When the corona virus hit, college and universities turned on a dime, retooled, and the Synchronous Zoom Classroom was born. The “Zoom Room” was a synchronous, real-time instructional experience, typically via videoconferencing .
Recently, Inside Higher Ed reported that “experts” said synchronous instruction “wasn’t necessarily a bad thing in an emergency situation”. Among other benefits, synchronous instruction can provide socially isolated students a schedule and sense of community. However, it disadvantages some students, including those with disabilities. Meanwhile, as online educators know, asynchronous instruction in which students learn via videos, readings, and other media -- is the basis for fully developed professionally designed online courses and programs.
However, we don’t necessarily need to view this as a synchronous versus asynchronous debate. Online education, when fully developed is the right choice for students and subject matter. Videoconferencing was overused during the pandemic, but now faculty and schools have a chance to use the recorded lectures for as a part of robust online courses.
At the very least, to be fully developed online learning, video lectures need announcements, assignments, guided group discussions, and accessible documents, such as transcripts of lectures. Also needed are learning objectives and outcomes, as well as projects and assessments.
Let’s examine more differences between remote and fully online instruction.
By Instructor with some support; learning experience varies depending on the instructor’s level of expertise with learning technologies.
Instructor as content author supported by instructional designer and media support; various technologies are considered to facilitate a self-directed learning experience.
Often developed week-by-week, with consideration of the overall course plan.
Fully developed at the start of the course; may go through multiple iterations before development is considered complete.
Delivery of instruction
Asynchronous (i.e. recorded lectures) OR synchronous (i.e. real-time classes in the web conferencing applications).
Primarily asynchronous; some synchronous components.
Students may be less technologically prepared, with access to a mobile device only and limited connectivity in their homes; instructional planning should reflect these limitations.
Students know from the onset that all instruction will happen online, so likely have access to the technology that enables them to actively engage in the learning experience.
Learning Management System use
Typical use of system to communicate with students, relay course content, and administer assessments and grades.
Advanced use of tools and components to facilitate social interaction of class and learning activities.
Mirrors expectations of face-to-face instruction.
Students are expected to be self-directed with regular check-ins by Instructor to monitor progress and provide feedback.
Interactions with classmates
Periodic; often instructor initiated.
Interaction is built into learning activities; addition of defined spaces within the learning environment for social interaction.
Well-planned online learning experiences are meaningfully different from courses offered online in response to a crisis or disaster. Colleges and universities who used the recorded lecture style courses to maintain instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic can evaluate those differences between true online learning and emergency remote teaching.