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Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Classes

One decision to be made when developing an online course is the method of delivery. The method of delivery can be synchronous or asynchronous. Synchronous learning takes place in a real-time environment, while asynchronous learning takes place at the convenience of the learner.

In a recent Architela blog post, the author wrote,

It seems like a logical progression to turn traditional classroom learning into online learning by simply replicating the experience through the use of an online classroom. However reliance on synchronous delivery has advantages but also many limitations and disadvantages.

The author went on to list advantages and disadvantages of both synchronous and asynchronous course delivery and concluded with,

Choosing which mode of delivery to use should be based on the most efficacious activities for promoting learning, which in turn depend on the learning goals and objectives.

Ideally, online courses should include both synchronous and asynchronous learning activities. This allows students to benefit from the different delivery formats regardless of their schedules or preferred learning methods. This approach provides students with access to immediate help if needed, while still giving them the ability to learn at their own pace.

You can read more in the Synchronous versus Asynchronous Learning blog post at

Additionally, if you are interested in offering virtual classes and/or virtual office hours, consider attending these upcoming Blackboard Collaborate workshops:

Blackboard Collaborate: Web Conferencing Basics
Tuesday, May 26, 1:00 - 2:30 pm
Blackboard Collaborate: Beyond the Basics
Friday, May 29, 10:00 - 11:30 am

Click on the links for more information about the workshops (including where to RSVP).

by Janice Florent

the words who, when, where, how, why, and what as signs on a fence

Dr. Robin M. Smith, Director of eLearning at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, is typically asked the same questions each time a new instructor begins teaching online. Some of the questions first-time online instructors ask Dr. Smith are:

  • How do I know it’s the learner doing the work?
  • How do I know it’s the learner taking the test?
  • How do I know they aren’t looking at their books during the test?
  • How do I balance effort and points?
  • How do I see the lightbulb turning on or the blank stare?
  • How can I teach online and still have a balanced life?

Dr. Smith’s book, “Conquering the Content: A Blueprint for Online Course Design and Development, Second Edition” is a practical guide to creating online courses. In it she answers these questions.

The publisher’s description of the book states,

Time is of the essence in getting a course online, but it's important that pedagogy not get lost in the crush of new content. Course design is just as critical as course content when it comes to distance learning outcomes, and Conquering the Content provides a holistic and practical approach to effective online course development.

If you are new to teaching online you may find this book a great resource to help you with your online course. Even if you have taught online before you may find some useful information in this book.

We have this book in our CAT library. Contact Ms. Carla Simmons, if you are interested in borrowing this book or any other book in the CAT library.

If my blog post has piqued your interest and you want to know how Dr. Smith answers these questions, read an excerpt from Conquering the Content to find out.

Image Credit: questions by geralt from Pixabay

updated: 5/2/2019


by Janice Florent

student sitting and typing on laptop computer that is in her lap

Many online courses still rely heavily on text-based information and lack the rich visual context and warm human interactions that the social web offers.

In a Faculty Focus article, Rob Kelly states,

Taking an online course can be an isolating experience, but it doesn’t have to be. There are several key techniques you can employ to humanize your online courses and thus improve the learning experience as well as success and retention rates.

Rob suggests the following as ways to humanize your online courses:

  • Create an inviting space
  • Include your personality
  • Personalize the discussion forum
  • Provide ways for students to make the course their own

You can read more in his “Tips for Humanizing Your Online Course” article. Also, checkout this excellent infographic on How to Humanize Your Online Class.

Image credit: image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

by Janice Florent

image of keyboard with teach online key

Are you thinking about moving a face-to-face course to online? A recent Faculty Focus article suggests five steps to quickly transition your in-person curriculum into a creative and successful online course. Those steps are:

Start by Chunking: Simplify your content by breaking it up into smaller, more manageable pieces.
Decide on Overall Structure: Course design is a critical element to any course. A consistent and clear structure allows students to successfully engage with the material and meet expectations.
Select your tools: Face-to-face content can easily transition to the online classroom if you select the right tools.
Trades and Edits: Another colleague may have developed content that they are willing to share with you. Additionally, have another pair of eyes look at your online course. Feedback about your online course can prove to be invaluable.
Stay Current and Journal: Keep a journal as the class progresses. Journaling can help you to see where changes need to be made. For example, if there are a lot of student questions on the same topic or assignment, your directions probably need to be expanded or redefined.

An online course with clear structure and considered content will go a long way to support your students.

You can read more on these suggestions for moving your courses from face-to-face to online in the article, “Taking the Leap: Moving from In-Person to Online Courses.”

by Janice Florent

image of an apple with teaching online written on it

Faculty readiness to teach online and student readiness to take online courses are key to success in online education. In a Campus Technology article, Paul Beaudoin writes,

Teaching in the blended or online learning environment is not a direct transfer of the traditional face-to-face class. The challenges of online learning often require a different set of skills that may not come easily to brick-and-mortar instructors.

Paul suggests six things instructors can do to be better online teachers. They are:

  1. Maximize your digital savvy
  2. Be an active and engaged participant
  3. Reinvent your wheel
  4. Include your learners in the learning process
  5. Reassess assessment
  6. Realize it's okay to fail

To find out more about his suggestions for being a better online teacher, read Paul's article "6 Ways to Be a Better Online Teacher."

I had planned to submit my blog post while at the conference but I was so busy learning and networking that I'm back in the office now.  So here's a quick summary of my experiences.  The Quality Matters organization is comprised of many dedicated professionals and the member institutions are equally concerned with developing and teaching quality online or hybrid courses (QM uses "blended"; we at Xavier use "hybrid") in order to have positive student outcomes. They're also big on "takeaways" so I have literally hundreds of resources now, and will be posting several key ones to CAT's Online Faculty Resource Center (debuting soon). For your information, here are a number of the actual presentations that were posted as well.

My takeaways from the conference are

  1. we can offer workshops for faculty on actually teaching online, which is entirely separate from developing the course
  2. we need to do more to make our courses accessible from the beginning rather than create accommodations after the fact (I also learned that numbers are better than bullets for screen readers so I'll be using numbers from now on)
  3. we don't need to reinvent the wheel--we can partner with other institutions to offer more for our students
  4. size does matter, especially in online language courses
  5. faculty preparation and skills are necessary components for SACS approval of online and hybrid courses/programs

and I could continue, but I think having begun and ended with faculty concerns really shows how important they are to student success and therefore why CAT is dedicated to assisting our faculty in developing and teaching online and hybrid courses for our students at Xavier.