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Published on:
February 18, 2022

What Is Asynchronous Learning: Definition, Pros & Cons, and More

It may seem like asynchronous learning is unfamiliar, but it’s closer to home than you may realize. (Literally.)


Ever work remotely? Take an online course? Work from the living room at the beginning of the pandemic? Teach your kids from the kitchen table? 


In essence, this is all part of asynchronous online learning - a method of education that allows you to do your tasks on your own schedule as long as you follow a specified timeframe. 


specific timeframe

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Before you get too far down with flashbacks like this, we promise it doesn’t have to be like that with the right tools. 


And since an estimated 36.2 million workers will have a hybrid remote work schedule by 2025, it isn’t going away. 


Let’s find out what asynchronous learning is, the cons, the pros, and everything in between. 

Intro to Asynchronous Learning

By definition, asynchronous means not simultaneous or concurrent. 


We’ll assume you know what the word learning means….


Asynchronous learning then means that learning can take place without concurrent instruction. 


This type of learning allows anyone to learn anything from anywhere with an internet connection, at their own pace. 


Basically, the instructor and the learner don’t have to be in the same place, at the same time.


Instead, course material is accessible via the internet, and people can learn on their time, within a certain timeframe.  


It’s what is often referred to as elearning. 


To define asynchronous learning, here are some examples: 

  • Viewing lectures or presentations
  • Quizzes
  • Problem solving exercises
  • Reading or writing assignments 
  • Interaction via discussion boards 


Often, asynchronous learning material is created, delivered, and managed through a learning management system (LMS) platform. 


LMSs are a one-stop shop for course creation, course hosting, and course delivery. 


These platforms are designed to bring the whole course to learners no matter where they are and often include integrations of quizzes, assessments, long-form reading uploads, presentations, and video lectures. 

How is Asynchronous Learning Applicable to Corporate Training?

Everyone’s had the experience of sitting through a long, boring PowerPoint presentation that was so dry nothing was learned nor retained. 


powerpoint

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They didn’t call it death by PowerPoint for no reason. 


Virtual asynchronous learning can be a game-changer for this. It can increase engagement and provide training materials that won’t kill the team with boredom. 


In a corporate setting, it can offer:

  1. Reduced training costs
  2. Flexibility 
  3. Higher retention of information 
  4. Reduce employee turnover rate with recertification training
  5. Efficient onboarding 


With course material that can be customized for job and industry learning objectives, asynchronous learning online is a cost-effective solution for corporations. 


It reduces travel for training and allows the material to be accessible across time zones. 


The ability to access pre-recorded videos, webinars, reading material, lectures, or presentations means that corporations don’t have to pay for an in-person instructor. 


Plus, for global companies, training can be accessed no matter where an employee may be, saving the time and money it could take to center training around multiple time zones. 


Since one employee can cost as much as $1,000 per business trip and an in-person industry expert’s fee to conduct training can vary, virtual asynchronous learning can make your company huge savings!


Asynchronous elearning offers flexibility for all work schedules, making relevant training available to everyone and reducing factors like paying for training on off days. 


The ability to access course materials on their own time and at their own pace means an employee won’t move on from a training module until they feel comfortable doing so. This causes a much higher retention of information. 


And, an asynchronous learning system can tap into the benefits of microlearning with small, digestible pieces of information. Sort of like a company training Netflix. 


It can also be used to review information from previous training since most LMSs that host elearning courses for remote type learning like this offer course catalogs. This is great for workplace refreshers and recertifications. 


Not only can asynchronous learning reduce employee turnover rate, it also accelerates the onboarding process so a corporation can grow faster. 


On average, it takes around 3 months to onboard a new employee, with some research suggesting it can take a full year before a new employee is a productive hire. Available at their own pace, asynchronous training could help shorten the onboarding process.

 

Plus, some LMSs offer the ability to bring the company logo, colors, and branding into course development. Asynchronous learning this way can help corporations stay on brand while reaching larger audiences, too. 


Who doesn’t want that? 

What Are the Benefits of Asynchronous Learning?

benefits of asynchronous learning

Right, but what else can you gain? That’s what you’re here for. 


(Insert imaginary drum roll sound here) 


  • Flexibility
  • Promotes a learner-centered approach
  • Reduces training costs
  • Scalable
  • Access to a wide range of training material

Flexibility 

There aren’t any other kinds of learning or course deliverability as flexible as asynchronous types. 


It has the ability to control the speed and pace at which courses are completed, offer training material on a convenient schedule specific to individual and corporate need, and anywhere, anytime accessibility. 


A flexible learning environment and flexible training material can provide a more tailored learning experience rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. 


In a corporate setting, this means that training materials can be administered in a way that works best for the whole company. 


Let’s use the pandemic as an example here. Zoom, Google Meet, and other platforms quickly became front and center players for remote work and instruction. 


