The COVID pandemic necessitated a change to higher education as in-person classes around the world were suspended. During this time, the habits of many students changed, and the need for online classes and distance learning was made abundantly clear. Though this has presented adaptation challenges for many schools and colleges, it has led to adoption of more online learning choices.
Some critical aspects of the learning experience have been put to the test – collaboration, student feedback and engagement, and class interaction, to name a few. One of the biggest questions for higher education organizations is deciding on whether to utilize synchronous learning (real-time telecommunications), asynchronous learning (self-use learning materials), or a hybrid approach (online materials with real-time classroom interaction).
This resource is a look at the pros and cons of these three approaches, and what might be the best for your educational experience.
Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Learning vs Hybrid (OnlinePlus)
What are the differences between synchronous learning, asynchronous learning, and a hybrid learning approach?
Synchronous learning happens in real-time with a group of students and an instructor, with the students either in attendance remotely, or in a classroom. When we think of traditional teaching in a school or classroom, this is synchronous learning.
Today, with technology like Zoom, YouTube livestreams, and video conferencing, it is possible for students to engage in real-time with their instructors and their fellow classmates as if they were all in-person in the classroom. When you pair video teleconferencing with learning management systems (LMS) like Moodle, it allows educational institutions to create experiences that are similar to in-person teaching, without requiring students to commute to a central campus each day.
What is Synchronous Learning Like?
Synchronous virtual classes meet remotely at a regular time, just like traditional in-person classes. These feature lectures, presentations, and discussions. Students attend from their remote location, interacting from their computer or device with the rest of the class. Using their webcam and microphone, the students can engage with their instructor and other students. Assignments may be required to be completed ahead of time in preparation for the scheduled class.
Pros and Cons of Synchronous Learning
Setting up remote synchronous learning requires different infrastructure as opposed to traditional in-person classroom synchronous learning. However, there are numerous advantages to real-time distance learning.
- Students and instructor can interact with each other.
- No need to commute for students.
- Students can exchange questions and information through real-time discussions.
- Instructor can answer questions as they come up.
- Learning material is covered on a consistent schedule.
- Students must be on time for attendance, less schedule flexibility.
- Attendees must have a quiet place to log in and attend.
- Students must have a computer, webcam, and stable internet connection.
With asynchronous learning, students do not interact with instructors in real-time. Students have access to learning materials hosted online or with physical learning materials. Correspondence courses were an early version of asynchronous learning. In recent years, distance learning and online courses have been relevant examples of asynchronous learning.
The main characteristic of asynchronous learning is that, even through there is structure, expectations and deadlines for the assignments, students have more flexibility as to when they can study the material and complete coursework. Some of the materials used in asynchronous learning are digital lessons and reference materials, PDFs, pre-recorded video lessons, and online forums where students can interact with instructors and each other.
What is Asynchronous Learning Like?
Asynchronous online classes allow students to study and complete coursework on a more flexible timeline. Although there are structured expectations and deadlines for the lectures and assignments in asynchronous classes, these typically give students a little flexibility in the time it takes to complete them.
Teachers can track which students have completed coursework and fulfilled minimum virtual attendance requirements that the school needs for accreditation. Some ways that instructors may measure progress and answer student questions may be through online student forums or discussion boards.
The coursework in an asynchronous online course may include quizzes, answering questions from an online lecture, and traditional lessons which are turned in via a LMS or online education portal. Participation with other students and the instructor via forums, email, or discussion boards is critical to getting the most out of each online class.
Pros and Cons of Asynchronous Learning
Asynchronous online classes allow more flexibility, as students can work on their own schedule as long as they meet the required expectations and deadlines in a course.
- Students have more flexibility as to when they complete assignments.
- Instructors and students do not need to commute regularly.
- More time to focus on educational material and absorb the knowledge.
- Ensures student participation and understanding because students are interacting directly with the material.
- Easier to get distracted at home.
- Lack of real-time discussion with students and instructors.
- Easy to procrastinate on work and not devote focus to learning.
Hybrid Learning (OnlinePlus)
Combining the best aspects of synchronous and asynchronous learning, hybrid learning programs mix a variety of modes and structures to create the best learning experience for students.
