Asynchronous. Besides it being a catchy buzzword, it’s actually quite helpful.
Asynchronous learning is a type of online learning that doesn’t require meetups at specific times. Instead of Gcals and Zoom rooms, asynchronous learning is made with pre-recorded videos and text notifications. In this way, Kim in South Korea doesn’t need to wake up at 4 A.M to learn with Andrew in South Africa.
This blog you’re reading? It’s asynchronous. This blog doesn’t turn on every Thursday at 9:30 am. You can read it whenever you want.
With asynchronous learning, the student adjusts the course’s schedule to fit the student’s schedule. In an asynchronous world, learning is subservient to the student’s time. Class is every…whenever the hell you want. If you don’t attend, perhaps you signed up for the wrong course.
With synchronous learning, the student adjusts their schedule to fit the course’s schedule. In a synchronous world, with meetups and Gcals, the student’s time is subservient to the learning. Class is every Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:00 am. If you can’t attend, we’ll upload the recording.
What about the benefits for teachers? Can a teacher teach in an asynchronous world?
Absolutely. Even though the lecture is pre-recorded, the students are still “there” with the teacher. Asynchronous learning allows for tech-savvy teachers to record their lessons and teach students around the globe – while recording more lessons. While my students learn, I can work on even better lessons, promote my course, or do whatever I want. An asynchronous world is one in which multitasking is possible.
In an asynchronous world, the teacher creates dozens of avatars of herself. These avatars – pre-recorded versions of the teacher – are free from the shackles of time zones and full calendars.
In a synchronous world, there’s only 1 avatar. That’s the teacher – constrained to every Tuesday and Thursday at 10:00 A.M.
But without comradery, without a cohort, what will keep students motivated to learn?
Clement points out that strong value propositions tether students to an asynchronous learning environment. What’s the strongest value proposition? The sense that if you sacrifice your time and money now, if you delay gratification in the present, you’ll be rewarded in the future. The sense that what’s being taught is worth learning.
I’ve spent most of this post talking about asynchronous. I’m a fan of synchronous, but asynchronous is like it’s weird half-cousin, so it doesn’t get a lot of attention. The mechanics of asynchronous learning are still a mystery. Consider: for the last 200 years, every teacher and principal and parent believed that synchronous learning was the only way. For the last 200 years, we’ve been blowing the synchronous learning bubble. And now it’s about to pop.
I hope to see more teachers and students uncover the mysteries of why asynchronous is so powerful.