COVID-19 propelled Canadian University Dubai (CUD) into a virtual learning environment. Both students and faculty adjusted to distance learning which required new ways of interacting with each other and with their materials. In this new reality, it is important to apply both measures of asynchronous and synchronous learning so students can find the right balance of challenge and support.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of asynchronous learning is flexibility. Considering the difficult and unexpected situation of COVID-19, we understand that students may be struggling with different things at this time.
In this new reality, it is important to apply both measures of asynchronous and synchronous learning so students can find the right balance of challenge and support.
For example, some students may be adapting well in the comfort of their homes, surrounded by their support system, while others may be struggling with isolation and plagued with concern for loved ones far away. In this sense, to sustain the momentum with studies, it is critical to offer the flexibility of asynchronous learning. Students can access materials, such as pre-recorded lectures, at their own pace rather than log in to a scheduled class at a specific time. Asynchronous learning also allows students the flexibility to pace their learning.
By contrast, not all learners thrive in a total asynchronous space. Some learners require the structure that comes with synchronous learning to stay on track. Synchronous learning happens in real time when students and instructors interact at a scheduled time. These platforms include video conferencing, teleconferencing, live chatting and live-streaming lectures. Advantages of synchronous learning include just-in-time feedback and discussion that comes with being together. This environment can lend itself to a deeper understanding of topics as peers who engage in discussion offer diverse perspectives. Students can ask questions in real time and get to know their instructors and classmates in the process.
Perhaps one of the main disadvantages of synchronous learning across virtual platforms is technical issues. An entire classroom of online learners brings a variety of internet/Wi-Fi capabilities. Such connection glitches can prove to be distracting and frustrating at times.
As we continue to adjust to distance learning, it is important to offer both methods to strike the right balance for all learners. It is a strategy we can apply in order to be equitable and accessible in this space.
— The writer is Vice President of Academic Affairs, Canadian University Dubai