What is Asynchronous Learning?
Asynchronous learning activities are unique because they do not take place at the same location or even time zone. This method recognizes that all people learn in different ways and the top-down, one-way classroom model is not always the most effective way to share information and enhance learning. One of the key elements of an asynchronous learning environment is the creation of a social network of peers and fellow employees – allowing this group to learn from and communicate with each other.
What are some asynchronous learning examples? In the workplace, asynchronous learning is employee-focused, though many of the same principles that apply to students also apply to training employees. Staff can utilize a variety of online learning resources including videoconferencing, discussion boards, forums, threaded conversations, email, wikis, social media, and blogs, among others.
Wondering how to train your customers? Some companies are getting ahead of the curve by investing in a learning management system, or LMS, which gives their employees access to all of these tools and many more from one simple online interface. With an LMS, employees can access courses and content anytime, anywhere, and on any device. An LMS is also commonly used as a learning management system for customer training and as a customer education platform.
Asynchronous vs. Synchronous Learning: What’s the Difference?
Synchronous learning is what you might think of as the traditional, one-way, teacher-centered approach that most of us are accustomed to – but online. It typically includes video lectures, scheduled exams, and makes use of chat rooms.
Asynchronous learning, on the other hand, is based on a student- or employee-focused approach. The employee is in the driver’s seat, able to access materials, ask follow-up questions, and chat with other employees whenever and wherever they choose. Asynchronous learning empowers employees with multiple options for learning including video and audio presentations, discussion boards, and social media. This mode of training encourages employees to learn informally from each other and from company experts.
Benefits of Asynchronous Learning
When companies introduce asynchronous learning into their training mix, it leads to significant benefits, but the most noteworthy is the flexibility, autonomy, convenience, and engagement enjoyed by their employees.
Asynchronous learning is an employee-centered approach to learning and development that has flexibility built into it at every level. Employees can access courses, content, and their social networks anytime they choose. They can learn at their own pace and create flexible schedules based on their changing lifestyle needs. Instead of working hurriedly to meet deadlines, they can take their time to really absorb the material.
In a decentralized approach to learning, employees are empowered to seek answers to their most pressing questions by consulting with their social networks, scanning forums, and through collaboration with their peers and colleagues.
Whatever companies can do to introduce flexibility into the equation will score points with their employees and help them to feel more engaged in and attached to their jobs.
Flexibility and convenience also happen to be high on the values list of the constantly on-the-go millennials and the even younger Generation Z cohort. Moving forward, this suggests that training approaches that emphasize personalization and flexibility will win the day.
Asynchronous Activities and Learning Tools
Given the surge in the number of employees who are working from home, human resources departments are reinventing how they approach training. The in-person, trainer-led model can, to some degree, be replicated through video and video conferencing apps. But still, unless the videos are short and punchy, attention spans will fade. Given the rise of the remote employee, there’s no better time than now for companies to ensure they are offering asynchronous training opportunities to complement the traditional learning activities. Here are some tips and tools to help you develop asynchronous learning activities:
- Action! How-to videos are always very popular but keep them short and relevant, and be sure to ask staff which topics they’d like you to cover.
- Discuss. Start the conversation! Discussion boards are an effective learning tool that can be accessed by employees at their convenience. They usually contain a wealth of good information and can also provide an insight into the company culture. Many employees prefer finding answers to their questions on their own, by scanning discussion boards and forums, or from their social networks and peer groups.
- Collaborate. You don’t need to share the same physical space with your fellow employees in order to collaborate with them. Learning management systems (LMS) are equipped with multiple tools that make collaboration a piece of cake and are used by companies that have employees spread across different buildings and offices (and now homes), not to mention cities, states, and countries.
- Test. Asynchronous learning may be more flexible and less formal than traditional training, but no, that doesn’t mean we get to throw out testing and accountability. Tests and quizzes can be easily designed to measure progress and determine any adjustments that need to be made. Asynchronous learning does place a big emphasis on making training fun and engaging, but at the end of the day, you need to see learning outcomes.
- Vary. Utilize a variety of learning tools and media. If you really want to capture and keep their attention, make learning visual, interactive, and participatory. Use video tutorials and storytelling to illustrate key points and bring the content alive. Be open and inclusive.
- Simplify. Less is more. Use a simple, intuitive interface that is easy for your employees to navigate. If it takes too many clicks to find what they are searching for, they will get distracted and find something else to capture their attention.
It is important for trainers to leverage asynchronous learning activities, though synchronous learning also has a role. One is not better than the other; they are just different. If synchronous learning is more formal and vertical, then asynchronous learning is more horizontal. It is decidedly flexible, convenient, collaborative, and empowering. It is important to recognize the differences while acknowledging that employees can benefit from both approaches. To find out more about how asynchronous learning can benefit your organization, book a demo with one of our e-learning experts today.