I confess that last March I could not have told you what asynchronous learning was. Now with universities across the country offering classes remotely, I am teaching an English class asynchronously for the University of Saskatchewan.
Asynchronous is an adjective that means something is not happening at the same time, so asynchronous learning means that students can pick when they want to learn. There are no set class times (synchronous learning), so they can engage with the class material when they choose to. It offers students maximum flexibility. The morning people are not exhausted by the time they leave their homes for night classes, nor are the night owls sleep deprived by having to get up for morning classes. Students now have control over when they engage in their learning activities.
So what are the beginning steps for students adjusting to asynchronous learning?
Reflect on your rhythms. What part of the day do you learn best? When would be the best time for you to listen to lectures and go over PowerPoint slides? When are you most focused? Least focused? When are you capable of dealing with details vs when are you more interested in ideas? When you know your rhythms, now with asynchronous classes, you can better structure each day to maximize your learning.
Once you understand when you are most able to learn, you need to establish the where.
In the article “How college students can make the most of remote learning,” in The Washington Post, the writer interviews Jenae Cohn, an academic technology specialist at Stanford University. Cohn encourages students to “create a ‘distraction-free’ workspace. Hide your phone. Download tools on your browser to block social networks or other distracting websites.” She advocates finding a work area that has a minimum of distractions and unplug from social media. That might seem impossible, but one’s best learning occurs with minimal distraction.
With when and where addressed, what about how? How do students negotiate the online learning world?
First, be aware that online learning is draining. You might not have left your bedroom and just focused on a screen, but you will be tired—really tired. Make sure to take regular breaks. Exercise. Move around. If are living with family or friends, be social. Don’t just Zoom out.
Be intentional about joining the community that is offered online in your classes.
If there is a discussion time, show up. Be part of the community. You will feel more engaged and a part of the class. You will also have a chance to engage with your peers. Instructors notice who shows up.
If other students in your online courses reach out in an attempt to get to know you and the other students in the course, reach back. Part of the university experience is meeting people and making new friends. While both are impacted by online learning, take advantage of the chances you have to connect with others.
Finally, be intentional about reaching out to friends you already have.
Don’t isolate. You need support, and if your friends are studying online, as well, they need your support. Just knowing you are not alone is helpful. Just knowing that your struggles are being experienced by others can be soothing.
If you need help and support with your academic studies, reach out. Academic coaching can give you that extra boost to help you realize your goals.