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Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Learning

A blended learning approach combines synchronous and asynchronous learning methods to allow students to take advantage of lessons and materials. Synchronous learning means that the instruction occurs during a set time, whether in-person or remote, and learners attend instructor-led sessions. With asynchronous learning, sessions occur independently and can be completed at different times.

While both methods can be used in an online setting, asynchronous learning is better suited for flexible remote learning.

By identifying which types of learning/training are best suited for synchronous and asynchronous lessons, you can reap the benefits of a blended learning program that maximizes the potential of both.

Asynchronous learning: self-guided and flexible

Asynchronous learning refers largely to interactive learning modules that can be accessed from anywhere, at any time. Because instruction is not in real-time or delivered in person, learners have autonomy over where and when they complete them. These modules are best suited for depository information, such as pre-work during the onboarding stage.

Psychologically, learners better recall information when given opportunities to practice retrieving it from their long-term memory. Repeated and deliberate practice will make it easier for learners to remember the content they will use to navigate their day-to-day tasks.

Feedback both from and to students is critical for success. Managers should use direct instruction to impart core knowledge and assess learners to make sure they understood the material. Include more low- or no-stakes formative assessments, and use them to guide the teaching and assignments. Asynchronous learning modules allow for agility because they’re modified easily. Give your learners smaller doses of consistent, targeted feedback; design lessons and assignments that allow for a quick turnaround for trainers and learners.  

How you can implement asynchronous learning 

You can use various methods to deliver asynchronous lessons and encourage participation among learners, including communication platforms like Slack channels. You can also use video software and applications like Zoom and Loom that offer screen recording to pre-record lessons or tutorials. Asynchronous learning enables learners to complete lessons on their own time at their own pace.

You can use asynchronous learning for:

  • Onboarding or training pre-work 
  • Rolling out new company policies 
  • Compliance checklists

Synchronous: real-time learning

Synchronous learning is in real-time, often streamed on platforms such as Zoom—this live interaction between learners and trainers is what drives high engagement. In-the-moment feedback is crucial in developing problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, which also depend on the background knowledge gained from asynchronous training. A carefully sequenced module can reinforce learner knowledge over its course, enabling learners to solve increasingly complex problems with applied knowledge. 

With foundational skills and basic knowledge laid during asynchronous learning, live training should be used to get students to transfer these skills to a new context. Rather than using these live sessions to learn new concepts, crafting real-time scenarios that force students to transfer knowledge to new contexts is far more impactful. Mentors/managers can then further develop these skills by providing feedback that is specific, clear, and focused on the task and improvement rather than on the learners or their performance.

How you can implement synchronous learning

Synchronous learning allows you to boost user engagement with tools like video conferencing and real-time interaction. 

You can use synchronous learning for:

  • Interactive case studies 
  • Classroom training 
  • Role play exercises

A comprehensive blended learning strategy

There are pros and cons to both asynchronous and synchronous learning, but a comprehensive learning environment integrates the best of both worlds. By using feedback to keep an agile mindset, companies can leverage the strengths of both types of learning to build successful, intentional programs.

Learn more about how WorkRamp can help you create a practical, engaging learning experience for your team members. Contact us to schedule a free demo.

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