Synchronous vs Asynchronous eLearning

What is the difference?

  • Synchronous learning is forms of learning that occur at the same time, but not in the same place. e.g: A video conference, Adobe Connect session or a live tweet up via Twitter
  • Asynchronous learning is forms of learning that do not occur in the same place or at the same time. e.g: Email. posting a comment on a blog, watching a recording of an Adobe Connect session

Can the mode of learning impact on collaboration?

To answer this, firstly we need to reflect upon the types of communication that occur in collaborative learning. Hrastinski’s research indicates:


  • Ask or answer a content-related question
  • Share information
  • Express an idea or thought

Planning of tasks

  • Plan work, allocate tasks, coordinate joint efforts, or review drafts
  • Negotiate and resolve conflicts

Social support

  • Express companionship, emotional support, or advice
  • Use emoticons
  • Provide support when problems arise (such as when having technical difficulties)
  • Talk about things other than class work

Both synchronous vs asynchronous forms of eLearning have their own strengths and weaknesses.

Asynchronous vs. Synchronous E-Learning
Asynchronous E-Learning Synchronous E-Learning


Cognitive Participationincreased reflection and ability

to process information

Personal ParticipationIncreased arousal, motivation

and convergence on meaning

When? Reflecting on complex issuesWhen synchronous meetings cannot be scheduled because of work, family, and other commitments Discussing less complex issuesGetting acquaintedPlanning tasks
Why? Students have more time to reflect because the sender does not expect an immediate answer. Students become more  committed and  motivated because a quick response is expected.
How? Use asynchronous means such as e-mail, discussion boards, and blogs. Use synchronous means such as videoconferencing, Adobe Connect, shared cloud based document (Google, 365, iCloud) instant messaging and chat,
Examples Students expected to reflect individually on course topics may be asked to maintain a blog.Students expected  to share reflections  regarding course topics and critically assess their peers’ ideas may be asked to participate in online discussions on a discussion board. Students expected to work i n grou ps may be advised to use instant messaging as support for getting to know each other, exchanging ideas, and planning tasks.A teacher who wants to present concepts from the literatu re in a sim plified way might give an online lecture by videoconferencing.

Further reading

Synchronous e-learning vs. asynchronous e-learning Stefan Hrastinski

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