If you’ve never heard the term synchronous learning, chances are you’ve partaken in it in some way. Synchronous learning happens all around us every day. It is an activity during which all the learners are participating at the same time. In other words, it’s a live training event that requires learners to be there at a specific time rather than a recorded educational model.
You went through synchronous learning in school when you sat in a class listening to a teacher read from a textbook. Live webinars that don’t offer replays count as synchronous learning. And finally, mentoring or coaching programs in which a senior employee gives an on-the-spot demonstration to new employees is synchronous learning.
The Benefits and Pitfalls of Synchronous Learning
Before learning when you should use this technique in your office, consider why it’s a great option to offer for employee education.
- Synchronous learning offers immediate feedback to prevent mistakes and positively reinforce exceptional understanding of topics or skills.
- This type of learning encourages group effort and collaboration, which can help build a stronger team.
- If you choose a live online course, you can still have synchronous learning in a hybrid or virtual office.
But there are always things to consider before choosing a training method. A few of the things that may make you reconsider synchronous learning include:
- It is time-sensitive. Because synchronous learning requires that all participants be there when the training occurs, employees must carve out time away from their other activities.
- If you hire a trainer, it is usually more expensive to facilitate. Recorded materials are often offered at a lower rate because it doesn’t require the trainer’s time.
- It can be time-consuming as well. Synchronous training events often require more time because there are discussions, questions to be answered, and possibly travel.
Given the excellent benefits, these downsides may not be a deterrent.
What is the Opposite of Synchronous Learning?
The opposite of synchronous learning, asynchronous learning, is more commonplace in workplace settings. This type of education involves pre-recorded courses, textbooks, workbooks, and other media that are meant to allow students to learn whenever they can.
There are obvious advantages to this type of learning as well. In addition to being more time-efficient, it is often more affordable. However, the lack of immediate feedback and group discussion can make this less effective as well.
Many offices are using a blended method of learning. They offer both live training events and asynchronous learning materials. This approach can be beneficial for tailoring training to individual learning styles.
When to Use Synchronous Learning
To decide the best type of learning activity for your office, consider what the goal is of the training. Do you need your employees to memorize some basic knowledge or improve skills that they have defined for their individual growth? This may not be suited for synchronous learning.
However, suppose you need your employees to develop better soft skills, work better as a team, or learn a new skill with immediate feedback to ensure safety and compliance. In that case, these are great situations to choose this type of learning.
Consider these things:
- Can your employees all get to the training if it is live? Do you have a remote or hybrid office? If so, will the live training be streamed over the Internet?
- Consider your team’s schedule. Can everyone take off from their usual duties to attend the live training?
- Consider what technology your team has access to. If your team needs to work together, but only some of them are in the office, do they have the tools needed to collaborate virtually?
- Ask your employees what they think. Do they like the idea of live training with plenty of feedback and discussion? It may be that your team would prefer a self-paced course that they can work into their schedules instead.
- Can you add an element of flexibility to the synchronous learning activity? For example, can you offer the training portion as a pre-recorded course and schedule multiple opportunities for group discussions?
- Should the course include a test or assessment portion? This will be important if you want to have a fully synchronous learning event. How will you assess learning if most of the activity is a question-and-answer forum?
These considerations can help you determine when the best time is to choose synchronous learning for your team.
The Hybrid Approach to Office Learning
Offering more opportunities for employees to choose how they learn is never a bad thing. This is why many organizations choose to offer a hybrid approach. Instead of focusing only on synchronous learning, they will incorporate asynchronous work as preparation for a synchronous session.
This helps to take some of the pressure off of employees by allowing them to prepare their questions and discussion points ahead of time. It also ensures that the discussion stays focused and structured, which eliminates one of the pitfalls of time consumption with synchronous learning.
There is no one correct answer over the other when it comes to which option to choose. Instead, meeting in the middle with both can be helpful. But knowing when to choose synchronous learning is a meaningful way to build your learning plan.
Knowing which type of learning you want to lean into can help you when it comes to deciding on a Learning Management System or an office training curriculum. Many LMS platforms offer both synchronous and asynchronous learning activities. There may be self-paced study courses with access to live discussions monthly or live training events hosted on the platform that then offer a follow-up workbook. Be sure to check into what types of learning activities are offered when reviewing an LMS.
The key takeaway is that synchronous learning is the better choice for engaging your learners with immediate answers and feedback. There are many solutions in which this could be helpful. If you prefer this style of group learning, you can incorporate it effectively into your office training plan.