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Asynchronous learning

Asynchronous learning

Table of Contents

Enterprise learning is complex, especially when it comes to choosing an enterprise learning model that meets your organization’s needs.

It all comes down to this:

synchronous vs. asynchronous learning

What’s the best direction for your business?

It’s a tough decision. So, to help you, we’ve created this guide to answer questions like:

  • What is asynchronous learning?
  • What are the pros and cons of asynchronous courses?
  • What are the differences between synchronous and asynchronous learning?
  • How can you successfully implement an asynchronous learning strategy?

So, let’s cut to the chase and start answering those questions!


What is asynchronous learning?

Asynchronous learning is a self-paced education model that allows learners to participate from any time or location. Basically, the course materials are made available for learners to consume at their own pace and on a custom schedule. Additionally, learners and instructors don’t interact face-to-face during asynchronous learning sessions.

In other words, asynchronous learning is a type of distance learning model that gives learners access to lessons at any time without the constraints of traditional classrooms or live synchronous courses.

Although live interaction is not possible with asynchronous courses, learners can usually join discussion boards to ask questions about the course content. 

A great example of asynchronous learning would be an employee onboarding program made up of:

  • Pre-recorded video explanations
  • Video tutorials
  • PowerPoint presentations
  • Written documentation

This program would enable the new employees to go over the onboarding materials at a comfortable speed and take the necessary time to absorb new information.

Even though asynchronous learning has a more flexible schedule and allows learners to take online classes at any hour of the day, it has some downsides.

For instance, asynchronous online programs might make it harder for you to establish relationships with learners.

Many organizations use a mix of asynchronous and synchronous learning for the best results.

Wondering what the difference is between the two types of learning? We’ll tackle that next.


Asynchronous vs. synchronous learning

The main difference between asynchronous and synchronous learning is that synchronous training sessions are streamed in real time. This means the learners and instructors participate in the lesson at the same time.

Technically, traditional classes and seminars fall under the category of synchronous learning. And, thanks to live streaming and video conferencing tools, synchronous classes can also happen online.

Think live webinars, video calls, Zoom meetings, etc. These are all examples of how synchronous learning works—trainers and learners participate in virtual sessions just as they would in a traditional classroom.

Although it’s a great way to create a sense of community in distance learning programs, it can be a logistical nightmare. Scheduling training is particularly challenging for companies with customers, partners, and employees in different time zones. 

Plus, technical issues can disrupt sessions and affect attendance in synchronous learning programs. 

Situations like these are definitely not ideal in fast-paced corporate environments. Luckily, there is a workaround. In these cases, instructors can share the lesson recording to avoid having learners fall behind.

To sum it all up, both learning styles have their downsides. 

That’s why many businesses consider hybrid learning environments to minimize the obstacles and maximize the benefits of both synchronous and asynchronous learning models.

You might be wondering if implementing an asynchronous learning model is worth it. So, let’s look at the pros.


Asynchronous learning: Pros

The biggest advantages asynchronous learning offers are flexibility and the ability to learn at your own pace. 

Asynchronous training is more of a personal and internal process that requires focus and self-discipline.

Let’s dive deeper into the benefits your team can experience with this learning style.

Advantage #1: Scheduling flexibility

As opposed to synchronous learning, asynchronous programs give you and your team the freedom to schedule learning time at any hour of the day without having to account for other people’s schedules.

Offering flexible training options empowers employees to incorporate learning into their daily lives, tailoring it to their schedules and lifestyles.

Advantage #2: Attendance flexibility

On the same note, attendance is not a thing with asynchronous learning. But that doesn’t mean learners can skip lessons. (Far from it!)

It just means that learners aren’t constrained by timing and can go over lessons any day of the week, at any time. 

This flexibility allows working around unpredictable technical issues without falling behind or losing progress.

Instructors, L&D, and HR teams can pull LMS reports to monitor attendance and learner progress. That way, you make sure nobody lags behind on essential training.

