What Is Asynchronous Learning? Is It the Right Choice for Your Learning Institution?

By: Collin Couey on March 24, 2022

As an educator or staff member who works in the education field, there’s a good chance your institution has had to adopt more distance learning solutions since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and many of your students have come to expect some level of asynchronous learning or online learning. From virtual classes to online discussion boards, these features make learning from a distance easier and manageable.

What is asynchronous learning?

Asynchronous learning is a term used to describe forms of education, instruction, and online learning that do not occur in the same place or at the same time. Previously called distance learning or asynchronous training, asynchronous learning has been around since the early 1900s and was done via the postal service.

Often, asynchronous learning interaction is done through a learning management system. Luckily, many of these learning management systems have become much more robust, so asynchronous learning has become a mainstay in many education institutions, primarily as an online learning option.

Asynchronous learning can include watching pre-recorded video lessons, viewing video demonstrations, online learning, reading and writing assignments at a student’s own pace, research projects, student presentations, online class discussions via forum posts and discussion boards, and/or individual or group projects.

While it’s certainly not a one size fits all solution, and synchronous learning is still an important part of a learning experience, asynchronous learning should be a crucial part of any learning institution’s course offerings because it is a better learning solution for many different types of learners.

We’re going to focus on the two major benefits that these different avenues of learning can provide your students:

  • Asynchronous learning means never missing a class again

  • Pre-recorded video lessons offer students a chance to learn on their own time

Asynchronous learning means never missing a class again

One of the primary reasons asynchronous learning exists in the first place is to offer nontraditional students a chance to learn at their own pace and during their own schedule with an online course or remote learning.

However, with the invention of more robust learning management systems and with the sudden need to move learning online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many students and education institutions are starting to realize that asynchronous learning might be a better option for a lot of students, not just nontraditional ones.

Some of your students will be full-time, but many will also have lives outside of class that demand much of their time, and traditional synchronous learning might not be the most effective way for them to learn.

With asynchronous learning as an option, a learner doesn’t have to stress about making it to class on time because they are viewing pre-recorded lessons, doing readings, and completing assignments on their own time. A student might have a day job that prevents her/him from taking the specific course she/he needs because it’s not offered at an available time for them.

Others might simply learn more effectively at night when courses aren’t being offered. Still, others might have transportation issues that make it difficult to get to the classroom in the first place.

Many of these benefits also apply to an instructor as well. Not every instructor is able to comfortably get to the classroom without trouble, and many might even enjoy the freedom that teaching an asynchronous course can provide for them.

Key considerations:

More often than not these days, your students are going to have a lot more on their plate whether it’s working a full-time job, raising a family, or an extremely heavy course load, so it’s important to keep that in mind when planning your course offerings to accommodate the different needs of your student population.

Pre-recorded video lessons offer students a chance to learn on their own time

When most people think of asynchronous learning, they think of a pre-recorded lecture or series of lectures while taking tests or writing reports about the material covered in the lectures coupled with outside, independent reading.

Pre-recorded video lessons offer students a variety of benefits:

  • They can pause the lecture if they get interrupted

  • They can pause the lecture to take notes during important parts

  • They can rewatch parts of the lecture they might not have fully grasped the first time

  • They can watch the lecture whenever they want instead of at a prescribed time

A learner benefits from being able to revisit lessons as needed to improve comprehension and retention, and can always use the extra time pre-recorded videos offer them to process what they saw, practice any skills they learned, and respond to any testing material they need to.

A recent study found that when students received video lessons instead of the usual forms of synchronous teaching, the average grade increased from a B to a B+. Additionally, they found when students got video tutorials in addition to their existing classes, the effect was even stronger, moving students from a B to an A.

The study analyzed 105 past randomized trials with 7,776 students enrolled in higher education courses. Researchers examined the effects of videos on learning compared to the effects of other teaching mediums, such as in-person lectures and assigned readings.

Like the previous benefit, pre-recorded, asynchronous courses offer benefits for the instructor. These include not having to worry about operating teleconferencing during online courses, being able to craft and record precisely the lesson they want to with as many retakes and reshoots as needed. Plus, there’s no need to worry about disruptive lag or bandwidth issues during a lesson.

Key considerations:

With pre-recorded videos, students have much more control over their learning which can reduce the likelihood of them feeling overwhelmed by their coursework. While it might not be the right fit for every single learner, it is certainly an option worth considering when planning your course selection list.

Asynchronous learning is important for any distance education

The benefits of asynchronous learning are numerous, which is great news considering the push toward online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many students, instructors, and higher education institutions might not have considered asynchronous learning a viable option prior to the pandemic, but the truth is that if you aren’t offering some level of asynchronous learning, you aren’t going to be meeting your student population’s expectations.

If your institution is considering removing some of these asynchronous learning programs in favor of moving back to the traditional method, reconsider.

For more information about how LMS solutions can help make planning and executing asynchronous learning successful, check out these great resources: