Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Tools

Is this really the question?  Perhaps.  But it is not the first question we ask.  Before deciding that one tool, or group of tools, is better than another, we need to ask, "Better for what?"

Synchronous: existing or occurring at the same time* (e.g., Skype, Collaborate, Google Hangouts, etc.)

Asynchronous: not occurring at the same time* (e.g., Moodle`s discussion forums, blog posts and comments, online bulletin boards, etc.)

* Definitions from The Free Dictionary

While a skilled instructor can generally adapt to whatever tools are available, the readings and video listed for this week include examples of activities that seem to work better in one environment or another.

Johns Hopkins University School of Education,Center for Technology in Education ©2010 suggests that "Asynchronous learning can be effectively used for in-depth discussions that take place over time, role playing, application-based case study scenarios, one-to-one interactions among students, and activities that require more independent thinking time." And, "Synchronous learning can be effectively used for showcasing web or computer applications, explaining difficult concepts, delivering lectures via PowerPoint, structured group brainstorming, hosting guest speakers, new topic introductions, community building, and question and answer." 

Often students have a preference for one environment or the other, depending on their individual learning preferences.  Students who are vocal, think on their feet and are confident - may prefer a synchronous learning environment while more reflective learners may prefer asynchronous learning activities.

As you work through this week's activities, take note of your own preferences.  Where do you think you are a more effective learner?  Which tools support you in which kinds of learning activities?