Building Online Learning Communities: Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Tools

Synchronous (i.e. Connect) vs. asynchronous tools (Forums): Which is better at fostering online learning? Why? What are your reasons and evidence for this?

Stodel, Thompson, & McDonald (2006) stress the importance of maintaining and modeling a “social and cognitive presence” within the online learning community. Results from research cited in the above study indicated that learners engaged in interactive activities focusing on synchronous activities set the stage for a deeper learning experience. Linear asynchronous activities lessened the desire of participants to engage in learning activities. Face to face video using Skype, Google Plus, Adobe Connect, or GoToMeeting activities provide an opportunity in which the learning communities can foster a deeper collaboration experience, building a highly social and interactive exchange of energy. Questioning, reflection, and activities to encourage dialogue deepen the learning experience when utilizing a synchronous approach. Instructors should rely less on the lecture format when using a synchronous tool.  Again, it is important to foster interaction and social dialogue, which is easily accomplished using synchronous technologies.

Is there a place for asynchronous activities? The above study also found that a creative text dialogue used within the introduction discussion board using a poem improved the social experience within the learning community. It is important to note that advantages do exist using asynchronous tools to include flexibility and improved written communication techniques. Perhaps, asynchronous actives could embrace text based social media tools to improve the overall learning experience. Professional learning discussions are often highly engaging using social media collaboration tools such as Twitter and Today’s Meet. Searls (2012) encourages online learners to reach out using asynchronous tools along with social media can lessen the feeling of isolation.  Often instructors are absent from discussion tools, which leads to an isolated learning experience.

A blended approach to online learning using a balanced mixture of synchronous and asynchronous tools is the best option to building a rich and interactive learning environment. Instructors must be present and model social engagement consistently and frequently synchronously and asynchronously. Including an organized schedule of expectations and timeline of synchronous and asynchronous tools provides structure to improve the overall effectiveness of a learning exchange.

Searls, D. B. (2012). Ten simple rules for online learning. PLoS Computational Biology8(9), e1002631.

Stodel, E. J., Thompson, T. L., & MacDonald, C. J. (2006). Learners’ perspectives on what is missing from online learning: Interpretations through the community of inquiry framework. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 7(3).

Wang, F., & Hannafin, M. J. (2005). Design-based research and technology-enhanced learning environments. Educational Technology Research and Development53(4), 5-23.


About instructionaltechnologist101

Instructional Technologist 1 to 1, Avid change agent, Mac Enthusiastic, Implemented K12 1:1 program, managed offsite curriculum center in community museum, learner, PhD student in Educational Technology at University of North Texas. The future is now!

Posted on January 25, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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