Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Classes

Online learning

What’s the Difference between Synchronous and Asynchronous Classes?

With online, hybrid, and in-person classes, learning can be structured in a number of ways. In-person classes are generally synchronous, while online classes are often asynchronous. Hybrid courses combine elements of both.
Synchronous Learning
Synchronous classes occur when students and instructors gather together in real-time. Think “in sync.” This can mean in-person instruction on campus, but it also can mean designated online meeting times. Basically, if the class is expected to be together regularly and at a certain time for instruction, it’s synchronous learning.
Example: Professor expects the class to be in-person or to tune in on Zoom Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:30 am.
Asynchronous Learning
Asynchronous classes are done more at your own pace. Instructors will link to pre-recorded lectures or videos for students to watch when it works for them. Think “not in sync.” This does NOT mean there are no deadlines or that you can get the work done whenever you want. Asynchronous classes still usually require that students get a certain amount of work done at a certain time; however, students can do the learning or view the instruction anytime and anywhere up to that date.
Example: Professor expects students to complete video assignments and respond in a forum by Friday at 5 pm.
Hybrid Learning
Some classes might utilize a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning: this would be considered a hybrid course. Say your class includes five in-person meetings throughout the semester that you are expected to attend. Between these meetings, professors might require asynchronous videos and/or assignments to be done at a specific deadline. Hybrid courses are utilizing the benefits of both synchronous and asynchronous learning; engaging, in-the-moment class times with the flexibility of working on assignments at your own pace.
Example: Professor expects students to meet every other Friday at 9 am and for students to watch a video and respond to a forum by the following Wednesday at 5 pm.
Throughout your higher education experience, you’ll likely encounter each of these types of classes. Cairn University offers synchronous learning for undergraduate programs on campus and asynchronous learning for those studying through Cairn Online. If you’re wondering which learning style works best for you, send us an email to begin the conversation about starting or completing your journey at Cairn University.


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