Because of it, asynchronized learning provided flexible classes and training that each employee or learner could access in ways that worked best for them. Overall, this solved the issue of decreased productivity and the whole team could stay on the same page. 


Flexibility in the workplace is in the top 3 career considerations too, with 40% of employees reporting worldwide. 


So, asynchronous learning is not only flexible for training but can provide a work environment that attracts top candidates + retains them. 

Promotes a learner-centered approach 

People forget 65% of learning material after one week. 


Asynchronous learning allows learners to have more control over:


  • The pace at which they move through a course
  • The ability to go back to the course material for reference or review 
  • Their learning environment 


This control creates a tailored experience that can help learners retain information. 

Reduces training costs

reduce training costs

Providing training that is accessible at any time reduces the amount of money spent on instructors, materials, and taking time out of a workday. 


As we mentioned above, it can cut down on costs in other ways too, like if an employee needs to travel for training. 


What once added up the cost of paying for the industry expert instructor, venue, travel, and food over the course of several days, could be cut down to just purchasing an LMS. 


An asynchronous learning approach makes training accessible long after a one-time presentation. This is especially important for larger businesses that have multiple offices, for example.

you could save


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Scalable 

There’s no need for brick and mortar instruction. Create deliverable videos, presentations, or long-form reading material from a content platform that is available 24/7. 


Instruction can be provided to large groups or a handful of learners at a time, as needed. Content is accessible across broader audiences this way, too. 


Record instruction once. Use the training video and other training materials again and again, no matter how many new employees. Plus, deliver it on mobile

Wide range of material 

Think about it…


Anyone could pull up YouTube, Google, or Khan Academy right now, search for any topic, and information, tutorials, and courses could be consumed from anywhere with a stable internet connection. 


Access to more materials across more topics is beneficial for any learner and no other modality can offer such a vast array of material or topic availability. 

Common Challenges of Asynchronous Learning 

common challenges of asynchronous learning

Like all good things, there are challenges associated with this kind of learning. 


Unless you live under a rock (hey, no judgment), it’s next to impossible to have missed the chatter about remote instruction, distance learning, and virtual asynchronous learning. 


Challenges include:


  • Isolation
  • Limited feedback
  • Communication issues
  • Lack of self-discipline 

Isolation

A potential drawback of asynchronous learning is that users can feel isolated. 


And it makes sense, right? If you’re reducing in-person interaction, remote learning could become lonely and unmotivating for your staff or students. 


This is challenging when you’re trying to be more efficient while still creating an engaging learning community.


But, with a creative LMS that’s built for engagement, you can:


  • Create interactive discussion boards or virtual tutorials where students or staff can connect
  • Set-up quizzes for each module or lesson to challenge learners – where appropriate, you could also display leaderboards
  • Ensure that learners have access to educators so they can ask questions or schedule one-on-ones where needed


There are many ways to make asynchronous learning fun, engaging, and rewarding for distance learners – even if they receive less in-person instruction.

Limited Feedback 

The inability to receive feedback can slow a learner down and potentially put a team behind. 


Since not everyone will be online at the same time, and instruction isn’t happening in real-time, learners may have to stop until they can receive feedback. 


But, the ease of information available means that any questions can be addressed quickly and material can be updated immediately. 

Communication 

Isn’t it annoying to have a question while you’re in the middle of learning something new, but not have anyone to ask for clarification? 


This is a major drawback for asynchronous communication in distance learning. No matter what LMS, content platform, or communicative channel, there is always a lag because the learning takes place at different times


It can become a frustrating game of email tag that ultimately impedes an employee’s ability to learn. 

Requires Self-Discipline

Lack of motivation is perhaps the biggest con of asynchronous learning. 


Some learners will thrive in this learning environment while others may remain disengaged when faced with the task of self-pacing through a course. 


Without clear-cut goals, engaging content, etc. it could be too easy for a learner to stop the course instead of finishing it.


Some solutions could be incorporating gamification features or interactive content built into asynchronous learning courses.  

Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Learning 

The difference between the two is basically if there's a live element or not. 

  

Synchronous learning allows learners to engage with peers and material at the same time. 


Many distance learning courses are facilitated this way through platforms like Zoom, Google Classroom, Panopto, Blackboard, or virtual classrooms


It includes live-streamed presentations and interactions via microphones and webcams.


It’s what most people think of when they imagine virtual learning. It has a set date, time, and duration. 


It’s less flexible and can be a bit inconsistent for learners though, since the course material may not be available at all times. 


Asynchronous learning, on the other hand, doesn’t require real-time engagement or include live-streamed material.


Instead, presentations are pre-recorded and available via an LMS platform at any time. 


This type of delivery allows a learner to choose how much or how little time they spend in a given area. It doesn’t require live engagement but utilizes message boards for peer engagement.  


Some online courses blend the two to create a hybrid of live instruction and participation and self-paced learning. 


asynchronous learning

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We know it can sound a little like Yoda, so here’s a handy summary.

