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Synchronous vs asynchronous learning

Screen time was oft associated with unwinding after a long day and sometimes acted as parental leverage in getting teenagers to perform filial chores; however, the pandemic has completely reversed its meaning. Now, students are on their devices constantly during school hours, and with this reality crept the new concepts of “synchronous” and “asynchronous” learning. Gone are the concerns of wasting valuable time on online pursuits, and instead, a debate has emerged on the benefits and drawbacks of learning in real time and learning on our own time.

Loyola must make a crucial decision: adapt to an asynchronous-dominant schedule of offline lectures and assignments or maintain the current live face-to-digitized-face classes. With the introduction of an “asynchronous-synchronous” hybrid model on Oct. 15 and 16, both students and teachers are considering which style would be best for the school.

Many see the introduction of asynchronous days as a relieving break from the monotony of a strict at-home schedule and even possibly a viable method for teaching students, especially those who learn at different tempos. However, asynchronous learning, no matter how beneficial it may seem in the moment, is not a competent stand-in for the current synchronous style.

Of course, asynchronous learning has its upsides: It alleviates the dreaded “Zoom burnout,” provides offline material with unlimited playback that can be used for studying and future reference and implements a flexible schedule to remove the stress of rigidity. The rigor of asynchronous learning can even equal that of its synchronous counterpart through its use of detailed recorded lectures and tests.

Yet when arguing about the quality of teaching, asynchronous learning falls short: it simply doesn’t have the interaction that comes with an in-person learning environment, which demands active participation and feedback from students. 

English teacher Mary Arney says, “It is important for students to see the teacher in a live situation, and I think it’s even more important for the teacher to have an opportunity to see the students and how they’re taking in the information that is being presented. Part of teaching is adjusting.”

Indeed, the obvious lack of teacher supervision leaves ample room for potential breaches in academic integrity and discipline. How will teachers verify students are engaged with the recorded lecture, or how will the administration prevent understudied cheaters from turning closed-book tests into easy open-book assessments? 

Some students accustomed to an in-person format actually found asynchronous learning to be a challenge. 

Sophomore Dominic Barrios recalls, “Last year, when a class was totally asynchronous, I felt like I understood the information (mostly worksheets and book work) much worse.”

Granted, online education in no way replaces in-person schooling, but in this new digital

landscape, it remains our only viable option. Despite asynchronous classes serving as an occasional moment of relaxation, a break from unmuting microphones and raising blue Zoom hands, regularly replacing synchronous learning could tarnish Loyola’s usual high academic standards. 

In the words of foreign language department chair Cedric Ebiner, “If it is for me to choose between two evils, I’ll choose the lesser.”


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