The meaning of the word ‘asynchronous’ is ‘not at the same time’. In the context of learning, it is used when a learner completes a learning initiative on his own time and schedule – without the intervention of an instructor. As technology advanced, the modes of delivery of Asynchronous Learning have evolved from one-to-one communication i.e. via telegraph and telephones to one to many through radio or television broadcasts to the current trend of many-to-many through networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
In corporate learning, the success of Asynchronous Learning has been tremendous. The prime reason for this is that Asynchronous Learning has been able to bring learning to a large audience across vast geographies – as per their convenience. Also corporate learners are mature and are inclined to learning more in order to succeed in their career. So they do not always need an instructor to keep them motivated. They also like to be self-directed and learn at their own pace. In addition there are some other benefits of Asynchronous Learning which have proven it to be increasingly popular for organizational trainings.
As the global community of corporate workers grows, it also becomes increasingly diverse. This diversity in terms of age, gender or culture can often bring in a bias among peers in a learner group. In an asynchronous learning environment, these biases are worked away as each learner is responsible for his or her own learning. This does not however mean that the avenues of collaboration have been closed down. Asynchronous learning offers multiple opportunities of collaboration through discussion boards, emails or blogs. Through these channels the learners share their learning and experiences to gain collaborative knowledge. The diversity in age or culture then adds on to the experiences and knowledge that each learner brings in. For instance in a group of learners of diverse age, the older ones can bring their wealth of practical knowledge while the younger ones can teach them a thing or two about adaptability. Collaborative efforts in such scenarios are undoubtedly fruitful.
Instead of bulk delivery of the same content across numerous students, with asynchronous learning, it has been possible to create a customized learning path for every learner. Contrary to early delivery mechanism which used the e-mail to deliver asynchronous learning content to the learner, the delivery of asynchronous learning is now through modern delivery platforms such as Learning Management Systems. These systems can identify a learner and their learning requirements. LMSs are synched with Human Resource data and are able to map learning gaps for each learner. Using this data, they can assign suitable courses available within the catalog of the LMS for each individual learner. This is however just one example of customized learning. The need for customized content is ever-increasing. With advanced technology and incessant R&D, customized learning is becoming more and more advanced and asynchronous learning is proving to be a very suitable mode.
Another benefit of the asynchronous learning platforms such as a LMS is that learner assessments can be made richer and more useful. With a traditional classroom delivery, the learner can only be assessed on the papers that he submits. But inside a LMS, there are multiple ways to assess a learner and provide well-rounded data to provide better assessments. For instance, the learner can judged basis the various interactivities built inside the asynchronous learning material. This can be substantially cemented by data on timely completion of assignments, completion of referred courses, fruitful participation in discussion boards and so on. These insights can be utilized to chart better learning for the learners – something that would be quite impossible in a synchronous learning environment.
Asynchronous Trainings have given up complying with strict definitions of the word which did not include any real-time communication between peers or the instructor. Asynchronous training sessions now include synchronous events such as webinars (where an instructor or subject-matter expert gives a real-time lecture, which is followed by an interactive question-answer session) or live web chats (where peers can chat among each other or with the direction of the instructor). Though as per the tenets of asynchronous learning, these sessions are often recorded. This allows learners to refer to them later on and benefits learners who cannot attend the sessions in real-time.
The increase popularity and availability of mobile devices has opened up the arena of mobile learning. It has also created the opportunity of making asynchronous learning available to learners anytime and anywhere. The content for mobile delivery of learning has been suitably altered to suit the particularities of the platform. In addition to crisp textual content, video and audio has been exhaustively utilized to create impactful asynchronous learning content. Short videos (containing minimum text but a lot of graphics, images and animation) make a huge impact on all kinds of learners and align very well to the strengths of the mobile medium. Podcasts are also popular–where an audio delivery ensures that the learner can just listen and learn.
In conclusion, asynchronous learning has been suitably supported by modern learning environments and newer mediums of delivery that has made it the success it is today in corporate learning. With advancements in technology and suitably revised strategies to suit the changing needs of the learners, it is sure to continue as a rising trend in the years to come. For our experiences in successful asynchronous learning write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Suggested Further Reading: www.theglobalelearningjournal.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Lineros-and-Hinojosa-Trends-in-Asynchronous-Learning.pdf