EPD - Instructor Resources - Types of Learning & Interaction

EPD Instructor Resources

Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning
Synchronous learning requires real-time interaction between learners and instructors, where they need to be together at the same time whether it be online, in a web or video conference, or in the same physical classroom.

Asynchronous learning enables learners and instructors to interact with one another in a more distributed fashion, and does not require them to be physically together or virtually online at the same time. This provides the flexibility of anytime anyplace learning. Although it should be noted that guidance and constraints should be put on asynchronous learning: for example, learners may be required to complete a given assignment or course within a timeframe.

Blended learning provides a mix of both synchronous and asynchronous learning.

Some characteristics and examples of each of these are provided in the following table.
 Synchronous Learning  Blended Learning  Asynchronous Learning
 The learner is online at the same time as an instructor or other learners.  For at least some of the time, the learner is online at the same time as an instructor or other learners.  The learners is not online at the same time as an instructor or other learners.
 The course is highly facilitated by the presenter or instructor and often delivered live to students.  A blend of synchronous and asynchronous.  More self-directed study by the learner, although the instructor plays an important role of establishing pace, supporting learners, and keeping students on-task through various communications.
 The learner gains immediate feedback from the instructor and other learners in real-time.  The learner can gain both immediate and delayed feedback.  The learner gains feedback from the instructor either not at all, or after a delay.
 Examples: classroom, chat groups, virtual classrooms, videoconferences, teleconferences  Examples: uses any of the examples from both synchronous and asynchronous modes  Examples: learning management system, email communications, online forums, discussion lists

Having discussed the types of interaction, it is important to note that each category of instruction and type of interaction has implications for methods of delivery. Learning can be presented and delivered o the learner in many different ways and for a range of purposes. A few things to consider when beginning to think about delivery options are the role of the instructor, whiter the learning is blended or not, and what instructional technologies and strategies will be used to deliver the course.

Ideally, all teaching and learning should be effective, engaging, and efficient (Merrill, 2009). Learning should be designed to allow interaction between the instructor, the course materials, and other learners. Students should also be able to obtain clear and consistent feedback on their progress and get assistance whenever it is required. However, the degree of interactivity in learning depends on the goals of the course or module, how the course has been developed, and is dependent on the choices made during the design and development of the course, in the type of instruction and the chosen delivery options.

Broadly speaking, learning can be looked at as having three categories, depending on the degree of interactivity involved. The following table summarizes different types of instruction and interactivity, and provides some examples of each. The best instruction has a mix of all three.
 Category A: (Primarily low interactivity - mainly text, multimedia, or graphic one-way communication)  Category B: (Moderate to high interactivity - has some degree of interaction between learners, instructors, and content)  Category C: (High interactivity - includes learner to learner and learner to instructor interaction)
 Primarily asynchronous where the learner interacts with the content. Learner consumption of PowerPoint presentation, websites, e-books, podcasts, video, audio, other media.  Interactive resources, quizzes, test, reflective learning, games, simulations, demonstrations, discussions, and forums.  Face-to-face, classroom-based, virtual classrooms, group games, video/web/audio conferences, chat groups, email lists, discussion groups/forums, blogging, wikis.
(Sections of this page were adapted from Australia Flexible Learning Framework)