Monday, 14 November 2011

The difference between asynchronous and synchronous learning activities


A few points on this subject as I return from holiday.

Synchronous is what we are used to, it's what learners know and expect. For learners with a history of success in the formal education system, it works just fine. To articulate how asynchronous learning activities can work well, you need to highlight the breathing space such activities afford the learner when gathering their thoughts before they express themselves. Asynchronous is about time periods lasting days not hours.  This could be exemplified using online discussion where you are engaging with the content and other participants.  Through a dialogue, the learner's views are challenged and their own views get refined.  This is learning and learning is hard.  For me, an asynchronous context gives this process more chance of success. This is because the learner can engage in an iterative process of thinking, articulating (usually through writing text) and refining their views.  Thinking about a journal, blog type of asynchronous tool, you have more engagement with the content/own experiences than other participants.

It's important when thinking about asynchronous/synchronous learning activities to acknowledge the importance of being comfortable in the mode of learning the learner's find themselves in. Of course, I am well disposed and well used to learning asynchronous online. Many are not for various reasons. Whatever the reason, good practice involves process/navigation support where process support means how a learner should engage with the activity. You could also call this pedagogical support - how to engage pedagogically in what is usually a collaborative ethos. In a sweep of research I did earlier this year, a theme that came through strongly was the importance of learning how to learn. Online, its a misconception that the technology is the main stumbling block. This is wrong, it's the collaborative pedagogical design learners can't handle. This is because they don't know how to learn this way as they are not used to it.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Mr Preskett, I like your point, I am working in University,where large class is common. I think learning technology,e-learning, might be one of tools tools to support learning in large class. .

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