online course synchronous

Online course synchronous (also known as elearning, distance learning) is a prerecorded educational program that contains audio, text, and narater visual components. A synchronous online course enables students to interact with each other and the instructor while they are watching a session. It is more like a live classroom rather than learning by reading text in an online class.

The latest trend in the field of education, which came to us directly from the world of online communication is online courses. As soon as they appear on the market they were immediately recognized as a new type of training, which has a lot of inherent advantages over traditional education.

Smiling man looking at an iPad

As you research the right online program for you, you may come across the terms “asynchronous” and “synchronous.” You might not know what these words mean yet, but you’re probably already considering your work schedule and other responsibilities and how well each program would fit into your life. Are you able to log on and attend classes at specific times? Or is it more realistic for you to complete work each week at times that suit you best – no matter if it’s 3 p.m. or 3 a.m.? ​And, how do online classes even work?

Here’s what you should know: Asynchronous online learning allows students to view instructional materials each week at any time they choose and does not include a live video lecture component. On the other hand, synchronous online learning means that students are required to log in and participate in class at a specific time each week. The main difference between asynchronous learning and synchronous learning is this live instruction component occurring at a set time. We’ll describe more differences in the sections below, as well as some of the pros, cons and best practices of each style.We tapped Ohio State experts to explain the difference between asynchronous and synchronous learning and what each style actually means when it comes to online classes.Venn Diagram showing the differences between asynchronous and synchronous learning.
Asynchronous online classes: complete work each week on your schedule, receive immediate feedback on quizzes, schedule group work when it’s convenient for everyone.
Synchronous online classes: attend class virtually each week with instructors and classmates, participate in real-time discussions during class time, improve presentation skills.
Both: attend class from anywhere*, communicate regularly with instructors, network and make connections with classmates.
*The majority of our programs have no on-campus requirements. Please see your specific program’s page for state authorization information.

What is asynchronous learning?

Asynchronous learning allows you to learn on your own schedule, within a certain timeframe. You can access and complete lectures, readings, homework and other learning materials at any time during a one- or two-week period.

“A big benefit to asynchronous classes is, of course, the flexibility.  Asynchronous online classes mean that you don’t always need to be online at the same time as your instructor or classmates,” said Instructional Designer John Muir, who works with faculty to develop classes for Ohio State’s online programs. “We know that students who are looking to take an entire program online are partially looking for that flexibility.”  

Online asynchronous classes might include short videos teaching key concepts that you can watch over and over again, if necessary. In some classes, students can also complete homework assignments and receive immediate feedback, as opposed to waiting for instructors to grade them. 

But don’t get the idea that asynchronous classes are any less rigorous than their synchronous or on-campus counterparts. 

“Just like a student on campus, you should expect to be doing work one week at a time,” Muir said. “You should also expect to have contact with your instructor and classmates every week in a substantial way.” 

For example, in HTHRHSC 4300: Contemporary Topics in Health and Society, a capstone course in the B.S. in Health Sciences program, students do most of their work according to their own schedules. However, they also sort themselves into groups based on schedule and availability, meeting weekly via video conferencing to collaborate on a research project that spans the semester.

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What is synchronous learning? 

Synchronous learning means that although you will be learning from a distance, you will virtually attend a class session each week, at the same time as your instructor and classmates. The class is a firm, weekly time commitment that cannot be rescheduled. Much like an on-campus class, you will have readings and assignments to complete outside of class time to help prepare you to participate in the discussion. This kind of preparation from students, along with a dedicated agenda set by the instructor, ensures each class session is productive. 

“A lot of careful planning and set up ahead of time makes those sessions into meaningful connections,” Muir said. “If the students can do it, and it’s thought through well by instructors, it can be a really powerful thing to add.” 

Online synchronous learning doesn’t always just take the form of a live video lecture or an instructor-led discussion. Often, students will lead discussions themselves or give presentations to the rest of the class. In an online class, group work doesn’t go away, it just looks a little different. Muir explains that some instructors will pose case studies to students, who then have to negotiate an answer first as a small group and then together, as a class. Specific types of activities included in a synchronous course depend on the course and the program.

“There’s a lot of discipline-specific, really active things that go on in those sessions that aren’t just the equivalent of a recorded lecture,” Muir said. “It really is the same as doing some sort of activity in the classroom, just in a virtual setting.”

Ohio State’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program is one example of a program with synchronous online class requirements. One of the classes, NURSPRCT 8600: Organizational Culture, requires that students attend weekly evening class sessions using CarmenZoom. Class discussion and interaction with the instructor occurs mainly during these meetings, with homework and readings available at any time in CarmenCanvas, Ohio State’s online learning management system.

How can I be successful in an online class?Students attend class using CarmenZoom

No matter if your program is mostly asynchronous or synchronous, Muir reminds students to be deliberate with their time in order to be successful.  

“In an online program, you really have to be respectful of yourself and plan your time and efforts,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re in a synchronous or an asynchronous class, you need to know to block off your time to accomplish those things.” 

