Studying in real-time makes synchronous online learning interactive and dynamic. It allows learners to engage with the trainer and their peers. Through this, learners get exposure to various angles of looking at the subject matter and an opportunity to build their social and collaborative skills.
Features of Synchronous Online Learning
Due to its interactive, real-time delivery, each synchronous e-learning program has some common central features. These features also create the necessity of specific infrastructural requirements for the facilitator and students.
Since synchronous learning is virtual and instructor-led training, each classroom has a training faculty that leads sessions. They do so by teaching concepts, facilitating discussions, clearing doubts, and monitoring student interactions. Facilitators are also responsible for assessing performance and keeping the company updated.
Synchronous training programs happen in groups or batches. These can be big or small, but learning rarely happens one-on-one. Thus, such courses are group-paced.
Next, the classes need to occur somewhere. Usually, video-conferencing apps like Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, etc., are the go-to. These video conferencing platforms also have tools and features like cloud storage, screen and meeting recording, in-built assignment and submission options, and screen sharing.
Additionally, a chat feature is available to students to make communication more accessible and prevent frequent disruption. Learners can use this feature to ask doubts or answer questions when a verbal interaction is not appropriate or possible.
Virtual classrooms also have virtual whiteboards. The faculty can control learners’ access to them. By doing so, the whiteboard can serve different functions depending on the lesson plan for each session.
Lastly, synchronous online learning happens over the internet. All participants must have a stable internet connection and a suitable device. Usually, laptops and desktops are best, but professional tablets can be excellent options.
Advantages of Synchronous Online Learning
The e-learning industry is currently booming, giving companies and learners several different training options to choose from. Synchronous e-learning is only one mode of delivery. Clients usually also have the choice of asynchronous training units, which are learner-paced courses with individual participation, as per the learner’s convenience. Thus, budget, company goals, learner goals, desired outcomes, infrastructure, and the nature of training required are the deciding factors for picking one alternative over the other.
Synchronous online learning has some powerful advantages. It might be the right fit if an organization or department is looking for something that:
Is cost-effective: By opting for synchronous learning, organizations can eliminate travel and infrastructure costs such as transport compensation and meeting rooms in the office.
Ensures learner motivation: A 2008 study by Hrastinski found that learners display higher motivation levels and commitment in synchronous online courses due to the expectation of quick responses and interaction.
Requires meaningful communication between the faculty and learners: Learners can get instant feedback on doubts and course materials. Additionally, due to real-time delivery, they are more likely to grasp concepts accurately due to the availability of cues from the faculty.
Builds practical job-related skills: Demos and practice sessions are easier to conduct when a class is happening live. This condition gives learners opportunities to apply what they are learning under the supervision of an instructor.
Facilitates collaboration: Most courses require learners to exercise their critical thinking abilities or apply the skills they acquire. Synchronous learning environments facilitate this using group discussions, projects, presentations, and fluid interaction. Doing so allows learners to hone their collaborative and social skills, which are often vital in a corporate environment.
Can be scaled up: E-learning and video-conferencing platforms often accommodate large groups. Thus, batch sizes or batch numbers can be increased when needed.
Builds a community: Synchronous online learning allows the facilitator and learners to network and connect, providing opportunities to build long-lasting professional and personal relationships.
Disadvantages of Synchronous Online Learning
While this mode of learning is comprehensive and interactive, it is not a shoe that fits everyone. Again, budget, time, and infrastructure can make it a less ideal alternative in many scenarios. Some of its disadvantages are:
Inaccessibility: Working individuals live busy lives with multiple responsibilities and commitments. Similarly, teaching faculty have their own schedules to manage. Thus, people who cannot commit to fixed classes will not be able to enroll or attend synchronous programs.
Infrastructurally intensive: As mentioned previously, all participants need a good internet connection, a comfortable environment, and a laptop, PC, or tablet. While many companies can provide some of these, it is not feasible for all. Similarly, employees might face logistical problems they could not foresee or are not equipped to solve.
Relies on the facilitator’s effectiveness and skill:Taking live online sessions is a skill facilitators need to hone. Due to the time commitment made by learners, synchronous classes should be highly structured, with every minute planned ahead of time. Delivering the course and checking off objectives in such a manner is not an easy task. Thus, educators need to be very skilled and experienced.
Incompatibility with mobile devices: Most mobile devices are not ideal for taking live classes due to their small screens and inability to move between applications freely.
When to Use Synchronous Online Learning
According to Hrastinski (2008), synchronous online learning is the best alternative in three scenarios. Its advantages shine when the course design requires discussions that are not too complex, when people are getting to know each other, and when a session or program requires a lot of task planning. It is a good option for:
Onboarding and Orientation programs: Familiarizing new recruits with a company’s policies and environment is best done as a real-time interaction.
Compliance training: Compliance training is usually given to all members of an organization or department simultaneously. By opting for synchronous delivery, officials can concurrently impart this information in several batches, making the overall task quicker.
Practical, group-based skills programs: Synchronous online learning provides the right environment for training that requires group work and collaboration on mock projects and presentations such as product design and management, recruitment, etc.
Mandatory Certification: Some job profiles require all professionals to have some standard qualifications to hold the title. Synchronous learning can provide an easy framework to keep track of learner progress when the volume of students is high.
Synchronous online learning is a mode of e-learning that happens in a real-time group setting. Such programs are headed and facilitated by skilled trainers and instructors. Each session occurs at a fixed time, and students must be present for the successful learning and completion of the course.
Do students prefer synchronous or asynchronous online learning mode?
Preferences will vary depending on the students and the nature of the course.
What is an online synchronous session?
An online synchronous session is a live online video interaction where a trainer directly addresses their audience in real-time to impart information.
Is online learning synchronous or asynchronous?
Online learning can be both. It is synchronous when sessions are delivered live on a fixed schedule.