Asynchronous and Synchronous Online Teaching

In the last post, we talked about online teaching and learning. When you decide to move your course online, there are many decisions to make. One of those decisions is to choose between asynchronous and synchronous teaching. What is the right combination of each mode of teaching? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each of these approaches?

Synchronous

Main advantages:

  • Being there! Students can (re)connect with their teacher and peers and feel your presence.
  • Teacher can interact with students in real-time, making group activities possible, e.g. group discussion. (Zoom breakout rooms).
  • Teachers can elaborate on challenging concepts or address misconception when students are struggling.
  • Students can get immediate feedback on any aspect of the learning process.

Main disadvantages:

  • Technical difficulties for the software setup, equipment, network connection, managing multiple speakers online etc.
  • Both the student and the teacher have to be online at the same time (sometimes across time zones) with possible arising technical issues difficult to troubleshoot/manage. 
  • Change of teaching dynamic. e.g. students may not want to show their camera feed or want to mute their mic because of their local environment but the teacher may want to see and hear them to interact. 
  • Unfamiliar with the software. e.g. the teacher may accidentally mute their mic and talk for minutes without a clue. It is always good to ask students to tell you if they cannot see or hear from you. 

Asynchronous

Main advantages

  • students can study at any time and any place, according to their own pace.
  • Students can revisit a specific part of the teaching video until they understand.

Main disadvantages

  • No real-time interaction
  • Students cannot ask the teacher when they have problems.
  • It takes time to prepare online learning material, e.g. teaching videos.
  • Teaching videos view rate may be low if no follow up learning activities. 

A mix of Asynchronous and Synchronous

  • Teacher records teaching videos to present content knowledge. Ask students to watch and prepare 1-3 questions about the teaching video.
  • Setup a Moodle forum to collect the questions about the teaching video, to address those issues before the synchronous meeting.
  • Post discussion topics before class and ask students to prepare for the online synchronous discussion.
  • Schedule a synchronous meeting, 45 min – 60 minutes max. Spend a few minutes to address the questions related to the teaching videos. Then go into the discussion.
  • Group Chat (e.g. whatsapp, messages, Zoom chat, Skype chat) are handy tools side-by-side with the online meeting tools.

Please contact the e-learning team (elearning.edu@hku.hk) if you need support or advice.