Getting Your Degree Online: 5 Reasons to Choose Synchronous Learning
By Elizabeth Laura Nelson
If you’re just beginning to research different online education options, you might be asking yourself right now: what exactly issynchronous learning, anyway?
Simply put, the term “synchronous learning” refers to the type of learning that takes place when a group of students engage with the class materials and instructor at the same time. A traditional in-person classroom environment is one example of synchronous learning.
At Touro’s Graduate School of Technology, students have the option of taking all of their classes in person, completing their studies 100 percent online, or doing some of each. But whether you are learning in the classroom, remotely, or a mix of the two, the educational experience can be a fully synchronous one.
That means if you are taking a class online, you can stream that class as it happens, giving you the opportunity to engage with your instructor and classmates as a full participant in learning.
A little bit of history
Back when online education was new, technology did not yet allow for synchronous learning. Instead, online learning was asynchronous. With asynchronous learning, students relied on pre-recorded lectures, online discussion boards, and materials they could access at any time, from anywhere, as long as they had an internet connection.
Asynchronous learning has its benefits. Students can move through courses at their own pace and have a great deal of freedom and flexibility in how and when they will complete assignments and exams. However, it doesn’t allow for the same kind of community and immediate feedback that synchronous learning methods offer.
At Touro’s Graduate School of Technology, we’ve found that the synchronous learning method works better for our students. Not sure which type of learning is right for you?Here are five reasons to consider synchronous learning as you pursue your degree program:
1.It fosters a sense of community and connection.
While asynchronous learning allows students to complete work at their own pace, many of them find the experience isolating. Attending classes together, either in person or online, helps students feel like part of a community. They’re able to touch base with peers who may be facing the same sorts of challenges they are, enjoy learning alongside others, make friends, and easily expand their network of contacts.
2.It allows students to receive immediate feedback.
When students have a question in a synchronous learning environment, they’re able to raise their hands and ask the instructor right then, in the moment. This is true whether they are streaming the class online or sitting in the classroom. Their instructor, as well as their classmates, will likely have answers and insights to offer. However, with asynchronous learning, students have to send an email or post on a website, then wait for a response. Feedback is also limited to that given by the instructor, as there are no classmates to contribute to the discussion.
3.It gives students a stronger sense of accountability.
Having a set time to attend class, either remotely orin person, can be a great motivator. If you tend to procrastinate, asynchronous learning may not be the best choice for you. While there are still deadlines, the flexibility of asynchronous learning makes it easier to put off assignments and exams. Unlessyou are very good at managing your own time and working independently, you may find yourself cramming as deadlines approach. Synchronous learning lends a sense of structure and accountability to the learning process that many students find helpful.
4.It lets learning happen spontaneously.
Learning together in a classroom allows for unexpected moments. A question from a classmate, a discussion that takes an unanticipated turn, or a new idea can add a level of richness to the learning experience that is just not possible with asynchronous learning.
5.It still allows for a high degree of flexibility.
At Touro, classes begin at a variety of times, so they’re convenient for people with a variety of schedules. Also, online classes are recorded in case a student needs to make up a class, or just wants to watch something again. Sasha Baengueva, a graduate assistant in Touro GST’s Web and Multimedia Design program, says she prefers taking classes in person when possible—but when she’s unable to do so, she’s still able to participate in class online. “If I missed something or don’t understand the material, the professor usually provides feedback right away,” she says.
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