Battle Between Asynchronous and Synchronous e-Learning

E-Learning today can be broken down into two separate learning methods: Asynchronous and Synchronous. Some organizations have a preferred learning method while others combine elements of both methods to increase engagement and promote a strong learning culture. Take a look at the differences between each e-Learning method as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each to help you implement an effective e-Learning system for your organization.

In order to create an engaging learning experience, the role of instructor is optional, but the role of learner is essential.” – Bernard Bull

Synchronous e-Learning

“Synchronous” refers to training where both the participant and the instructor are meeting in real-time. This can either be in an online chat, a virtual classroom or video conferencing.


1. Receive real-time responses

Participants can ask questions and receive immediate feedback from instructors. Not only is this incredibly important for the participant, but the instructor is alerted of any difficult material in a specific training course, allowing them to make changes and improve the course for future participants.

2. Cost effective

Providing e-Learning where participants can learn from subject matter experts eliminates the need for travel and accommodation expenses that would typically be incurred in an in-person training course. [Tip for instructors: Try a video conferencing technology so participants can virtually meet other peers.]

3. Increases interaction

Participants are typically more engaged in a synchronous e-Learning event because they are learning in real-time and can develop and/or demonstrate specific skills in real-time. [Tip for instructors: Throw out a few knowledge check questions for participants to answer. This not only forces them to think on their feet, but it allows the instructor to evaluate how participants are absorbing the information that they are teaching.


1. Time is of the essence

Since a synchronous e-Learning system takes place in real time, it is the responsibility of the participant to make sure they are available at a specific time and date to attend the class/session. This is challenging for participants who have busy schedules and lack the flexibility to be available at specific dates. [Tip for instructors: Record the session and provide it for those who are unable to attend.]

2. Technology is a must

It’s easy to assume that everyone has a computer and Wi-Fi readily available, but that is still not always the case. In order to attend a specific online chatroom or virtual classroom, participants must have access to specific software and make sure that they have a Wi-Fi connection or a data plan (if they are using a smart phone or iPad) to attend the course.

3. Challenging for introverts

A real-time session demands active participation and collaboration which tends to work for extroverts. Unfortunately, this does not accommodate those learners who prefer to work at their own pace – they may feel too timid to participate in an online discussion. [Tip for instructors: Provide a few alternatives to participating out loud in an active training discussion. Allow participants to type a response into a chat box, or set up a forum where they can provide discussion questions/comments ahead of the online training course.]

Asynchronous e-Learning

“Asynchronous” refers to training where participants complete training courses on their own time. Communications and instructions for training courses take place online (email, LMS platform, forum, etc.).


1. Time is on your side

Participants follow a curriculum at their own pace and complete specific training courses and assignments on their own time (within a certain period of time, of course). This works for participants who have social obligations that hinder their ability to meet at a specific date and time. [Tip for instructors: To keep participants motivated, instructors can schedule weekly or monthly check-ins with them to see how they are progressing through each training course.]

2. Introverts and Extroverts can co-exist

With little to no active participation, introverts will most likely have an easier time participating in online discussions, and they don’t have to worry about extroverts dominating the conversation. [Tip for instructors: Require participants to respond to 3-5 different colleagues each week to encourage interaction with peers.]

3. No time zone or location barriers

The flexible training platform for organizations allows colleagues from across different countries and time zones to interact with each other. Online communication channels like discussion boards, emails, social media, etc. make it easy to interact with colleagues and receive answers from instructors, no matter the time or distance that separates them.


1. Lack of engagement

For some participants, it’s hard to stay motivated and complete training courses when no real-time interaction is taking place between the participant and the instructor. Additionally, instructors take a longer time to respond to questions, so participants may have trouble completing training courses. [Tip for instructors: Provide optional meeting times each week, so participants can meet with the instructor and receive real-time responses to questions that they may have.]

2. Requires self-discipline

Time management is a must for asynchronous e-Learning. Participants must be highly motivated and focused to meet specific deadlines and complete assignments.

3. No personal interaction

Eliminating personal interaction disconnects participants from their peers and colleagues, so it may be hard for some participants who crave the “human” aspect of training. This can decrease their motivation levels and lead to participants struggling to complete training courses. [Tip for instructors: Assign a group project or task for a specific training course to that colleagues can interact with peers and feel more connected with other participants.]

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