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Asynchronous Learning

Asynchronous Learning

6 March, 2016

Asynchronous learning is a student-centered teaching method that uses online learning resources to facilitate information sharing outside the constraints of time and place among a network of people.

Asynchronous learning is based on constructivist theory, a student-centered methodology that emphasizes the importance of peer-to-peer interactions. This approach combines self-study with asynchronous interactions to promote learning, and it can be used to facilitate learning in traditional on-campus education, distance education, and continuing education. This combined network of learners and the electronic network in which they communicate are referred to as an asynchronous learning network.

The online learning resources used to support asynchronous learning include email, electronic mailing lists, threaded conferencing systems, online discussion boards, wikis, and blogs. Course management systems such as Campus Cruiser LMS, Blackboard, WebCT, Moodle, and Sakai, have been made to support online interaction, permitting users to organize discussions, post and reply to messages, and upload and access multimedia. These asynchronous forms of communication are sometimes supplemented with synchronous components, including text and voice chat, telephone conversations, videoconferencing, and even meetings in virtual spaces such as Second Life, where discussions can be facilitated among groups of students.

Benefits of Asynchronous Learning

Asynchronous learning’s greatest advantage to students is the freedom it gives them to access the course and its instructional materials at any time they choose and from any location with an Internet connection. This allows for accessibility for diverse student populations, ranging from traditional, on-campus students, to working professionals, to international students in foreign countries.

Asynchronous learning environments provide a “high degree of interactivity” between participants who are separated both geographically and temporally and afford students many of the social benefits of face-to-face interaction. Since students can express their thoughts without interruption, they have more time to reflect on and respond to class materials and their classmates than in a traditional classroom.

Research reveals that the time needed to initially design an asynchronous course is comparable to that of a traditional synchronous course. However, most asynchronous courses have the potential to reach far more students than a traditional course and course-wide updates or modifications can be disseminated far more quickly and efficiently than traditional lecture models.

Schifter notes that a perceived additional workload is a significant barrier to faculty participation in distance education and asynchronous learning, but that perception can be mitigated through training and experience with teaching in these environments.

Another benefit of asynchronous learning (and, as technology develops, many synchronous learning environments) is that there is a record of nearly everything that occurs in that environment. All materials, correspondence, and interactions can be electronically archived. Participants can go back and review course materials, lectures, and presentations, as well as correspondence between participants. This information is generally available at any time to course participants.

Disadvantages of Asynchronous Learning

Asynchronous learning environments pose several challenges for instructors, institutions, and students. Course development and initial setup can be costly. Institutions must give a computer network infrastructure, including servers, audio/visual equipment, software, and the technical support required to develop and maintain asynchronous learning environments. Technical support includes initial training and setup, user management, data storage and recovery, as well as hardware repairs and updates. Research indicates faculty members who are hesitant to teach in asynchronous learning environments are so because of a lack of technical support provided by their institutions. However, for faculty to teach effectively in an asynchronous learning environment, they must be technically adept and comfortable enough with the technological tools to optimize their use.

To participate in asynchronous learning environments, students must also have access to computers and the Internet. Although personal computers and web access are becoming more and more pervasive every day, this requirement can be a hindrance to entry for many students and instructors. Students must also have the computer/technology skills needed to participate in the asynchronous learning program. Also this is good for a successful online degree.