Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Learning – Which Will Work For Your Organization?

The title of this post may have your head spinning – perhaps you’re new to utilizing eLearning for your corporate training and you haven’t even heard of synchronous or asynchronous learning, or it’s something you’re only vaguely familiar with, but ultimately these are two of the primary learning styles that are going to guide corporate training and eLearning in general.

Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Learning – Which Will Work For Your Organization?Here’s the basics:

Synchronous Learning: This is a style of multimedia learning that involves the use of real-time learning mechanisms. One example can be online chat capabilities, or the use of instant messaging between teachers and students as well as between students themselves.

There’s a lot of interaction that occurs with synchronous learning so there’s plenty of opportunities for immediate feedback, questions and answers and trouble shooting on issues a student may be having trouble with.

With synchronous learning there’s a real sense of collaboration and less of a focus on the individual.

The Pros and Cons of Synchronous Learning: The first pro is of course the level of interactivity. Many students find this is more engaging and they feel more comfortable with the learning experience when there’s an instructor and other students to work with and provide at least some level of support.

Synchronous learning also provides opportunities for collaborative-style learning, which can be incredibly effective for learning new skills, empowering employees to make the right decisions and for building a sense of teamwork amongst employees.

The final primary pro of synchronous learning is the fact that it can be more motivating to employees who have trouble with self-motivation. Since there is a set time and place where students are required to attend the online course, they’re not as likely to fall behind on training.

As far as the negatives of synchronous learning, the number one issue organizations have with this style is the lack of flexibility. It may be that some employees are being held back by the needs of other learners and it really puts a heavy demand on employees to follow a specific learning schedule.

Also, just as with classroom training, you really have to be able to find a great instructor who can lead the class because the success or failure is often going to depend on that person. This can be costly to an organization in terms of both time and money.

Asynchronous Learning: On the other hand, asynchronous learning is more about the individual student. Coursework can take place at any time or in any location the student chooses, so there’s a lot of room for flexibility in the learning process.

Of course there is still communication that can be incorporated into this type of multimedia learning, through email and various messages, but answers and interactions don’t occur in real time.

With asynchronous learning, the learner can really choose how to move through training content. That may mean jumping ahead or spending more time on one module than another. For some students it can even mean the opportunity to skip some content altogether if they feel like it’s repetitive.

The Pros and Cons of Asynchronous Learning: Of course as mentioned, the number one benefit of this learning style is the flexibility. Learners can work at their own pace, which many find to be very engaging and beneficial, and they’re not held back or left behind based on the needs of other learners.

Asynchronous learning can also be done on-demand so the employee doesn’t have to lose work time and they can learn whenever they find it convenient.

In terms of cons, asynchronous learning doesn’t provide immediate opportunities for feedback or support and it definitely requires a high level of self-motivation on the part of the learner.

Many organizations find it’s most beneficial to include elements of both synchronous and asynchronous learning into their eLearning, although the ultimate decision is going to be dependent on your employees, your goals and your resources.

Which type of learning do you find best – or do you rely on a combination of both styles?

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