There are two types of online instruction:
Synchronous, which occurs on a set schedule
Asynchronous, which allows participants to complete their work on their own time
When schools were shut down due to the pandemic, many of them tried to adopt synchronous online learning. They tried to replicate what they were doing in the classroom using tools like Zoom of Google Meet. While these tools allow virtual instruction via lecture or discussion, what many schools found was that it is very difficult to make sure that students are retaining the information they receive via synchronous online learning. And for families with more than one child at home, they had to share computers and internet access, which meant synchronous learning wasn’t always possible with multiple children who needed to be online at the same time.
But asynchronous education is more flexible. It allows participants to access online learning whenever it works for them – which is extremely important for a lot of families stuck at home with limited resources.
Asynchronous education is a lot like an asynchronous communication tool that we all use every day: email. Many people prefer to communicate via email because it gives them the ability to respond when appropriate. They aren’t forced to drop everything and answer the incoming message every time they hear that ding or get a notification that pops up. They can take their time, and offer a more considered response.
Which raises an important question:
If we sometimes prefer to communicate asynchronously ourselves, why should we force our students to communicate and learn differently?
We understand that asynchronous isn’t always best. Just like there are times when you would prefer to talk to someone face-to-face, there are times when asynchronous education isn’t the best solution. But for a lot of what we are asking teachers and schools to do, it can be a powerful tool. It can help keep students engaged by helping to deliver an individualized education plan tailored to the specific needs of each student.
But you need access to the right tools.