Advantage #3: Accessible and inclusive

Another great advantage of asynchronous learning is that it accommodates differences in individuals’ preferred learning paces.

Additionally, asynchronous learning is ideal for providing easy-to-follow learning experiences for individuals with different abilities.

For instance, dyslexic employees can benefit from video and audio-based learning material, while deaf employees can access the same information in text form.

What’s more, employees can review the training as often as needed until it really sticks. 

An LMS allows managers to build personalized learning paths that cater to individual abilities, job roles, and experience levels. In doing so, you can ensure employee training is inclusive and accessible for every staff member. 

Although it’s a great learning method for a number of reasons, the reality is there are some downsides to asynchronous learning. (Here come those cons we mentioned earlier!)

Asynchronous learning: Cons

Unfortunately, no single learning method is perfect—including asynchronous learning. 

Let’s take a closer look at these cons.

Disadvantage #1: Lack of real-time interaction and communication 

The biggest downside of an asynchronous learning program is the lack of face-to-face or live interaction between course participants and their instructors. This can be a disadvantage for new employees who may struggle to feel like a part of the team. 

The same goes for instances when you’d have to onboard new customers and partners—building a trustful relationship might take more time in an asynchronous environment.

Over time, this lack of personal connection can lead to decreased engagement and motivation.


Disadvantage #2: Instructors can’t tailor lessons as easily

Since training sessions aren’t happening in real-time, the instructors can’t adapt the course material to the learners’ level of understanding. As a result, some advanced learners might find the available course content boring or unchallenging. 

On the flip side, some learners (like new hires or professionals at the beginning of their careers) might need to do additional research to stay afloat and keep pace with the training material.

Additionally, being unable to ask questions in real-time or get immediate feedback can make it more difficult for learners to internalize new concepts efficiently.

Disadvantage #3: Requires self-discipline and organizational skills

Unlike synchronous learning, asynchronous learning relies heavily on learners’ intrinsic motivation.

While this isn’t an immediate disadvantage, it certainly leaves room for unpredictable situations where learners lose motivation or lack time-management skills and self-discipline.

You can avoid these pitfalls by carefully planning asynchronous learning sessions to ensure learners get the most out of the experience.

Let’s see how you can do just that.


How to deliver asynchronous learning sessions

The recipe for successfully leveraging seamless asynchronous learning requires two ingredients:

  1. A capable and flexible learning management system (LMS)—like Docebo Learn)
  2. A video conferencing tool (think Adobe Connect, BlueJeans, Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, GoToMeeting, etc.)

The need for an LMS is pretty obvious. But why video conferencing?

Even though asynchronous learning sessions don’t require any interpersonal interaction, sprinkling your program with occasional on-air time with learners works best. For example, you can periodically schedule live recap sessions or Q&As throughout a course. By doing this, you can set coursework deadlines which take some of the self-discipline off learners’ shoulders and set them up for success. 

Fortunately, Docebo Learn integrates with leading video conferencing software, so you can schedule, host, and track virtual instructor-led (VILT) sessions within your learning platform. That way, you can automate training management tasks and create a smooth learner experience. 


Wrapping up

Learning shouldn’t have limits, which is exactly why blending synchronous and asynchronous learning is so effective. 

In other words, rather than thinking in terms of asynchronous vs. synchronous learning, think in terms of asynchronous + synchronous learning.  

For this mix to work well, you’ll need to choose an LMS that can easily integrate with your video conferencing tool to facilitate both synchronous and asynchronous online discussions. 

Integrations make customizing enterprise learning technology easy. Explore our extensive integration library and find the one that’s right for you!

Now that we’ve answered the most common questions around asynchronous learning, it’s time for you to decide which learning mode best suits your organization’s unique requirements. 

Ready for more? Keep the learning streak alive and explore our glossary. It’s essential reading for L&D professionals, whether you’re a new kid on the block or a seasoned pro.