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The digital era has ushered in a new wave of educational tools, learning methods, and learning content delivery types. Microlearning, mLearning, online learning, and other eLearning modules are being used by various industries to change the face of education as we know it. The predominantly millennial workforce is constantly reaching for a life-long learning experience. Thus, companies all over the world are looking to customize their employees' learning needs to provide a holistic learning experience.
Employers are beginning to weigh in the benefits of utilizing asynchronous learning vs. synchronous learning. So, what are these two types of learning events and how do they compare against each other?
Simply put, asynchronous learning (AL) is when learners engage in an "at-you-own-pace" style of learning. Synchronous learning (SL) is when learners are actively communicating with a trainer and peers, live. So, in AL you can sign in and learn whatever you need whenever you need it, while with SL, others are present online and teaching/learning takes place with the help of peer interaction.
The beauty of asynchronous online learning is that it can also be done offline. This quality creates advantages for the employee and the employer alike. There are a few main advantages that distinguish AL from SL.
Self-directed and self-paced: students engage with the course content on a just-in-time basis, meaning they study whenever they want and search for specific content that will help them solve a work-related problem. At the same time, students feel empowered by AL because they can direct their own learning experience and learning curve as desired.
Low-risk and anytime review: learners can take the same learning module over and over again until they feel they have grasped the knowledge and are able to put it into practice. They can make mistakes and are allowed to go back and try again without fear of failure. Having the course content available offline also means that students can go back whenever they need and review what they have learned. With this method, spaced repetition, knowledge retention, and recall increase.
More time to reflect and outsource missing information: since the pressure of an immediate response or feedback is not present with AL, students are more relaxed throughout their learning experience. They can take a more hands-on approach to their learning and are able to look outside of the course content to find answers.
Scalability of training: online AL courses allow companies to extend learning content to a big number of employees, regardless of location. Through the use of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), for instance, organizations can deliver a wide variety of courses to learners, making the need for trainers and live sessions obsolete.
On the reverse side, SL has its own benefits. When engaged in synchronous learning, employees are part of a community of learners that have the potential of learning from each other what the course content is lacking. The main advantages of SL are:
Interaction and group work: students interact with trainers and other learners in real time and benefit from instant feedback and teamwork when answering questions. High interactivity, engagement, and collaboration are enabled through synchronous learning.
Clarification: learners can rely on the trainer to explain difficult concepts they are having a hard time grasping.
Multilateral growth: due to the instant feedback aspect of SL, learners, as well as trainers, get to constantly improve upon their learning and teaching experience. This leads to the overall improvement of the course and gives rise to better learner outcomes.
If you're looking to choose between synchronous and asynchronous learning, perhaps a better approach is to combine the two. A cross-platform eLearning application that allows learners to study at their own pace, create a personalized learning experience, and interact with like-minded individuals might be the best choice. Still, it all comes down to business goals and learner needs/preferences. Your first step would be to find out what your employees need to learn, how they prefer the training to be delivered, and figure out how to blend your business' goals with desired learning outcomes.
When gauging the benefits of asynchronous learning vs. synchronous learning, a clear-cut choice might not be readily visible. It's a good idea to read more on the subject and decide once you have a better idea about which learning experience is the best fit for your company culture. You can also hire a partner to do the grunt work for you and enjoy the benefits of a bespoke eLearning experience. Contact Designing Digitally today to discuss your training needs!