Synchronous or Asynchronous Tools

Technology tools can be divided into "time" categories -- synchronous and asynchronous. Depending on the rationale for using the tool, educators should be aware of the differences between the two when planning technology integration. Below are definitions of each with an example of how a tool could be used synchronously or asynchronously.

Synchronous tools enable participants to collaborate in real-time, whether in the same location or in different places. The key point of synchronous tools is that the technology lets the communicators work together at the same time.

Example: Student writing an essay. A student uses Google Docs to write her paper. Peers collaborate with the writer during class to edit the paper - giving feedback, adding comments, analyzing, and critiquing the paper.   

Asynchronous tools enable participants to collaborate on work at different times and different locations.  These tools are useful for collaborating over time and providing resources and information that are accessible at any time. Viewing the revision history allows participants to see who has contributed, when they have contributed, and what they have contributed.  Plus, the comments allow participants to agree, rebut, or explain changes needed in the work.

Example: Student writing an essay. A student use Google Docs to write her paper. She is absent from class the day her peer editing group is assigned to edit her paper. The peers edit the paper via Google Docs, giving written feedback. When the student accesses the document that evening, she can view the editing comments, write the next draft, and stay on schedule with her peers.