Asynchronous vs Synchronous Lectures

  • Asynchronous lectures allow students and faculty to interact with the material and each other on their own time. It's important to keep some time parameters in place when delivering content asynchronously. Consider the timeline for your course. If you normally cover topic Y during week 7, allow students to access the online course material, asynchronous lecture, and participate in any assignments at any point during that week. Create a deadline for all assignments based on topic Y's content.
  • Synchronous lectures allow for the closest "feel" to a face-to-face classroom. In this format, students and faculty access the same online space at a designated time. This can be done through video conferencing tools such as Zoom.
  • Regardless of format, it is important to include assessment of student interaction with and understanding of the presented material. Without the face-to-face interaction, you are losing body language and facial cues that allow you to identify when students are confused. In the asynchronous format, you are also losing the ability for students to ask clarifying questions mid-lecture. Create some discussion questions for students to complete after viewing the lecture or course material. Additionally, consider creating a discussion space for students to "raise their hands" and ask questions. Monitor this discussion daily!
  • You may be used to meeting in class once a week, or a few times a week, but with online courses, students may be accessing the material at any time. Therefore, it's important to "check in" on the course more often. Students may have more questions, be unsure and anxious, or work on course material and assignments at odd hours. Be as accessible as possible during this time to support students as they (inevitably) struggle through a stressful time. Conversely, protect your time and personal space by communicate boundaries with your students. Let them know what hours you will not be checking email or accessing the course.

Considerations for delivering content online asynchronously

  • Without students as a "captive audience" in the classroom, more consideration needs to be made for student attention spans for online lectures. If you would normally lecture through the majority of a 50 minute class, consider breaking up that lecture when preparing it for online distribution. Find natural breaks in the lecture, or use other resources to go in-depth after a brief introductory/highlights lecture. For example:
    An article, textbook reading, or website may provide the information in a readily available format. Your online lecture could highlight important or missing components of that resource. Create comprehension based discussion questions or assignments to assess student understanding of the information.
  • If using PowerPoint (PPT), multiple technological resources can help you put your PPT lecture online. Use the voiceover capabilities within PPT, or use the Panopto tool to record your PPT lecture.

Alternatives to the video lecture

Faculty may not want to create video lectures for a variety of reasons, from technological to personal preference. That's fine. Other options exist to disseminate course content without resorting to recording a bunch of audio/video lectures. Here are some possibilities:

  • If your PPT slides are comprehensive, and/or include information in the "notes" section that expand on the slide content, you can simply share your slides as-is with your students.
  • Create an explanatory word document highlighting the important components of the topic.
  • Make the students do the work. Create assignments that require students investigate information on the topic on their own. Be prepared to provide feedback, expand on missing or incomplete information, clarify, and redirect as needed.
  • Don't reinvent the wheel. Is there a video, article, or other resource that has already been created on this topic? Be sure to add your own thoughts, take-away's, or highlight certain aspects of the resources. Keep your own presence in the course so that it doesn't become a compilation of other people's resources.
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