Workplace training E-learning

9 minute read

Synchronous vs Asynchronous Learning: Which Is Best for Your Team?

Sara Meij

Sara Meij

Synchronous and asynchronous learning are two learning methods that your organization can incorporate into your training programs with great success.

In this article we cover which type of learning is better for your team, the differences and the benefits of these two methods. Read on for our breakdown of synchronous vs. asynchronous learning in the workplace. 

woman learning synchronously on laptop

Synchronous learning

Synchronous learning is any type of learning that takes place in real-time. Learning happens for everyone at the same time, through the same medium, but it doesn’t mean people have to be in the same place. This means synchronous learning is a method that can be used in both online and in-person settings. 

Synchronous learning examples include video conferencing, live-chatting, live-streaming lectures, and teleconferencing. But face-to-face learning opportunities also fall within this category.

Benefits

  • Employees can easily interact with each other, instructors, and other learners, which makes it easier to share ideas and opinions. That environment makes for increased engagement, which can lead to better learning results.
  • There’s no delay in getting responses to questions or queries because the learning happens in real-time. It’s a more dynamic environment than if you had to wait to get an answer.
  • The same goes for feedback, which can be given instantaneously, instead of having to wait for it because the course teacher isn’t online. This could make for a richer learning experience for staff.

Disadvantages

  • Employees will have to schedule in time to attend the course, seminar or other learning and development opportunities. They can’t just access the content anywhere and at any time they like. 
  • Not everyone might feel like they’re getting enough attention during real-time learning opportunities, because the attention of the teacher needs to be shared among the students. So if one of the team falls behind and doesn’t understand a part of the course, they may lose interest and stop taking in new information.
  • If there are any technical difficulties, this will hit harder because employees would have set aside time out of their day to attend the course, seminar or other learning and development opportunity. 

man learning asynchronously on laptop outdoors

Asynchronous learning

Asynchronous learning is when people learn from the same medium at different times, on their own schedule. To learn asynchronously, you don’t have to be in a certain place at a designated time, as you would if you had to attend an on-site training session or a real-time seminar.

Asynchronous learning examples include self-guided online learning, video learning and communicating on message boards on social media platforms.

Benefits

  • Flexibility. And a lot of it. Although learning within the means of a workplace usually means there’s some sort of deadline, with asynchronous learning (through the GoSkills LMS for instance) employees can learn at their own pace - and from wherever they like (as long as they have a working internet connection).
  • If you have staff in different locations (or different time zones), it’s probably a more cost-effective way to train them, so that they don’t need to travel to participate in learning and development opportunities.
  • It’s really helpful to be able to go back to the content you’ve just been presented with, or parts of it, and go over it again. With asynchronous learning you can do that. 
  • Staff who are not comfortable speaking up in larger group settings may feel more comfortable in an asynchronous learning environment, where they would have time to think over what they’d like to say before commenting.

Disadvantages

  • Answers to questions can’t be given in real-time, so there might be a delay in getting a response from the course teacher. But, if you choose an LMS that makes communication as easy as possible, you can counteract that to some extent.
  • Distance learning isn’t for everyone, some people may feel more isolated or disengaged when they’re not learning in real-time. To counteract this, people could connect through chat, forums, or Zoom calls to discuss their course, even if they learn asynchronously. 
  • Lack of motivation and engagement can occur if the course is outdated or the learning platform is old fashioned. To remedy this, choose a training platform like GoSkills that incorporates fun and engaging features like gamification, microlearning, social learning and more to encourage and motivate learners. 

woman taking an online course from her home

Synchronous vs. asynchronous learning - which should you choose?

Like most things in life, both types of learning have their advantages and drawbacks. The best approach for your team depends on several things, including:

  • The individual learning preferences of your staff
  • The type of content that’s being taught
  • The time availability of your staff and geographical constraints

That makes sense right? If you’ve got a team that’s working remotely, scattered across the country, or continents for that matter, you will probably find asynchronous learning to fit your employees’ needs best. 

That said, if you’re organizing training for your team on a specific topic that they’ve already had lots of training on, you might find that synchronous learning in the form of a face-to-face training session with lots of interaction and time to discuss the topic is best suited. This could be followed by asynchronous learning where your team has access to the content to review at a later date or periodically as a refresher. 

If you’ve done a learner’s assessment of your employees, and you’ve found that some of them prefer synchronous learning vs asynchronous learning, or vice versa, then it would be best to try and make a learning and development plan suited for them individually. That way you get the return on investment. When staff feel more engaged and supported in their learning, their intake of new information is usually higher. 

Best of both worlds

You can have your cake, and eat it too. Blended learning is the practice of mixing traditional face-to-face education with technology. The benefits of blended learning for learners are plentiful, from increased satisfaction and enhanced retention to boosting soft skills and more peer support. For instance, you could organize a synchronous training session for your team (i.e. an hour-long session with an instructor at work) and provide a recording of it afterward online to others who weren’t able to attend so they can watch it later.

To combat the isolation mentioned above as one of the downsides to asynchronous learning, you could plan in a separate session for a one-on-one or group Q&A. Another option is microlearning, which features short, focused lessons designed to meet a specific learning objective, might also be a good option to explore. Lessons are between three to six minutes long and often are made up of rich media like videos, quizzes, and games. Microlearning has been shown to increase engagement by 50 percent and boost knowledge retention while cutting development costs by half. It’s a great addition to your learning and development plan if you want to offer face-to-face (synchronous) learning as well as online self-paced (asynchronous) learning.

Whatever you choose, it’s good to be set up for both synchronous and asynchronous learning. Even if you’ve found through your due diligence that your organization usually runs best on synchronous learning, you never know what might happen that could change the way you need to work (take the recent COVID-19 pandemic, for instance). At a minimum it’s good to reflect on whether it’s possible to provide learning opportunities to your team when face-to-face sessions aren’t an option. 

What’s best for your team?

What works best for your team depends on a few things. It’s important to find out what learning preference your staff have on an individual level. Other factors that the decision depends on also include where your staff is working from (are they in different locations, or the same building? Does most of your workforce work remotely, in different time zones?). The way content or a course is best taught also depends on the topic that’s being covered and the level of experience your staff already have on it. 

Both synchronous and asynchronous learning have great benefits. Whichever type of learning you think is best suited for your team, finding the right LMS to support the online learning aspect of your learning and development plan is crucial.

The GoSkills LMS makes it easy to make use of both synchronous and synchronous learning. Link to your webinars, live streams, and Zoom meetings, add your own asynchronous training, and get access to GoSkills' award-winning course library. With built-in features like microlearning and gamification, your team will stay engaged and motivated while learning essential skills.

Are you ready to take your team’s learning to the next level? Check out GoSkills’ LMS now. Go on, it’s free to sign up and add an unlimited number of learners.

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Sara Meij

Sara Meij

Sara is a digital communications expert and former journalist with a passion for writing. In her spare time she loves Latin dancing and getting outdoors to run, hike or mountain bike.

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