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Asynchronous learning: What is it and how can it be effective

4 min reading time

Online learning technology has paved the way for new learning methodologies and L&D practices such as virtual learning environments, blended learning and microlearning. One of the most popular learning methods that users of online learning platforms can take advantage of is asynchronous learning. Indeed, 77% of the e-learning industry is comprised of self-paced learning models. But what exactly is asynchronous learning? Why is it so effective, and how can you deliver it within your organisation? Keep reading to find out. 


What is asynchronous learning? 

Asynchronous learning is a self-paced learning method that doesn’t require real-time interaction or for other participants to be present during the learning process. Asynchronous learning is typically associated with online learning as students can access learning content by simply logging onto a platform such as a learning management system (LMS). 

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Learners can study on their own time and at a pace that best suits their preferences, schedule, and proficiency levels by accessing educational materials such as pre-recorded lectures, online courses and training modules at any time. Rather than synchronous learning activities such as attending a face-to-face lecture or learning in a classroom setting, asynchronous learning doesn’t rely on a teacher to lead the session; instead, learning is self-directed. 

What are the most effective types of training methods that can be delivered with e-learning? Find out here.

Asynchronous learning e-learning


What are some examples of asynchronous learning? 

  • Watching educational videos or lecture recordings 
  • Completing e-learning courses 
  • Completing online learning assessments 
  • Participating in educational discussions using online forums 


Benefits of asynchronous learning 

  • Flexibility – Synchronous learning tends to be rigid and takes place within a fixed schedule. This can be difficult for students or employees with time constraints. On the other hand, asynchronous learning allows learners to be more flexible, scheduling time to complete learning when it suits them. This is particularly helpful for part-time students who are working whilst completing higher education courses, or employees fitting in training programmes amongst their day-to-day job-related tasks. 
  • Scalability – When learning is carried out in a face-to-face classroom environment, there are often physical limitations around the number of students who can attend sessions. However, asynchronous learning is scalable, allowing organisations to deliver L&D programmes to an unlimited number of learners. 
  • Improved knowledge acquisition – The self-paced nature of asynchronous learning gives learners a better opportunity to take the time to understand the subject matter. When learning via classroom-based teaching, students are at risk of falling behind if they cannot keep up with what is being taught. Conversely, self-directed learning allows learners to revisit content as many times as necessary to gain a good understanding. 
  • Reviewing content – With asynchronous learning, learners have the chance to review or revisit content, making it easier to revise and prepare for exams. 
  • Develop soft skills – Self-directed learning can help learners develop skills such as self-motivation and time management.


Are there any disadvantages to asynchronous learning? 

  • Lack of real-time feedback and interaction – Without the presence of a teacher or educational professional, learners don’t benefit from real-time interactions with teachers. This can be a disadvantage when it comes to learning complex subject matter as learners don’t have the opportunity to ask questions during the learning process. 
  • Less social interaction – Asynchronous learning provides fewer opportunities for social interaction and peer-to-peer learning. 
  • Requires discipline – Without the structure of timetables for classroom sessions or teachers and trainers conducting training sessions, some learners may find it difficult to stay on track with their learning, meaning some could fall behind due to lack of discipline. 

 Asynchronous learning social learning


Asynchronous learning best practices – how to make it effective with e-learning 


Encourage social learning and learner interaction 

Asynchronous learning doesn’t mean isolation. In fact, learners can still engage in peer-to-peer learning and social interaction as long as they have access to the right tools and technology. With a solution such as a learning experience platform (LXP), learners can take advantage of features such as forums, discussion boards and polls. With these features, learners can share their own thoughts and ideas around topics/lessons/content with fellow learners and participate in discussions. This process still coincides with the methodology associated with asynchronous learning as users of the platform don’t need to be online at the same time; they can simply log onto the system and contribute when they wish. With LXP tools, learners have access to a wealth of new insights and ideas without being limited to face-to-face classroom-based sessions - resulting in an enriched learning experience.

Why choose Totara Engage over social media platforms?


Create learning plans for users to follow 

Asynchronous learning requires learners to be self-disciplined, but using e-learning tools to create structured learning plans ensures they stay on track. With an LMS, L&D managers and educators can provide a clear outline of what courses need to be completed, with a defined path designed to guide learners through a structured flow. 

Learning plans can include completion dates and time limits, providing motivation for learners to work towards targets and deadlines. With an LMS such as Totara Learn, users can monitor their progress by visiting their personalised Dashboard area in the platform. With visual features such as progress bars and percentage wheels, learners can also see how much has been completed at a glance. 

E-learning L&D plans: Discover how to create powerful PDPs using a TXP here.

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Diversify content to boost engagement levels 

Boosting motivation levels should be of the utmost importance when facilitating asynchronous learning programmes. And, if learners don’t feel motivated or engaged with the content, they’re unlikely to possess the discipline required for self-directed learning. When designing e-learning courses, organisations should include a diverse range of content types such as quizzes, videos, audio clips and gamified lessons. 

One of the most effective ways to boost engagement levels is to include elements of interactivity and interactive content. Studies have shown that 82% of trainee employees say that interactive videos hold their attention better than non-interactive videos. Content types such as video and image hotspots are a great way to capture the attention of learners and ensure they feel engaged and motivated enough to complete their learning. 

Read our handy infographic and discover the best ways to boost learner engagement levels.


Provide learners with continuous feedback and support 

The biggest challenge for learners during the asynchronous learning process is ensuring they are given timely and continuous support and feedback. Although student/teacher support won’t be carried out in real-time, it can still be timely and current with the help of e-learning technology. 

Asynchronous learning support and feedback

With LMS reports and analytics, educators or training providers can gain insights into learner progress by creating custom-built reports that identify progress indicators and provide data on course completion rates and assessment results. With this information, educators or training providers can get in touch with learners and offer them additional support. With automation technology, admins can receive regularly updated reports so that feedback and support are dynamic and timely. 

With a performance management system such as Totara Perform, organisations can schedule data-driven one-to-one sessions and feedback opportunities. Educators or training providers can use features such as achievement paths to identify whether learning objectives have been met and competency levels are sufficient.

What is a performance management system? Find out by reading our ultimate guide.


Allow your learners to experience the benefits of asynchronous learning 

With a full suite of e-learning tools, your learners can benefit from structured asynchronous learning programmes that provide all the necessary support required to enhance the learning experience. If you’re ready to introduce asynchronous learning techniques into your L&D strategy, get in touch with one of our e-learning experts today to find out which of our solutions will best serve your needs. 

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