Vivian Jones, M.Ed., academic advisor, says she often works with students who aren’t sure how synchronous or asynchronous classes will fit into their lives. To start with, knowing yourself and your own limitations is key to making decisions regarding your education. 

“Remember that an online degree program itself is time-consuming,” Jones said. “Consider how you will manage a work-school-life balance. There is a lot of self-discipline involved.” 

 Jones said she also hears from students who fear they’ll feel disconnected or disengaged in an asynchronous, online course. 

To combat feelings of isolation, Jones recommends students always reach out to their instructors and classmates and attempt to make meaningful connections.  

“Respond to discussion posts and find people with similar interests to you or people doing things you don’t even know about, so you can maybe learn more about them,” she said. “Make relationships just as you would in a physical classroom.” 

In an online class, student engagement needs to be more purposeful than an in-person class, where engagement may take place more naturally, but it’s crucial to ensure all students feel invested in their coursework. 

“With online learning, student engagement is just different,” Jones said. “I see instructors in online classes really making an effort to make things personable and make people feel included. We’re trying to bring everyone together as one community, because online students are part of the Ohio State community.”

Interested in earning your Ohio State degree online? Learn more about our offerings.

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

Read about the pros and cons of synchronous vs. asynchronous online classes to determine which delivery method best suits your life as a student.

Synchronous classes run in real time, with students and instructors attending together from different locations. Asynchronous classes run on a more relaxed schedule, with students accessing class materials during different hours and from different locations.

Online classes fall into two categories — synchronous and asynchronous — each of which aligns with different students’ interests, personalities, and learning styles. This page explores these two types of online delivery, breaking down their advantages and disadvantages to help students find the best match for them.

What Is the Difference Between Synchronous and Asynchronous Classes?

Online learning allows people to study in new and exciting ways, but the best type of online learning comes down to personal preference. Synchronous virtual classrooms operate much like traditional classrooms, with set study schedules and live discussions. Asynchronous classrooms look a little different, as students digest the instruction and communicate with each other on their own time.

Synchronous classes run in real time, with students and instructors attending together from different locations. Asynchronous classes run on a more relaxed schedule, with students accessing class materials during different hours and from different locations.

Online classes fall into two categories — synchronous and asynchronous — each of which aligns with different students’ interests, personalities, and learning styles. This page explores these two types of online delivery, breaking down their advantages and disadvantages to help students find the best match for them.

What Is the Difference Between Synchronous and Asynchronous Classes?

Online learning allows people to study in new and exciting ways, but the best type of online learning comes down to personal preference. Synchronous virtual classrooms operate much like traditional classrooms, with set study schedules and live discussions. Asynchronous classrooms look a little different, as students digest the instruction and communicate with each other on their own time.

What Is Asynchronous Learning?

Asynchronous classes offer learners the flexibility to study in a self-paced manner. While most asynchronous classes still have submission deadlines, students can connect with materials, peers, and instructors on their own schedules, often over an extended period of time. Teachers may prescribe an order of operations for the materials, but learners can often choose how much or how little time they spend in each area.

Asynchronous online classrooms use forums and message boards to keep a running dialogue between participants. They also incorporate self-guided lessons, workshops, and shared files. Many students find asynchronous environments more comfortable for certain types of learning, though participation expectations may actually be higher in this format than in others.

What Is an Example of Asynchronous Learning?

Asynchronous classrooms often feature prerecorded lectures that students watch independently. Teachers post video or audio files and lecture notes online for learners, and then post quizzes on the material to ensure students followed up with watching or listening to it.

Another component of asynchronous learning is the discussion board. In this space, teachers can post discussion prompts, and students can ask questions and interact with their peers. This provides learners with an interactive experience and space for social learning.

What Is Asynchronous Online Class Like?

In asynchronous online classes, students can access their studies on their own schedules. Teachers may mark attendance in different ways, such as by tracking who watched the lecture or posting comprehension quizzes. More interactive lessons can require learners to answer polls or click buttons, which also tells the instructor who has engaged with the content.

An asynchronous class allows learners to digest material in different ways: Students can dedicate more time to challenging content and breeze through lighter content. Since teachers cannot evaluate a student’s readiness in person, online participation plays a large role in asynchronous classrooms. This delivery mode also requires a great deal of self-motivation and proactiveness, especially if a student is having trouble with a topic.

Pros and Cons of Taking an Asynchronous Class

Asynchronous learning environments differ greatly from traditional classrooms. Below are a few pros and cons of the format.

Pros

  • check-circle iconSchedule flexibility
  • check-circle iconIndividually dictated pace
  • check-circle iconMore democratic
  • check-circle iconMore accessible
  • check-circle iconMore time with material

Cons

x-circle iconLess immersivex-circle iconChallenges with procrastinationx-circle iconDisconnected social environmentx-circle iconIndependent learning difficultiesx-circle iconMore distractions


Which Class Style is Right for You?

