Asynchronous and synchronous learning are both powerful training methods. But each has its pros and cons. Find out which method is right for your business.
Asynchronous or synchronous learning: Which is right for your business?
You’ve most likely taken a class proctored by an instructor before. But have you ever taken a self-paced learning class? In both these cases, you may not have realized that you were actually experiencing asynchronous or synchronous learning.
Asynchronous and synchronous learning are powerful teaching methods that can help trainees understand and retain information. However, each style has its benefits as well as some drawbacks. Knowing the differences between the two can help you decide which is right for your business.
Synchronous vs. asynchronous learning: what’s the difference?
Synchronous learning describes a type of instruction where trainees learn at the same time, place, and pace as their peers. Synchronous learning takes place in real-time with an instructor present to guide lessons.
With synchronous learning, teaching may take place in person or online. The big difference between it and asynchronous learning is that synchronous learning requires students to meet in the same location at the same time, whether that’s in a physical classroom or virtual.
On the other hand, asynchronous learning is self-paced. While there are still assignment and completion deadlines in asynchronous learning, learning takes place according to the trainee’s discretion. Essentially, how and when the learner completes course materials is largely up to the individual.
Lessons in asynchronous learning are often prerecorded and available to the student “on demand.” The other biggest difference between the two educational methods is that an instructor may be available to students in asynchronous learning, but they are not accessible in real-time like synchronous learning.
Oftentimes, students communicate with instructors through email or chat features in asynchronous learning.
What are the pros and cons of synchronous learning?
Synchronous learning has great advantages but also some disadvantages. Trainers often choose this education method because it increases engagement, provides structured learning, reduces the likelihood that students will fall behind, encourages collaboration with other learners, and enhances understanding.
However, synchronous learning also has some drawbacks. Though the accountability of this method can reduce students falling behind, by the same token, it can actually also increase the likelihood of incompletion.
The rigid schedule and teaching structure may marginalize some students. They may fall behind due to the time commitment or one-size-fits-all learning style.
|✅ More student engagement||❌ Set schedule may hinder learners from completing courses|
|✅ Accountability decreases students falling behind||❌ Real-time learning doesn’t allow students to rewind or rewatch previous lessons|
|✅ Greater collaboration with peers||❌ Students can’t learn according to their pace and needs|
|✅ Real-time teaching allows learners to ask questions, increasing understanding||❌ Time and money required for an instructor can be expensive|
What are the pros and cons of asynchronous learning?
Like synchronous learning, asynchronous learning has many benefits but also some drawbacks. Training managers often choose asynchronous learning over synchronous learning because of its learner-centered nature. The self-paced learner and generally hands-off training format is a win-win for both the student and instructor.
Students can learn at their own pace and according to their own needs. They can take extra time with materials and review them as much as needed. Asynchronous learning also relieves instructors of the time required for real-time teaching. And without the need for real-time teaching, asynchronous learning can scale more easily with your business. However, the flexibility of this educational format also brings with it some disadvantages. The big disadvantages to asynchronous learning are less engagement and collaboration, decreased opportunities for instructor help, increased likelihood of students falling behind, and lack of accountability.
|✅ Flexibility in time and learning styles can increase completion rates||❌ Less collaboration with peers and increased isolation|
|✅ Promotes a learner-centered approach||❌ Limited feedback from instructors and communication|
|✅ Reduces training costs by eliminating real-time teaching||❌ Non-immersive experience that can decrease comprehension|
|✅ Scales more easily with your business||❌ Lack of accountability promotes higher propensity for procrastination|
How to choose the right learning style for your business
Both asynchronous and synchronous learning are effective training methods. But choosing the best one will depend on your business and needs. Before picking one consider these things:
When considering time, think about how much time you have to train your employees, and the time they have available in their schedules. How quickly do you need to train your employees? If you need to do so quickly, synchronous learning may be beneficial because you know all your employees will learn on a set schedule.
However, if your employees have limited time in their schedules, asynchronous learning may be the best option. It can give them the flexibility to complete training as their schedule permits. This may be an especially good method for businesses that have a hard time finding time when all employees are available for training.
When it comes to picking a learning method, one of the most important things to consider is content complexity. Synchronous learning is best for complex content because it requires a teacher to be present.
The teacher guides students through course material and answers questions in real-time, which can be extremely valuable for content where trainees may have many questions or difficulty understanding things on their own.
Asynchronous is a great option for lighter content. If the content isn’t very complex, and learners can easily grasp the information with limited questions, then asynchronous might be the right choice.
One of the biggest differences between these two types of learning styles is cost and access to resources. Since synchronous learning requires a teacher to proctor the course, this method can become costly.
Can you allocate resources towards a teacher? Or do you have someone on your staff who is trained to proctor the course? These are important cost factors to consider before deciding on a learning method.
The ultimate goal of either learning method is to train employees in the most effective way possible. But because each method differs, you should consider all your training goals – even ones outside of completion rates and information retention.
Do you want employees to have an immersive experience? Do you want to increase collaboration between employees? How about increasing collaboration between departments in your organization?
Synchronous learning can be a great option for employers looking to increase collaboration between peers and departments. If training completion rates are most important to you, and collaboration isn’t, then you may learn more towards asynchronous learning.
A Learning Management System Can Provide Asynchronous and Synchronous Learning Experiences Without the Hassle
Asynchronous and synchronous learning experiences can be great options for training managers. However, a learning management platform could provide these same learning experiences without the hassle. It can even increase learner engagement more than an asynchronous or synchronous learning model alone.
A learning management system has various features like built-in course authoring, course tracking, course management, quizzes and assessments, interactive videos, presentations, virtual classrooms, and more. These tools engage learners for increased completion rates and can even help reduce employee turnover.