​Organizations face the challenge of providing continuous education for personnel. eLearning has become a powerful go-to method of accomplishing this goal across many industries and enterprises.

For learners to participate and acquire new skills and knowledge, there are two methods of online training to pay attention to; synchronous and asynchronous eLearning. Let’s take a closer look at both of these methods now.

Synchronous eLearning

Most of us are familiar with different types of eLearning from enrolling in classes and seminars that utilize virtual classrooms. Here’s a few ways that training can occur: via webinars, video conferences, webcasts, application sharing, and live chat. In synchronous eLearning, the presentation occurs at specific times for the group to participate in the training which is led by a professional online instructor.

Benefits of synchronous eLearning include the following:

  • Instructors can deliver course material and answer participants’ questions live, which improves the quality of the program.
  • Instructors can receive instant feedback about the class to put to help improve future classes.
  • eLearners realize cost savings since they are not required to travel to offsite class locations.
  • Collaborative and interactive training is delivered in a virtual classroom through tools such as whiteboards and screen sharing.
  • Large groups of eLearners are reached simultaneously, which conserves time that can be used to schedule other classes and attend to other tasks and projects.

However, synchronous eLearning does have some disadvantages:

  • eLearners must adhere to a set schedule and are unable to access the content at their convenience.
  • Some participants may get lost in the shuffle if there is a large group participating. Questions may go unseen in chats if others are “speaking” over them.
  • The speed of the presentation may be too slow or too fast for some participants.
  • Technical problems can arise which may interfere with the live class. This could include anything, from losing internet access to having audio difficulties. Advanced technical know-how is often required on both ends to help solve unexpected issues.

Asynchronous eLearning

In asynchronous online education, eLearners do not gather simultaneously in virtual classrooms. Instead, presentations are pre-recorded and digital materials are delivered via email, discussion boards, social networking, and collaborative documents. Commonly used delivery methods include recorded audio, video presentations, and discussion tools. This type of eLearning offers the following advantages:

  • Greater flexibility for eLearners to access curriculum at their convenience and from any location.
  • Discussion forums help reinforce learning through discussions with peers. This aids in the reinforcement and retention of the curriculum.
  • Learning can take place over time which can help eLearners practice and apply the material.

However, this type of learning may not suit all, because:

  • Some eLearners may feel isolated in attempting to understand the material without a live instructor.
  • The lack of live communication means expressions and tones of an instructor are not present to hold interest.
  • This approach requires eLearners to be self-disciplined, motivated, and not easily distracted to progress through the material.
  • The limited contact with the instructors and other participants may be frustrating for some.
  • Clarification and support may not be as easily accessible in self-paced courses.

A combination of learning tools can be used in either approach. For example, while live webinars are intended to gather participants together at the same time, they are also recorded for viewing later on. This also applies to texting to ask questions about the materials. The conversation is synchronous if the recipient is online and can respond immediately. However, it becomes asynchronous if the question is not answered until later.

Blending Asynchronous and Synchronous eLearning

A third option in eLearning is to utilize tools from both approaches. A Learning Management System (LMS) provides a blend of tools to support both types of presentations. These can combine videos, downloadable files, live sessions, discussions, and texts all in one platform. The blended approach offers invaluable social interactions while providing flexibility in presentations. Users have the flexibility of viewing lessons on their own time while real-time support is provided by instructors as needed.

Interactions In Both Approaches

Both asynchronous and synchronous learning approaches require participants to mentally process the material individually as well as have the option to socially interact with others.

In the asynchronous approach, interacting with the content is a way to ensure the material is understood. An example of content interaction would be a series of multiple choice questions following a presentation. Another tool would be an online interactive activity, such as using the application that was taught. For example, a lesson on how to use PowerPoint could be followed by an exercise where the user creates their own slideshow with the application.

Social interactions are just as important in either eLearning approach. Using the above lesson example, a participant with a question about adding graphics to a slide, can either instantly message an instructor (synchronous) for the answer or post the question to an online forum (asynchronous).

Without valuable social interactions, it is difficult to have access to different points of view and gain new insights. Instructors accessing eLearner forums can also see what points are more confusing and make clarifications accordingly.

Choosing the Best Solution

When building courses for eLearners, the following factors must be considered when deciding on asynchronous, synchronous, or a blend of both approaches.

  1. Who and where is the target audience? Participants with varying skill and experience levels who are located all over the world may benefit most from asynchronous learning. A selection of courses at various levels can be provided to accommodate skill levels. Time zone differences would also not be an obstacle. If the course content is highly specialized and complex, synchronous learning is the better option. Instructors can then instantly address questions and clarify concepts during the presentation.
  2. Internet and Wi-Fi accessibility. Most participants will normally have access to 24/7 high speed internet without any issues. However, inclement weather can cause extended downtimes and must be considered when planning and presenting synchronous learning courses.

Our powerful and versatile Learning Management System (LMS) at Knowledge Anywhere can help you deliver and manage course content in several ways. Our centralized learning platform provides a variety of methodologies to build and manage content with access to virtual learning, webinars, assessments, and instructor-led training. Whether you select synchronous, asynchronous, or a blend of the two presentation methods, our experienced team will help to ensure that your courseware is immersive, engaging, and informative for your eLearners.

Contact us to schedule a demo of our LMS and learn how our platform can help you build an effective training and development program.

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