The Transforming Teaching Toolkit is the CTL’s resource hub for anyone interested in designing or redesigning their courses and teaching practices. You’ll find interconnected subject guides rooted in foundational principles that are designed to support teaching situations across the disciplines, whether in-person, blended, remote, or online. Use them to maintain and deepen your core teaching values and promote student learning in any situation life throws your way.
For an overview of the guiding principles of the Toolkit, visit Transforming Teaching 101. For curated resource recommendations based on your needs, try the Self-Assessment Tool. For individual support, request a consultation. And for in-depth exploration, check out the nine Guides below.
The best plan for your course is the plan that sits comfortably with you—a plan that makes the most of past approaches and materials while leveraging the best strategies and technologies for your course context. This self-assessment tool will prompt reflection on your strengths and recommend some Start Here resources that meet your needs.
View the full Asynchronous versus Synchronous Infographic (PNG, 264KB)
What is asynchronous learning?
Asynchronous learning means that the instructor and the students in the course all engage with the course content at different times (and from different locations). The instructor provides students with a variety of course materials which the students move through on a more flexible timeline still guided by the instructor. Each unit might make use of assigned readings or uploaded media, online quizzes, discussion boards, and more. The instructor sets guidelines, provides them with feedback, and assesses them as needed.
What is synchronous learning?
Synchronous learning means that the instructor and the students come together at the same time - either face-to-face or digitally. If participants are remote, synchronous events are typically mediated by digital tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams - tools that allow for livestreaming of audio, video, and presentations, such as live classes or meetings, live conversations, simultaneous document editing, and more.
|The argument for...
|The argument against...
|The greatest advantage to asynchronous approaches is the flexibility for all – students and instructors. We will all be in a better position to respond to competing demands, changing situations, and schedules if course work is asynchronous. Additionally, asynchronous approaches allow more time for everyone to digest and reflect. Content can be organized into reasonable chunks – as the evidence shows this is better for both learning and teaching overall.
|Extra attention is required to maintaining instructor presence so students feel connected to their prof as well as to one another. Asynchronous learning requires self-directed learning skills that cannot be assumed. Students need guidance and support in learning how to engage in this new environment.
|Conversation happens in real time, allowing students to ask questions and the instructor to gauge students’ understanding in the moment.
|As everyone adjusts to remote contexts, many will face challenges participating at the required time due to technical, technological, and Instructors can facilitate workshop-style classes and run breakout group activities. scheduling obstacles. Synchronous events are also less accessible and disadvantage many groups of students, including International students and students with disabilities. Synchronous sessions are prone to technical hiccups and can be challenging to facilitate. Sessions longer than 30 minutes in length wear on everyone having a deleterious effect on teaching and learning.
The above definitions and advantages/disadvantages sections been adapted from Keep Learning Website, University of Waterloo
Given the recommended preference for asynchronous approaches, the next section outlines strategies based on the classroom context:
Asynchronous Strategies for...
Lecture-based classes: Chunk & record
Break original lectures into chunks. Organize chunks around concepts or key ideas. You might record a video to cover each chunk but you might also find other ways of mixing up student learning activities. Check out the Student Engagement Guide for ideas. If you record a video, aim for around 10 minutes in length. One lectures-worth of student engagement then becomes a series of videos interjected with activities for reflection, rehearsal, or application.
Seminar courses: Facilitate discussions with transformative technologies
Facilitate discussions through asynchronous technologies that enhance the conversation. For example, these 10 ways to facilitate conversation through annotation using Hypothes.is
Note: While not an institutionally supported tool at Queen's, Hypothes.is is an open source (free), collaborative annotation tool that adds a conversation layer over the entire web working everywhere with any digital document.
Group work: Leverage collaborative documents
Teams can work quite effectively asynchronously. Groups might connect for synchronous meetings on occasion (e.g. when first getting started or for checking in), however collaborative documents quickly become a more effective way of progressing. Groups can be required or encouraged to assign roles.
Alternative Environments: Reimagine ‘hands-on’ possibilities
Record demonstrations - set up and recording of complex demonstrations will be easier to do than running live. