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Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Learning: What’s the Difference?

While students might be more familiar with online learning since the Covid-19 Pandemic, synchronous and asynchronous courses have been a common feature of online schooling for some time. The type of courses you choose are usually dependent on your lifestyle and desired method of learning. Learn more about pros and cons of synchronous vs. asynchronous courses below!

What are synchronous courses?

If you’re interested in synchronous classes, prepare to meet with your professors and fellow students in “real time.” Fortunately, these meetings are still held virtually through platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams. On these applications, you’ll be able to engage in your courses and ask questions in the same way you would in a regular brick and mortar classroom. 

Advantages of synchronous courses

Structured class setting

Synchronous learning follows the traditional format for classes, only it’s offered online. We define “traditional” here as meeting with the same group of students on set days and times each week. You’ll still be able to learn on the go, but class meetings will need to be considered when you plan out your schedule. You might receive the same workload as an asynchronous course, but you’ll have realtime interactions as you’re completing assignments and preparing to study for exams. 

More interaction with professors and fellow students

Attending classes on a regular basis can be a direct line to your professors and helping you understand the material. You’ll also be able to ask questions and receive answers without delay. In addition, you might get time to work  with some of your classmates and build valuable connections in the same way you would a traditional classroom setting. 

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Disadvantages of synchronous courses

Restricted schedule 

One of the drawbacks of synchronous classes is that classes have set meeting times and hours. Your lifestyle will have to work around your class schedule, similar to taking classes in person. It’s important to take this into consideration, especially if you work or have other outside commitments. 

Set pace for material 

Due to courses having set meeting times, the professor will usually determine the pace of the class. This will require that you stay on top of the subject material in a consistent manner. It’s also imperative that you get all your textbooks and other materials early on to make sure you don’t get lost and are prepared for each class meeting.

What are asynchronous courses?

Asynchronous learning is the definition of learning on your own time. In this form of online schooling, professors generally set a deadline for your coursework and give you the freedom to learn the material when and where you want to. You aren’t required to attend any classes, but there will usually be office hours and other ways to get in touch with your professors. 

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Advantages of asynchronous courses

Completing assignments when convenient for you

While taking part in asynchronous classes, you’ll have the choice of when to start in on your assignments. Typically, the syllabus or online education platform for your college will list the projects and homework as well as corresponding due dates for the term. Students then submit their assignments according to the due dates listed. In some classes, you could even get all your assignments done in the first week and relax for the rest of the semester if you wanted to! 

Ability to take classes anywhere

One of the main benefits of asynchronous courses is that you can take advantage of your freedom. You’ll be able to complete assignments from your bedroom or from your favorite vacation spot. All that matters is that you’re somewhere that’s going to keep you on top of your game. 

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Disadvantages of asynchronous courses

Schedule maintenance

Since your schedule isn’t mapped out for each of your classes, it’s up to you to get your work done on time. This can be challenging for some students, but being successful simply requires a little self-motivation and keeping track of your assignment deadlines. Don’t forget to use your downtime to study for any exams you might have. 

Self-taught material

As a result of taking the course at your own pace, there will be times that you’ll have to teach yourself. Your professors will still be available to help, but their responses might be more delayed than in a synchronous course. Keep in mind that this style of learning can help you build confidence and independence that can be applied to your future courses and career. 

Which courses are right for you?

Choosing to go to online school is a big step and choosing between asynchronous or synchronous courses can be stressful. Which is right for you comes down to what works best with your unique life. It might be better for your lifestyle to have more flexibility in your schedule or maybe you do well with the structure of class every week. Either way, feel confident in your choice, and congratulations on this next step!

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Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways

  • Synchronous classes meet in “real time” and require students to adhere to a schedule 
  • Asynchronous courses, while offering flexibility, involve less interaction between students/professors
  • There is no “right” format for all students–for working students, asynchronous courses might be ideal, and for students who work best on a schedule and need interaction, the  synchronous format might be best
  • Students should choose the online format that works best for their personal lifestyle
Key Takeaways

Frequently asked questions about synchronous vs. synchronous learning

Is synchronous or asynchronous learning better?

It depends on the individual student. For students seeking a more traditional college experience as far as real-time scheduling and interaction, synchronous learning might be their best choice. For students who want a more flexible learning schedule, asynchronous classes might be best.

What is an example of asynchronous learning?

Watching lecture videos, lessons, and demonstrations that are pre-recorded and taking part in class discussions on online discussion boards.

Is synchronous face-to-face?

Synchronous learning takes place in real time and is considered “face to face,” but that can be through an online platform like Zoom rather than in a brick and mortar classroom.

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