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You’ve likely heard these terms before. Synchronous and asynchronous. No, we’re not talking about swimming! We’re discussing two different methods of crafting e-learning.
Before we go any further, let’s break down the definitions. It’s a matter of scheduling, really. Synchronous learning happens at a set time, typically with a facilitator present to engage with learners directly. Asynchronous learning, alternatively, is a form of e-learning that allows participants to engage at their leisure. Which one is right for you?
There are pros and cons to both forms of e-learning, and both can be valuable for different purposes. Let’s focus on the pros!
Look, we’ve all grown very accustomed to the luxury of making our own schedules. Not everyone can reach optimal productivity at the same time of day, so there’s a benefit to those learners if you’re able to accommodate their schedules. Asynchronous e-learning allows your participants to jump into the content at a time that works best for them and can provide the option of taking consistent and necessary breaks if needed. This flexibility and freedom will benefit those with participants who can’t set aside a specific chunk of hours in the middle of the day for training.
There’s no way around it. Unless you’re designing a course with a high level of interactivity, using complex simulations or augmented reality, for example, the cost of producing and running asynchronous e-learning will almost certainly be lower than synchronous. Once designed, the module can be run without the guidance of a facilitator. If the budget is tight, this may be the best solution for you.
Point of Contact
One of the greatest benefits of synchronous e-learning is the ability to connect facilitator with learner, even from far away. With this delivery method, a facilitator can provide live feedback to learners, which can be especially helpful (and often, necessary!) when teaching steps that must be closely replicated back on the job. For many, having direct interaction with a course leader is far more beneficial to their engagement than the freedom and flexibility of having control over when they must engage in the training.
Though having your asynchronous e-learning run smoothly on its own can be great, it leaves no room for the happy accidents that can make learning fun! How often have you come across a participant asking a great question you weren’t expecting, only to find a way to incorporate it into future sessions? Synchronous e-learning requires consistent minor adjustments to keep your participants engaged and allows you to read the room in real time.
As you can see, there are plenty of benefits to both synchronous and asynchronous learning. The decision is yours!
When you’re ready to tackle your first (or tenth!) synchronous design project, the Instructional Design for the Virtual Trainer workshop will provide you with the skills and confidence to successfully design training that is engaging and maximizes performance. If you’re focus is on asynchronous design, you’ll want to check out Instructional Design for e-Learning.