Types of Online Communication: Synchronous vs. Asynchronous

Faculty deciding whether to use synchronous (everyone participating simultaneously) or asynchronous (participants logging in at different times) communication need to first consider their objective for having students interact. Both forms of communication can be effective when used for the appropriate reason; both can be abused just as easily. 

Asynchronous Discussion

 Advantages:    

 Challenges:

 Students can think about their contributions before posting.  Posts can sit unanswered by classmates for several days.
 Students can participate when they have the time.      There is a tendency for people to wait until the last minute to post making it difficult for other students to respond in a timely manner.
 Posts can be proofread, checked for spelling and grammar, and accuracy of concepts being presented can be checked.
 
Best Practices:
  • Make objectives and grading standards clear.
  • Don't dominate student discussion; allow students to interact with each other rather than deferring to you for an opinion.
  • Let students know you are reading their posts; send an email or mention the interesting posts in class. 
  • Submit a summary posting at the end of the week pointing out the highlights of students' postings and filling in any points that were overlooked.   
  • Asynchronous discuss boards provide an excellent medium for shared assignments that can be graded by the instructor and also reviewed by fellow students.
    • Again, if grading a discussion assignment, make the assignment requirements and grading standards clear.
  • One way to cut down on the number of posts, is to require one, quality post from each student and several response posts to other students' assignments. When this strategy is used, faculty tend to get better quality postings and have fewer to read.
  • Set realistic but fixed time lines for submission; it is unfair to those students who post on time to have to wait for the late entries for posting responses.