What Is the Difference Between Asynchronous and Synchronous Learning?

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In the world of online education, or distance learning, classes can be asynchronous or synchronous. What does it mean?


When something is synchronous, two or more things are happening at the same time, in synchronicity. They are "in sync."

Synchronous learning takes place when two or more people are communicating in real time. Sitting in a classroom, talking on the telephone, chatting via instant messaging are examples of synchronous communication. So is sitting in a classroom a world away from where the teacher is speaking via teleconferencing. Think "live."

Pronunciation: sin-krə-nəs

Also Known As: concurrent, parallel, at the same time

Examples: I prefer synchronous learning because I need the human interaction of communicating with someone as if they were in front of me.

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When something is asynchronous, the meaning is opposite. Two or more things are not "in sync" and are happening at different times.

Asynchronous learning is considered more flexible than synchronous learning. The teaching takes place at one time and is preserved for the learner to participate in at another time, whenever it is most convenient for the student.

Technology such as email, e-courses, online forums, audio and video recordings make this possible. Even snail mail would be considered asynchronous. It means that learning is not taking place at the same time that a subject is being taught. It's a fancy word for convenience.

Pronunciation: ā-sin-krə-nəs

Also Known As: non-concurrent, not parallel

Examples: I prefer asynchronous learning because it allows me to sit down at my computer in the middle of the night if I want to and listen to a lecture, then do my homework. My life is hectic and I need that flexibility.

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