Asynchronous vs. Synchronous-Part 1: Sustainability and Preference

At this point, all of us who are in the business of teaching and learning, whether it be in academia or professional development and training, have hopefully come to the realization that we cannot go back to how we used to deliver our education. These past few months have undoubtedly been life changing for Educators, who most likely went into this industry to make huge differences in the lives of those seated in front of us. For now anyway, there is no physical audience, no one sitting in front of us. No way of us being able to rely on our superhuman abilities to read ones body language to see that a concept has not fully registered with our learners. This has been replaced with a lot of uncertainty, mixed feelings and perhaps a frozen screen here and there. As we look to continue to make a difference in the lives of our learners, carving out our path for next steps in this new normal needs to happen TODAY! As Educators are hopefully allowing themselves to be learners again, the decision for asynchronous vs. synchronous learning, or a combination of both, needs to be top of mind.

While many of us took our 1-2 hour long lectures, recorded them and placed them in an LMS somewhere or taught live, virtual, remote classes with these same lectures, my hope is that it has now taken hold that we cannot continue this practice, for the sake of ourselves but most importantly for our students. For many of our [traditional] Nursing students, this is not how they are used to learning. For many Nurse Educators, this is not how we are used to teaching but all those ways that we are used to now need to be replaced, slate wiped clean, and ready to start anew.

There are fundamental differences between asynchronous and synchronous learning. What many Educators did in a pinch was considered by many to be emergency remote learning-synchronous learning. At this juncture, we need to decide our future projections. Which is sustainable? Which do we prefer?

First, to help us with these decisions, please see the table below.

As many Educators can agree, placing our lectures online to teach the same way as if in person worked....but only as I mentioned above, in a pinch. And this was a serious pinch. Moving forward, Education experts predict that synchronous, remote teaching will NOT be sustainable. There are too many issues and limitations regarding equitable access, technology, etc to maintain a synchronous set up. It works well in the beginning to build a sense of community and make sure all students are accounted for. It also works well for virtual office hours and on the spot group work, among other things. Asynchronous teaching and learning comes with its own set of hurdles, one very high hurdle is that a well-structured, organized online class, to be taken in an asynchronous fashion, takes months to build. Even after the course is built, in some cases, there are numerous rounds of tests and quality checks to make sure everything is working well. After the course is launched, there is even more checks and fixes to be made however in this format, students can learn via video, readings, podcasts and can even communicate via discussion forums-all on their own time.

So which do we prefer? A lot of this should not be based on OUR preference as Educator but what will work for our students. They need to be in the drivers seat in this new environment and way of teaching and learning. Some experts are saying students will "demand" a blended approach to their learning if they cannot convene in person. We can't keep relying so heavily on Zoom and these other videoconferencing tools, but having a healthy mix of both may be a good way to achieve some sort of balance- use one method for certain reasons and another method for something else but there cannot be only one way of teaching used as a catch all for all topics. Much of this comes down to our overall objectives for the class, objectives for our learners, learner outcomes as well as what the students hope to accomplish. For us to reach new heights in these post COVID Education times, we need to take it back to day 1 of when we first became Educators-back to being a learner...

In Part 2 of this blog, we will delve into when we should use synchronous vs. asynchronous teaching techniques as well as how to use them to ensure effective learning going forward.

Until next time...


Center for Teaching and Learning (n.d.) Synchronous vs. Asynchronous? Teaching Remotely Using Blackboard. Worcester State University. Retrieved from

Flaherty, C. (29 April 2020). Zoom Boom. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from

Hodges, C., Moore, S., Lockee, B., Trust, T., & Bond, A. (27 March 2020). The Difference Between Emergency Remote Teaching and Online Learning. EDUCause Review. Retrieved from

Young, J. (8 April 2020). When to Teach Online Classes Live and When to Let Students Learn on Demand. EdSurge. Retrieved from