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Online Course: Asynchronous Learning or Synchronous Learning, Will You Be Where You Need to Be?

written by: Doc Smith•edited by: Laurie Patsalides•updated: 11/19/2009

Imagine that you have decided to take an online course. Next to know? Not all college online courses are the same. Usually, this is the way this happens. You locate an online course and begin reading about it. Suddenly you read: THIS CLASS IS ASYNCHRONOUS. Yikes! What does that mean?

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    Imagine that you have decided to take an online course. You have decided that you have the money, time and materials to do this. What is next to know? How about the way the class will be held? Not all college online courses are the same at all.

    Usually, this is the way this happens. You locate an online course and begin reading about it. Suddenly you read the following words: This online class is asynchronous learning. What does this mean?

    Relax, take a deep breath and let me tell you the down and dirty meanings of different type of elearning environments. Why do you need to know this? Not all elearning environments are the same. You need to understand the advantages, disadvantages, similarities and differences so you will be physically where you need to be.

    There are basically three types of elearning environments in college courses: asynchronous, synchronous, and blended. Each of the three types has advantages as well as distinct disadvantages.

    The first is commonly called a self-paced course, or asynchronous learning. Think of asynchronous learning as learning without being synchronized. That means you do what you need to do when you decide to do it, usually within time limits. Examples include courses that you read the materials, complete projects, and take quizzes or tests. The advantages? For a self-motivated learner, you are in control of your learning – the when, where and how are all up to you. The disadvantages: If you are not really into self-motivated learning, it becomes very easy to put off doing course work. The procrastination turns into dread, the dread turns into not finishing the course work within the time limits. This happens more often than not. In addition, you do not usually have any interaction with other class members. Basically, you are a solo learning.

    The second type of elearning environment is an instructor facilitated course or synchronous learning. This type of class means that usually the entire class meets online in a predetermined online web site during a predetermined time period. That’s right, you log on and enter a site with all of the other students and the instructor. On that site, discussions take place, questions and responses happen, lectures occur, cooperative projects take place in real time, even real-time assessments can happen. The advantages? You are part of a learning group, while at the same time an individual learning. The learning environment and pace are determined by the instructor. You are a learning participant within that space and time. The Disadvantages? You are one of the invisible crowd members in cyberspace. You have to be in the cyberspace place at the designated time. While online in this type of class, others are aware of when you come and go to this class. Class members and the instructor are aware of what you type, when you type it and of course, any spelling or grammar errors.

    The third type of elearning environment is a blended course, blended asynchronous and synchronous. That really means that some of the class will be self-instruction (asynchronous) and some of the class will be instructor facilitated (synchronous). Keep in mind that the word blended is generic for this type of class. Some colleges have branded this type of class with other names. It depends. The advantages? Hopefully, this blended learning environment takes the best from both asynchronous and asynchronous. Think of it like a buffet. Merely a little of this and a little of that approach. The disadvantages: Again, procrastination can happen with the asynchronous parts (self-paced) then that negatively impacts the synchronous (real time, instructor facilitated) portions. It is easy to become mixed up of what to do when and where to do it.

    Elearning online environments can be for everyone. However, the way the class is structured as asynchronous, synchronous or a blended version is vital to know before you undertake an online course. For every college student enrolled in an online course it is up to the student to know when, when and what to do. There are not too many excuses in cyber class.






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