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Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Courses: What’s the Difference?

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    Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Courses: What’s the Difference?

    Girl in glasses writing in notebook

    As parents discover more about online learning, they keep hearing about synchronous and asynchronous courses. It might seem confusing, but the difference is simple. Synchronous is real-time learning, whether virtual or in person. Asynchronous is learning with a time lag between teacher and student.  

    Fortunately, cyber schooling offers the best of both. As researchers from Ohio State University have found, online learning with both synchronous and asynchronous courses offers students the opportunity to attend courses from anywhere, communicate regularly with teachers, and network and make connections with classmates.  

    Naturally, there are advantages and disadvantages to both. Which works for your child? The choice is yours. 

    What Are Synchronous Courses?

    When you say two things are “in sync,” it means they are lined up. The phrase comes from the word “synchronous,” which means “occurring at the same time.” 

    Keep that in mind, and you understand synchronous learning. In synchronous courses, everyone is engaged at the same time. A teacher teaches. A class full of students is listening and hearing the same thing at the same time. In online learning, it’s really no different than a traditional classroom setting. The teacher and all the students are spread across remote settings, but they are sharing a common experience. 

    Advantages of Synchronous Learning

    The advantages of synchronous learning are well known:

    • Real-time interaction between teacher and students. The child who doesn’t understand something the teacher says can ask a question and get clarification right away. 
    • Engagement among students. Children can talk to each other and share experiences. They can help classmates understand the concepts being taught and tackle difficult notions together.
    • Immediate feedback for the teacher. Skilled teachers know how to pivot at the first sign that the class is losing interest or doesn’t understand the course material.  
    • Learning presentation skills. In synchronous learning, children raise their hands to ask questions and talk to their classmates in real-time settings. This builds their confidence and helps forge the skill of public speaking. 

    Disadvantages of Synchronous Learning

    • Time constraints. Students must attend courses for the duration of class, according to a set schedule. Learners with other demands on their time can find themselves left out, distracted or falling behind.

    What Are Asynchronous Courses?

    Asynchronous learning is the opposite of synchronous learning. Instructors might be teaching in a recorded class or webinar. Students log in and learn according to their own schedules, typically being given a certain time frame for completing their learning activities and assignments. 

    Advantages of Asynchronous Learning

    As online learning gains momentum, many families have seized the advantages of asynchronous courses.

    • Children learn according to their schedules, on their own terms. These students come in all types. They might have medical conditions that require frequent hospitalizations. They might be pursuing high-level training and competition in sports or the arts. They might have learning disabilities that make synchronous learning unsuitable for them. Through asynchronous courses, these kids don’t go to school in the traditional sense. School comes to them.
    • Flexibility for families. In the old educational model, families had to adjust their schedules to brick-and-mortar schools. The flexibility of asynchronous learning lets families pursue their own lifestyles, interests and values — perhaps traveling for sports, juggling work schedules or taking the family on mission trips.  
    • Self-motivated learners can take control of their learning. Accelerated learners and those who need more challenges can learn at a faster pace and pursue enrichment on their own.
    • Children who struggle to understand new concepts can pause for frequent breaks or rewatch videos while they catch up and reflect on the lesson.

    Disadvantages of Asynchronous Learning

    • Isolation or boredom. Children who need the stimulation of social interaction can lose interest in the class.
    • Time lags. Students who have questions or trouble understanding new concepts have to wait for answers before they can move to the next lesson.
    • Motivation required. Students who need supervision to stay on task might skip their courses and allow work to pile up.

    How Online Instruction Works in Cyber School

    Children need stimulation and engagement on their way to learning and growth. Cyber school taps into their enthusiasm and delivers learning customized to their interests, skills and educational needs. 

    Online learners who take synchronous courses are immersed in vibrant atmospheres, interacting with teachers and classmates in real time. If asynchronous learning is a better fit, students can catch up on those lessons at a more convenient time but still have access to teachers for personalized guidance and answers. 

    Through it all, students are engaged in hands-on projects and experiences that enrich their learning. At CCA, for instance, hundreds of field trips every year offer opportunities to see classroom lessons come to life in outdoor adventures, historic sites and museums.

    Through the personalized approach of online schooling, children take greater responsibility over their own learning and drive their own educational growth.

    Course Flexibility Benefits Students and Instructors

    Old ideas of how learning should work linger. Those are the ones where kids sit down at a desk, crack open a book and listen while a teacher talks. That style of learning doesn’t excite children, and it doesn’t generate much enthusiasm among teachers, either.

    The course flexibility of online learning makes all the difference. Meticulous attention to the distinct needs of individual students augments a rigorous curriculum. Personalized education programs, such as those delivered by CCA, mean targeted, engaging courses that flex with learners. State-certified teachers trained in best practices for online learning work with families to customize learning that meets the varied interests, skills and needs of their students. 

    Technology allows teachers to break from old-style rote learning to offer whole-group, small-group and one-on-one guidance. They can offer support through written feedback, real-time class sessions, variations in lessons to reach students with different learning styles and choices in how assignments are completed. They keep up a constant stream of communications by any means necessary — online, phone, email, text and chat, making sure students have what they need to succeed.

    Learn More About Online Courses at CCA

    The flexibility of online learning comes, in large part, from the option to choose synchronous or asynchronous learning, or both. There is no right or wrong choice. The decision is based on the unique needs of your child and family. Whether you choose a synchronous or asynchronous approach, you can turn to CCA for customized education that suits your child’s learning style. Contact CCA today to learn more about our course offerings and flexible learning programs.


    Commonwealth Charter Academy


    January 5th, 2021


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