The COVID-19 pandemic has forced people to become closely acquainted with a plethora of new concepts: social distancing, antibodies, self-quarantining, virtual learning and many more. Among students, however, one word seems to have dominated the college campus: Asynchronous.
Asynchronous lectures grew in popularity among both students and professors in the wake of this global pandemic. The flexibility it provided seemed to have a calming effect on students, overwhelmed with having to adjust to virtual learning. Asynchronous classes seem to be even more sought-after than synchronous classes, but will this hurt students in the long run?
Asynchronous classes have many pros, the most commonly experienced being that it allows for students to make a class schedule that proves more convenient for them. Being able to work your asynchronous classes around your synchronous ones has given students the opportunity to create a routine that truly works best for them, often meaning they can allocate more time to things that bring them some degree of relief. They can go on a walk, schedule a COVID test, go out for lunch or watch a movie at a time that works best for them, without having to worry about rushing back to hop onto an online lecture.
Academic workloads can be much better managed when you’re able to make more time in your day. Maybe you break up your pre-recorded lecture into 15 minute increments over three days. Maybe you get it all done on Tuesday so that your synchronous Wednesday/Friday lecture receives your undivided attention. Maybe new content is posted every Friday morning, and you dedicate all of Friday to that class to give yourself a stress-free weekend. Whatever your strategy may be, it’s no doubt that asynchronous classes can greatly reduce workload strain.
Working asynchronously can also be great for those who prefer working alone. Not everyone favors group work over solo work and many people feel they can be much more productive working by themselves. For these individuals, getting to rely solely on oneself to complete work on a deadline conducive for one instead of many is the much-preferred method of learning.
But, when all is said and done, could asynchronous classes have done more harm than good? This pandemic will be over eventually — knock on wood — and at some point there will come a time when we are back in the classroom, swapping the masks and pajamas for jeans and a backpack. When this day comes, will we have become socially stunted, unable to properly communicate with our peers and professors? A professor could go the entire semester without seeing one of his or her students’ faces, and a student could go the entire semester watching a professor’s YouTube lecture on 1.5x speed while running on the treadmill.
The sense of personability that typically came from a pre-COVID college-level class is significantly reduced when learning asynchronously.
Asynchronous classes can also prove difficult for people who lack time-management and self-motivation skills. Sticking to a set schedule of your own creation doesn’t always happen when the only person holding you accountable is yourself. These skills are imperative in college, but “learning the hard way” isn’t always the best option.
Asynchronous learning has assets and liabilities, as do most alterations to traditional learning in the wake of this pandemic.
The main thing to keep in mind is that everything is temporary, so for those who love asynchronous classes, pinpoint what you favor about them and try to bring whatever that is into the classroom with you. And for those who are dying to get back in person, just hold out a little while longer.