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The benefits and challenges of asynchronous activities

There are benefits and challenges to using asynchronous activities which often take place over an extended timescale (sometimes days) and involve communicating with you or other students in writing.

For example, some of the benefits include:

  • Students can develop their higher order thinking skills during asynchronous tasks by integrating and synthesising information from a wide variety of sources in order to connect ideas (Garrison et al, 2001).
  • Students can complete activities within a flexible timeframe, when and where suits them.
  • In real-time discussions, the ‘window’ to reply to someone’s point of view, or formulate a response to a question, can be quickly missed. However, working asynchronously allows students time to refine their responses without being pressured to respond quickly.
  • Asynchronous learning also supports individual pacing, allowing them to spend longer on activities they have identified as areas to work on, and less time on areas they feel more confident in, supporting their development as self-regulated learners.

Some of the challenges include:

  • Communication loses all the subtle clues which generally guide and shape face to face discussion - tone of voice, facial expression, body language, the ability to interject spontaneously or to ask for immediate clarification. These constraints can lead to misunderstandings and frustration (Meyer, 2003). For discussions which benefit from swift response, a real-time conversation may be more appropriate.
  • If students are working collaboratively, the extended time-frame of an activity and the time lag between other students’ contributions can make activities seem disjointed, and students can forget their train of thought or lose interest. This is where setting deadlines for contributions, and making it clear how the outcomes of the task will feed into the next activity, can help.


What do you anticipate the main challenges and benefits of working on asynchronous tasks will be for your students?

Think of ONE benefit and ONE challenge, with a suggestion of how you could mitigate that challenge.

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This article is from the free online course:

Teaching for Home Learning: Secondary Science

National STEM Learning Centre