Which is the right class style depends entirely on the individual learner. Prospective students should first consider their schedules, as those who work unconventional hours — like military service people, ROTC cadets, or night-shift workers — might find asynchronous classes more accomodating. Students with unorthodox sleep schedules may find value in asynchronous learning as well, whereas learners with poor time management skills might not.

Aspiring online students should carefully consider their own learning style and personality type. Where social learners might benefit from synchronous environments, solitary students might prefer asynchronous ones. Moreover, extroverted personalities can thrive in synchronous classes, while introverted personalities can succeed in asynchronous courses.

Finally, online learners should consider their field of interest. Certain majors or classes may work better in synchronous or hybrid environments. If students wish to fast-track their training, asynchronous classes might be best. For those looking for a more immersive college experience, synchronous training might work better.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Are Asynchronous Classes Good?

For many students, an asynchronous class provides flexibility and accessibility. Working professionals and busy students can complete their studies without disrupting their schedules.

What Are the Advantages of Asynchronous Learning?

In addition to schedule flexibility, asynchronous learning allows for self-paced and self-directed learning. Students can spend as much time as they need with material, and they can think about and edit their thoughts before participating online.

Which Is Better: Synchronous or Asynchronous Learning?

Both synchronous and asynchronous classrooms offer advantages and disadvantages. Degree-seekers should consider their own learning styles and educational interests when choosing the most suitable delivery method.

Why Synchronous Courses Are Better Than Asynchronous Courses

When schools decide to move to online courses, they have two options they can choose from: synchronous courses or asynchronous courses.

What’s The Difference?

Synchronous courses are live online courses that are conducted in real-time. The instructor and students are together in the same session, which will begin and typically end at a fixed time.

Asynchronous courses are made up of prebuilt course components, allowing students to complete them at the time and pace of their choosing.

While both course formats have their pros and cons, synchronous courses are much more conducive to student learning and course progression.

A Sense Of Community

Synchronous courses are conducted in a live learning environment, creating a platform for students and instructors to interact in the same session together. Maintaining a sense of community and personal connection is a big motivating factor for students to attend class each day, which rarely happens in an asynchronous course format.

Some instructors even ask students to have their webcams on during the session, which lets students see their classmates and know that they’re not alone in the session.

Engagement Opportunities

It’s easier to keep students engaged in an online course when students are online at the same time. Instructors can plan out and administer classwide activities like polls, assignments, and quizzes, and even present live results immediately afterwards. Frequent involvement helps students learn and retain course material.

Live Discussions

Live learning environments give students the chance to ask questions and get answers in real-time, as if they were raising their hands in a classroom. While instructors are teaching, students can submit questions for instructors to answer. The opportunity for each student to submit a question or idea to the session increases the scope of learning because students can be exposed to the viewpoints of their classmates. For example, a student may ask a question that sparks debate or discussion, taking the level of depth into a topic further than the instructor’s original presentation would.

A Smoother Transition

Many programs are being forced to move from in-person classes to online education. Change management in the transition to online is easier with synchronous courses since students signed up for live courses, not self-paced courses. This makes the transition to online instruction feel less complicated and foreign to students.

Easier Attendance Management

Because synchronous courses have fixed start times, it’s possible to record how long a student was checked in to a session. For programs that need to prove that students actually completed their required hours, synchronous courses make it possible. Attendance solutions like CourseKey make it simple to track accurate, time-based attendance in live online courses.

Weaknesses Of Asynchronous Courses

Asynchronous courses can be beneficial for students with sporadic schedules because students can pick and choose when they work on their course work each day. In addition, students can progress through their courses at their own pace, meaning if they need extra time on a section they can take as long as they need to before moving on.

While this style of learning is convenient and seems empowering, there are many risks to asynchronous courses.

Because students don’t get the opportunity to connect with their instructor or peers in asynchronous courses, they can feel very isolated. Students can’t contact their instructors very quickly — certainly not in real-time. Instructors also typically pre-record their lessons or simply do no more than assign readings and homework questions. Most students want their tuition dollars to give them more interaction than watching video lectures and following a reading schedule.

Students also don’t get many chances to interact with their classmates. At best, a course might utilize a discussion board, but when students are submitting at their own pace, engagement stays low.

Without the oversight and consistent encouragement of an instructor, students have to hold themselves accountable for their progress. When things get tough, it can be hard for students to persevere and convince themselves that their continued effort will pay off in the long run.

The Bottom Line

If you’re still wondering which style of online courses to adopt for your school, choose the option most conducive to students’ learning and progression: synchronous courses. The live learning environment possible through synchronous courses offers a sense of community, keeps students engaged and focused, and allows for live debates and discussions. Not to mention, it’s more similar to physical in-person classes, making the transition to online courses smoother for students and instructors alike.

CourseKey can help you set up synchronous online courses in just a matter of days. Find out how by filling out the form below.

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