Educators and e-learning experts passionately discuss about the pros and cons of synchronous vs. asynchronous e-learning. But do you really need to takes sides?
Learning online is increasingly popular among both educators and learners. For many the questions remains though if e-learning should rather be synchronous or asynchronous. The huge popularity of MOOCs seems to show that learners themselves have made a decision. And it seems to be in favor of asynchronous learning. But is this really the one and only way?
The most important benefits of asynchronous learning in MOOCs are for once the possibility of learning at your own time and pace. The other important factor is the price. Providing self-learning material is much cheaper than holding synchronous lessons in a virtual classroom.
Learners easily loose interest in MOOCs
But is that really enough to choose one method over another one? The cruel facts tell that only 10 % of all MOOC students actually complete their courses. Asked for the reasons why they drop out of online classes most students tell that they quickly loose interest the courses they signed up for.
But why is that? Probably because we are human beings. We are social by nature. And this social aspect unfortunately is what most asynchronous learning concepts lack. Or have you ever met any of your hundreds or even thousands classmates from your last MOOC? Most probably not.
Supporters of asynchronous learning methods often list the peer pressure of synchronous and traditional learning as one of its disadvantages. In fact it is one of its biggest strengths. As soon as people learn together in a group they motivate, even inspire each other. Together they come up with new solutions to problems, better explanations and push each other to get a whole new understanding of the topic. All of that would never be possible for a self-taught learner.
A combination of synchronous and asynchronous is the key
But does that now that only synchronous learning is successful learning? No it doesn’t! Asynchronous learning is a very important aspect for efficient learning as well. After all why would an online lecture need to be synchronous and couldn’t rather be watched at your own time as a video? Doesn’t it make more sense to prepare articles, videos, recordings and texts on your own first? Yes, of course it does. As long as you get the chance to talk about it later with your co-learners.
The concept described here is well known to many educators already and it is called flipped classroom. In a flipped classroom you prepare all material yourself. The synchronous lessons are then reserved for discussions, problem solving and group assignments.
Even though this method is not new and well established, the questions a
bout synchronous vs. asynchronous still is widely discussed. But instead of choosing one side the questions should rather be how to combine both methods in the most efficient way. Because only with the combination of both e-learning can reach its full potential.