If you’ve dropped in to chat with DLINQ staff and interns this week, you have probably heard advice to reduce synchronous interactions with students in favor of asynchronous interactions, particularly concerning the delivery of course content. This post is intended to help define those terms, justify the asynchronous recommendations, and provide examples of asynchronous activities.

Synchronous interactions require students to join and participate in class activities “in real time,” all at the same time, just as if they were sitting in your classroom. An example of synchronous online learning is a live Zoom session where students and faculty are logging into a Zoom room at the same time for a discussion.

Asynchronous interactions allow students to join and participate in class activities on their own schedule (though usually by a deadline). An example of asynchronous learning is a pre-recorded lecture that students watch followed by discussion board interactions.

DLINQ has been recommending that faculty consider limiting the number of synchronous interactions they require for students for the following reasons:

  1. Time zones: As students disperse all over the world, synchronous activities could require some students to join a live session in the middle of the night. This is not an optimal learning experience for those students.
  2. Internet access: Synchronous interactions can tax internet connections. If you or your students do not have good internet access, you/they may struggle to access live sessions and/or they may experience major problems during a live session (e.g., audio cutting out; pixelated video; computer shutting down)
  3. ADA or accessibility: Synchronous interactions can surface or exacerbate learning challenges for students, such as hearing difficulties or attentional challenges.
  4. Demands on students where they are: We know that some students will have new demands placed on them when they return home or to their new location. For example, some students may be expected to get a job when they return, or they may have to move from location to location until they find a more permanent landing spot. Synchronous sessions can place additional stressors to students facing additional demands away from the campus.

We understand that you may want to keep some synchronous interactions to help students feel connected to you and each other. However, using synchronous learning as the primary means of delivering course content will not result in an equitable learning experience. So, we encourage you to depressurize those live/synchronous sessions by making them optional or turning them into office hours (and offering them various days/times during the week).

Now let’s talk about asynchronous learning. Here are some examples of asynchronous learning activities:

Activity Type Implementation Ideas
Lecture Record a video of your lecture using Panopto. With Panopto, you can capture video of slides or other desktop items you want to show. Panopto videos can be embedded into Canvas so that students can watch them inside Canvas.
Class discussion Use Canvas’ Discussion Board to host a discussion that takes place over a few days. We suggest setting a deadline for students to answer the discussion prompt, and a second deadline for when the back and forth discussion ends. For question ideas, see Stanford’s Designing Effective Discussion Questions page.
Oral presentation Ask students to record a screen capture video of themselves giving a presentation using Panopto, and then share the video in Canvas or upload to a Google Drive or OneDrive folder.
Fast recall Create a quiz that is auto-graded (multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, true and false, matching, etc)
Peer feedback Create a Canvas Discussion Board in which students write or upload their assignment. Peers are assigned to give feedback via the comments. Or, use the suggestion and comment feature in Google Docs or use a tool like Voicethread to add student (and your) voice to feedback. Consider using the RISE rubric to structure peer feedback.
Gallery-style sharing of work Create a Discussion Board in Canvas in which each student posts their work, or a Canvas Page that is editable by students and professors on which students paste a link to their work outside of Canvas.
Journal / blogging Have students create a Google doc and share the link with the professor. If the journal is meant to be shared with the class, create a Canvas Page with a list of student names hyperlinked to individual docs.

Or, assign journal entries by adding prompts as Assignments in Canvas, with due-dates if needed.

You can also use Middlebury’s WordPress blogging platform, sites.middlebury.edu, to encourage student reflection and writing.

Video-based asynchronous interactions FlipGrid allows students to record videos to a shared Grid. We encourage you to delete student work on this platform at the end of the semester.

Ready to try asynchronous learning? Please chat with a DLINQ staff member to discuss how and what asynchronous learning could work for your class!

Icons8 Team