Asynchronous 

Key Characteristics 

  1. Doesn’t require live interaction 
  2. Doesn’t require real-time engagement 
  3. Can be personalized 

Pros 

  1. Self-paced
  2. Can be administered to any size group, at any time
  3. Flexible

Cons

  1. Lack of communication or slow communication  
  2. Isolation
  3. Requires self-discipline  


Synchronous 

Key Characteristics 

  1. Live interaction 
  2. Real-time engagement 

Pros 

  1. Peer engagement 
  2. Social 
  3. Immediate feedback

Cons

  1. Not flexible 
  2. Inconsistent 
  3. Not personalized 

Things To Consider When Providing Asynchronous Learning for Employees


asynchronous learning considerations

Before jumping into the deep end, let’s explore some considerations before providing asynchronous learning days to employees.

Time

How long will it take to design a course using authoring tools? How long will the training material stay relevant? How long will it take to administer training using an asynchronous learning system? How long can it take to implement across the team(s)?


Ideally, look for an easy-to-use LMS that includes authoring tools and material import capabilities. For a flagship course, expect the course creation to take several weeks. 

Software 

What type of software is needed? Will the company provide the necessary software to employees in order for them to complete the training? What type of software is best suited for the budget and deliverability across the team? 


Choosing an LMS that will host and deliver the training material is perhaps the most important consideration. 


Choosing one with too few features could mean that employees won’t learn, but choosing one with features that are too complicated could mean that onboarding time for new employees is longer since the learning curve is shallow. 

Cost

How much will the LMS, development, and maintenance of creating an asynchronous learning course be? 


Weigh the pros and cons carefully. Asynchronous learning can cut down on long-term training costs, but other considerations could be how often employees need training, and will the cost be more or less than paying for a venue, travel, and in-person instructor? 


A bonus consideration is to make sure the chosen LMS is SCORM compliant. The acronym stands for sharable content object reference model. This is a set of technical standards that allows course creators to create training material that can be shared across multiple platforms.

Examples of Asynchronous Learning 

Examples of Asynchronous Learning 

Online courses

Think open platforms like Khan Academy and Youtube, or plain old college courses delivered through an LMS. They can include digital content libraries and interactive videos, too.

Discussion boards

Discussion boards can give a social element to self-paced, asynchronous learning environments. 

Pre-recorded webinars

Instantly accessible digital content and the epitome of virtual asynchronous learning that allows learners to revisit the material as much as they want. 

Email Courses 

Instant deliverability, offered in small, bite-sized pieces right in a learner's inbox. 

Blogs

The pride and joy of internet content available anywhere, anytime, on any device. 


Bonus: Longform reading material that can feature embedded videos and links that allow a learner to choose how much information they take in at one time.

FAQ 

How can asynchronous learning be implemented in corporate settings?

Virtual learning can provide on-demand training for employees at every level. 


It can be used to update and recertify veteran employees, implement new changes company-wide, and onboard new employees too. 


Implementing asynchronous learning reduces training costs in the long term because it can be used again, sometimes for many years. It replaces the need for hosting multiple training sessions with an instructor over the course of several days or weeks. 

How is asynchronous learning different than synchronous learning? 

Synchronous learning takes place in real-time. 


Even in a virtual setting, instruction time slots are set and a learner is guided through the material with an instructor and a peer group. 


Asynchronous learning is self-paced and takes place at a learner's convenience. 


Learners are given the course materials through an LMS or virtual classroom program. There are no time slots for instruction because the recorded material is accessible at any time. 


While assignments and completion dates are typically set, the approach of how a learner reaches the end is solely up to the individual, unlike synchronous learning. 

Summary 

Whew, you made it to the end. Congratulations!


Let’s recap, shall we?  


Synchronous learning takes place in real time as in the case of a Zoom class that meets every Wednesday at 2 PM, for example. 


Asynchronous learning doesn’t take place in real time and is delivered through virtual instructional material. 



In a corporate setting, asynchronous learning provides: 

  1. Flexibility
  2. Scalability 
  3. Reduced training costs
  4. Employee-centered learning
  5. Access to a wide range of topics 


It can be a one-time cost investment, instead of a long-term cost association like that of synchronous learning. 


It helps employees retain information, meaning a stronger working environment and team in the long run. 


It can help with branding efforts and reaching wider audiences, too. 


Plus, it’s familiar to nearly everyone. 


Ready to start designing and implementing remote learning for your team? Watch our demo!

Author:
Tyson Chaplin

Tyson Chaplin earned his Master of Educational Technology degree from Boise State University in 2014. He also earned a graduate certificate in Technology Integration and holds teaching certificates in online teaching, special education, and history.

Tyson is an Idaho native who is passionate about technology and how it can help all people learn and better themselves. He has worked in both public and private sectors. Tyson enjoys cooking and traveling with his wife, Malia, and restores vintage video game systems in his free time.

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