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Asynchronous vs. Synchronous

Students had to make the unexpected change to online learning last year. Online learning is broken down into two types of classes: synchronous, where students meet at a certain time on a certain day; and asynchronous, where students do the work as they please as long as it is submitted by the deadline. In synchronous courses, students meet with their class in real time and engage in a semi-normal classroom interaction.

Some students enjoy asynchronous learning, while others prefer synchronous. The editors are split 50/50 on whether they prefer asynchronous classes or synchronous classes. One Outlook editor commented, “I prefer synchronous classes because it gives the same feeling of meeting in person, and we are being taught the material through conversation. I feel that I have a much clearer sense of what I need to do with synchronous classes. Asynchronous classes make me anxious that I am missing materials or assignments.”

In contrast, another editor said she prefers asynchronous classes because it is more convenient, and another added that having asynchronous online classes are better than in-person classes. “I have an in-person class that’s already been called off twice because students are positive. Having to wear a mask indoors while the professor is basically yelling behind a plexi-wall just so we can have ‘normalcy’ is the exact opposite of normal,” the editor said.

Both forms of classes have benefits and drawbacks. Students struggle with Zoom fatigue in synchronous classes and often have to teach themselves in their asynchronous ones. When it comes to synchronous classes, like in-person classes, students have the option of a three-hour class once a week or an 80-minute class twice a week.

One editor said, “I would prefer the 80 minute blocks twice a week. My high school set me up for college by using 80-minute classes so my attention span really caps around an hour and twenty minutes. Three hours is too much for me.” Wanting to meet for three hours at a time on Zoom can take a lot out of a person, but some prefer to meet once a week so that it is over and done with.

In asynchronous classes, students do not meet with the professor and are assigned work to complete on their own by the due date. While some people enjoy this because it offers more flexibility, others feel this should not be an option. “I think asynchronous classes equates to teaching yourself. Personally, I think it’s a way for professors to cop out of logging onto Zoom, when they should be showing up virtually at the very least,” one editor added. “I worry about how much I am genuinely getting out of my asynchronous classes since the professors are very hands off.”

Some students believe professors who choose synchronous learning are trying to make students feel as normal as possible. These professors make all the difference. One editor commented, “The professor definitely makes a difference when I choose whether I want a class that is asynchronous or synchronous. For example, I had a professor that I loved for a three-hour course pre-covid and I chose to take two more classes in person with her last semester because she was one of my favorites.”

It was difficult for some students to stay on top of work before COVID-19, and now it is just as hard, if not harder. An editor commented, “It is so much easier to stay on top of work for synchronous classes. I constantly feel worried in my asynchronous classes that I am missing something.”

While professors are still available for personal, one-on-one help with asynchronous classes, it is still not an easy feat for some students. Because asynchronous learning is so hands-off, it raises the question if students are receiving an adequate education with this virtual learning method.

Another editor added, “[Synchronous classes are] easier because teachers will remind us in class about upcoming deadlines rather than due dates getting lost in the abyss of emails and e-campus updates for asynchronous classes.”

Because every student has different needs and preferences when it comes to online learning, there is no right or wrong class style. Hopefully, this will be the last semester in which students have to worry about asynchronous or synchronous classes.


PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth University