Information from Harold Jansen, Interim University Librarian
The University is not mandating one or the other, but we encourage you to think through the pros and cons of these two different forms of delivery and decide what is appropriate for your course, your students and for you. Many students prefer asynchronous delivery, as it gives them some flexibility about when and how they interact with the course. Async can also work well for students who don’t have great Internet access or who have family or other responsibilities that might interfere with their ability to be available at particular times of day. It can also more easily allow for the use of a variety of different teaching materials, enabling the incorporation of readings, video, pictures, maps, etc. It may also facilitate participation from some of your more reticent students: it can allow them time to consider what to say as not all students think quickly on their feet. Async courses can also more easily accommodate students in multiple time zones, particularly international students. For the faculty member, it can have some advantages, too. Having the ability to prepare much of the course ahead of time takes some of the pressure off for Fall, particularly if Faculty members are also facing challenges such as poor Internet or if you’re worried about children or other distractions making it difficult to teach at a particular time on particular days.
Asynchronous teaching has disadvantages, too. Because students are not together with their instructors at a given time, even virtually, a class doesn’t feel the same. It takes more work and conscious attention to build that sense of community and interactivity that makes a class come alive. It takes more deliberate effort to make yourself “present” in the class. Without that, it can feel like your class is just interacting with content, rather than with you. Asynchronous teaching also requires more advance preparation than synchronous teaching.
The main advantage of synchronous teaching is that it can feel the most like a “real” classroom, in that you’re interacting with students in real time. Students have the ability to interact with you and ask questions when they don’t understand something. It can build more of a sense of community between you and the students, which is an important part of creating a support learning environment. It can also help to build accountability for students as it is much harder for them to disengage when they need to check in at a particular time each week. It can take less preparation time – you don’t need to pre-record video or develop other content. It can be a bit disconcerting, if you’re used to a lecture style class setting. It’s much harder to “read the room” in a video lecture as many students will have their cameras off and even for those who do have their cameras on, their facial expressions are much harder to read over video. Synchronous delivery is probably most effective when there is real opportunity for discussion and interaction.
The choice doesn’t need to be all or nothing. An effective strategy is to use asynchronous delivery for the parts of the course that are going to consist of students listening while you talk and reserve synchronous sessions for things like question and answer periods, discussion, or other active learning activities, where students have an opportunity to participate.
A good resource to read more: https://www.niagaracollege.ca/cae/eddev/teaching-resources/online-teaching/design/synchronous-online-teaching/