MTI College offers several programs in this mode, which we call OnlinePlus.
OnlinePlus classes are time-boxed with deadlines like a traditional class, and some material is online, but instructors are available at specified times for real-time interaction. This way, students get engagement and discussion with the instructor and fellow students. The hybrid learning approach allows students to get substantive learning in real-time, while also allowing them the opportunity to complete a portion of the class asynchronously.
What is OnlinePlus Learning Like?
With the hybrid learning approach offered in the OnlinePlus classes at MTI College, students receive various modes of instruction.
There are synchronous classes with live lectures, where students are able to meet with instructors at a specified time, engage in class discussion, and get questions answered.
Additionally, there are asynchronous online and hybrid classes with taped interactive lectures. Students have a chance to interact with an instructor in real-time at specified times during the week. The instructor can clarify any points or questions that the students have at this time.
In the OnlinePlus courses, there are scheduled deadlines and structure; students aren’t on their own to motivate themselves to complete coursework. The faculty checks in on students regularly, and there are set days where the class meets in a real-time environment so students get interaction with each other and their instructors.
In short, OnlinePlus offers the best of both synchronous and asynchronous education in one package.
Pros and Cons of OnlinePlusPros:
- Live labs available for synchronous and asynchronous classes to support student learning.
- Structured schedule keeps students on track to complete coursework.
- Student participation is a top priority.
- After reviewing learning material, students can get questions answered by teachers in synchronous environment.
- Regular teacher interaction and clarification.
- Not the best fit for students who want a fully synchronous traditional classroom experience
Which is Best for Learning? Synchronous, Asynchronous, or Hybrid?
With more students demanding remote learning options in higher education, the question is, which method of learning is better for students? Some recent studies into synchronous vs asynchronous digital education models showed some interesting results.
A 2013 study by H. Han in the American Journal of Distance Education showed that synchronous video communication increased students feeling of connection to their instructors. In sharp contrast, students in a distance learning environment without video conferencing felt disconnected from their instructors.
A 2017 empirical study by Malik, Fatima, Hussain Ch, and Sarwar of 288 students revealed that students found it easier to learn from physical books and library materials than from digital materials in asynchronous distance learning classes. The students also said that having synchronous interaction with an instructor made learning easier and more effective. In this study, having the presence of an instructor in real-time led to more effective learning when compared to asynchronous self-use of learning materials.
Hybrid learning environments like OnlinePlus are newer, with the need brought on by changing student habits and events like the global pandemic.
Can Hybrid Learning Effectively Combine Both Styles?
Some cutting-edge higher education institutions are combining the best aspects of synchronous and asynchronous learning. The demand for online degree programs and hybrid learning programs has been in response to student’s changing needs. The technology now exists to support these classes.
One of the programs that is combining synchronous and asynchronous online learning are the OnlinePlus programs from MTI College.
The MTI College OnlinePlus Hybrid Program
OnlinePlus is an innovative alternative to traditional in-person courses. This program allows students to spend as little as one day per week in our Sacramento classroom, while completing additional coursework online at their home. This hybrid learning style is offered for some of our degree and certification programs, and some programs are 100% online.
OnlinePlus provides the same curriculum and benchmarks as our conventional on-campus programs in Sacramento, CA. Course materials are delivered via a Learning Management System (LMS), giving students access to:
- Written and video material
- Lectures and class discussion sessions
The hybrid OnlinePlus program allows students to maintain flexibility, while getting the best of synchronous and asynchronous learning styles. Students still get real-time interaction with instructors and other students, while able to complete other coursework from their own home.
OnlinePlus features live labs available for synchronous and asynchronous classes to support student learning. Students have coursework due each week, to keep them on track. There are also set days each week to attend live classes and engage in classroom discussion and get clarification from instructors.
Signing up for Online Classes at MTI College
If you are interested in getting more information about the OnlinePlus program, fully online classes, or our in-person synchronous classes, contact our friendly Admissions team today. Call us at (916) 339-1500 or fill out the contact form here.