SYNCHRONOUS OR ASYNCHRONOUS: WHICH METHOD IS BEST FOR ONLINE COURSES?
National University (UNITED STATES)
Teaching methods for both classroom and online courses can be divided into two basic groups. Those methods that require students and the professor to interact at the same time (synchronous) and those methods that are independent of time (asynchronous). The difference in the use of these two methods between classroom and online courses is a matter of degree. For example while classroom courses use predominantly synchronous methods of lecture, individual classroom assignments, and group discussion, they also still use the asynchronous methods of homework, exams, and outside research. Online courses use synchronous methods of chat, lectures, and group discussions, but also use asynchronous methods of discussion boards, case studies, exams, and research projects.
Classroom and online teaching methods also differ in the sequencing of learning activities. The classroom professor has complete control over the sequence of learning activities and can use a pedagogical model to sequence learning activities that will optimize student learning. In the online environment the professor may have a desired sequence of learning activities, but students can still select any individual activity in any particular order, and may enter and leave activities as their schedule or interest dictates. While sequencing of online learning activities can be controlled by defining strict time limits for each activity, these time limits defeat the advantages of asynchronous learning in that they are no longer time independent. If potential students could adjust their schedule to accommodate strict online deadlines, they would probably opt for a classroom class.
In this paper the author analyzes a representative sample of online courses conducted at a West Coast university business school and presents a model to assess when synchronous and asynchronous courses would be most appropriate. The author also analyzes various learning theories to guide asynchronous online instruction and provides examples of theory-guided activities for asynchronous online courses.