Sunday, August 15, 2021

Asynchronous vs Synchronous Delivery

One of the rewards for the effort of having peer reviewed papers published, is the delight in finding you have been being cited. Usually the papers I have written on teaching computing are cited in IT or education journals.  But the latest citation is in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. I did not even know there was such as thing as lifestyle medicine. ;-)

As it is not my field I can be entirely sure what Munroe, Moore, Bonnet, Rastorguieva, Mascaro, Craighead, Haack, Quave, and Bergquist (2021) are writing about. But it appears they have designed a course to promoting healthier eating, by teaching how to cook. One section of their paper is "Asynchronous vs Synchronous Delivery", where I get a brief mention (Worthington,  2013). A little worryingly the location of the conference I presented at has been incorrectly given as "Columbia", when it was Colombo (Sri Lanka). 

As the authors note, asynchronous delivery depends more on the student. As many students and teachers have found during the pandemic induced lock-downs over the last 18 months, this can be stressful with students feeling lost and alone. My experience of being a student and teaching this way, suggests that students need frequent feedback on how they are doing. It helps to be rewarded with a few marks for completing each small task in the course.

As the authors note, the alternative synchronous mode of teaching, where the students and teacher interact in real time is something many students expect. But one mode is not better than the other and they can be combined in the “flipped classroom”. This has the student studying alone in preparation for a teacher lead class. However, I suggest a small inducement, such as a mark, is still useful for keeping students working.

An emergency move to online teaching has seen many instructors providing long hours of synchronous teaching. This direct translation of the traditional classroom experience, I suggest, is not the best approach. A flipped approach, with shorter synchronous sessions, is a better use of student and staff time, but requires careful design and new skills of everyone. Teachers need to learn to provide quick feedback to students & anticipate their questions, or be overwhelmed with student queries. Students need to learn to plan their study.

Until last week, I was helping teach 200 students in a flipped hybrid mode. Students were provided with text and videos online to study in advance of class. Those who could get to the campus could take part there and others via video. But Canberra was locked down at 5pm last Thursday, due to a COVID-19 outbreak, so this week all students will be attending via video. However, other than the lack of a physical classroom, nothing about the teaching changes: the exercises and interaction are the same, just via a digital medium.


Munroe, D., Moore, M. A., Bonnet, J. P., Rastorguieva, K., Mascaro, J. S., Craighead, L. W., Haack, C. I., Quave, C. L., & Bergquist, S. H. (2021). Development of Culinary and Self-Care Programs in Diverse Settings: Theoretical Considerations and Available Evidence. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.

Worthington, T . Synchronizing asynchronous learning. Combining synchronous and asynchronous techniques2013 8th International Conference on Computer Science Education26-28 April 2013Columbia, Srilanka618-621, doi:10.1109/ICCSE.2013.6553983.
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American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine

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