Asynchronous or synchronous?: What works better for online school?

    meetings, Zoom calls and Panopto lectures. (Aaron Sousa/AQ)

    St. Thomas University is encouraging asynchronous learning this semester. Third-year student Jonah Simon said there are good and bad aspects to asynchronous and synchronous methods of online learning.

    “With asynchronous, it allows me to go at my own time and at my own speed,” said Simon.

    Criminology professor Dawne Clarke said her workload has increased with moving her classes online.

    “This is as new and different and challenging for professors as it is for students,” Clarke said.

    “I have found that the time commitment required to do online asynchronous learning is significantly more than going into class with lecture notes.”

    Clarke said she was faced with challenges during remote learning that she didn’t expect. She said she had some students who live outside of Canada email her asking for an electronic copy of the textbook because the paper copy would take too long to get to them.

    Simon said the structure of asynchronous online classes is deceiving.

    He said a flaw in asynchronous teaching is the lack of guidance.

    “If there’s an issue that I don’t understand, I have to email the professor and sometimes they don’t reply as fast,”  said Simon.

    Simon said it feels like his online school workload increased and assignments are piling up.

    STU French professor Christian Mbarga decided to conduct his course synchronously to help students better understand a new language.

    Asynchronous learning is encouraged but not mandatory.

    Mbarga said the workload he assigns has decreased with his online class structure.

    “I give about the same amount [of work] or less,” said Mbarga.

    Clarke said professors attended a three-week training course on online learning during the summer which inspired her asynchronous method of teaching.

    “The first thing we learned was you can’t replicate the classroom in the online learning environment,” Clarke said.

    Simon said both his synchronous and asynchronous classes make him feel like he’s teaching himself.

    “You’re trying to prioritize which [assignment or project] you should do first,” Simon said.

    “But then again, they’re all a huge priority.”