The VHS Collaborative Blog
Co-Synchronous E-Learning – A New Term for a Proven Learning Model
You’ve heard of synchronous e-learning. That’s when the teacher and the students get together “live” on the internet for lessons and discussions.
You’ve heard of asynchronous e-learning. That’s when students take online courses on their own, at their own pace.
But what do you call e-learning when a group of students and a teacher complete an online course together over a scheduled period with regular assignments—but don’t necessarily ever log on to the course at the same time?
At The VHS Collaborative we’ve coined a new word for this style of scheduled, asynchronous learning. We call it co-synchronous e-learning—and we believe it is the online learning model that provides the most authentic, collaborative learning experience for students.
Co-Synchronous E-Learning Defined
Co-synchronous e-learning is all about collaboration, cooperation, communication, and community. A cohort of students complete their course together, using Web 2.0 tools to gather and share resources, debate ideas, comment on each other’s contributions, and collaborate on projects. The teacher posts regular assignments, guides discussions, provides constructive criticism, corrects misunderstandings, asks and answers questions, and assesses student work. There are few, if any, live interactions—so students and teachers from different time zones and on different schedules can share in the learning and choose when during the week they want to participate and complete their assignments.
Synchronous E-Learning: Real-Time Interaction, Limited Flexibility
Synchronous e-learning is a great way to bring together a group of students from geographically dispersed areas so everyone can see and hear the same things at the same time, ask questions, and participate in discussions. Synchronous e-learning works well until you are working across multiple time zones, you want all of your students to participate and engage in thoughtful discussions and assignments beyond the scheduled class time, or someone has a scheduling conflict. Then this mode of learning becomes limited.
Asynchronous E-Learning: High Flexibility, Little Interaction
With asynchronous e-learning, students can start courses at any time and complete them at their own pace. There is no need to wait for a scheduled class start date or slow down while your classmates catch up. But asynchronous courses offer few opportunities for sharing and interaction. Group projects, in depth discussions, peer feedback, and collaboration are limited, at best. With asynchronous courses, the computer usually does the teaching and assessing, building in multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank questions to help measure progress and understanding. There is little opportunity to explore nuance or deeper meaning. The role of teachers, when they are available, is to answer questions and ensure progress—but otherwise students work on their own.
Co-Synchronous E-Learning: Flexible and Interactive
Unlike with synchronous e-learning, co-synchronous e-learning doesn’t require everyone to find a common time to get together. Teachers and students can participate from anywhere at any time that fits with their personal needs, individual and academic schedule, and time zone. And, unlike with asynchronous e-learning, co-synchronous e-learning can provide many rich opportunities for interaction and engagement—allowing every student to take the time to review lessons and assignments, form opinions, and contribute to discussions. At The VHS Collaborative, we think that co-synchronous e-learning provides the right mix of flexibility and interactivity to deliver an authentic, engaging learning experience and enable students to participate in global online classrooms with students and teachers from around the world.
A New Word, Not a New Concept
Co-synchronous e-learning is a new word, but not a new concept. At Virtual High School this model of teaching and learning has been developed, used, and refined for K-12 online education over the past 15 years. 15,000 students a year in 38 states and 45 countries come together through co-synchronous online classrooms to take challenging online courses that enable them to interact with their teachers and peers while being flexible enough to meet their individual scheduling needs.
What do you think of the word “co-synchronous” e-learning? Does it provide new meaning for you or give you a better understanding of this alternative mode of online learning? Have you offered or taken a co-synchronous e-learning course in your school, business, or higher education program? What worked or didn’t work for you? Please share your thoughts.