that will be used throughout the course and what users should expect to experience. If deadlines are required, include this information in your syllabus.
- Give your learners a clear path to completion
Do this by establishing a pace for the course. You can include a timeline within your syllabus to help guide learners through the course’s completion.
- Enable course members to communicate and expand knowledge through discussion forums
Include options such as discussion boards, email, or text for communication. Please make yourself available to the students so they can ask questions. Use discussion forums to expand knowledge and understanding. Feel free to use writing prompts to guide your students’ collaboration and deepen their learning from assigned readings. Just because the course is asynchronous doesn’t mean you can’t leverage interactive tools for your users.
- Be intentional in your course design and reflect on essential learning outcomes
Establish goals and determine the requirements and policies needed for the course. What knowledge, skills, and abilities do you want to produce through the dissemination of the information? What tools do you want to use, and are they accessible to all students? What is the learning curve?
- Provide training and clear instructions
You can provide training in instructional documents and/or videos in an asynchronous course. Be sure to provide contact information for the users who experience a problem.
- Ask for feedback
Once a student has completed the course, please provide them with a survey. Ask them what worked and what did not. What did they like about the course, and what could have been improved?
- Provide rules for technology
If you are using discussion boards, inform them of your requirements. How often should they post on the discussion board? How many posts are they required to respond to?
When designed and developed with the student’s needs in mind, asynchronous courses can offer a rich learning experience. Many students feel they benefit from the flexibility of an asynchronous learning environment. Asynchronous courses allow students time to think about the information they are learning. Furthermore, with the right strategies and the proper tools (such as facilitated discussion boards), students can develop rich learning communities where information can be shared, and new perspectives can be created.
Best Practices for Asynchronous Learning
Open LMS, 2020
Asynchronous Strategies for Inclusive Teaching
Brown University, The Harriet W. Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning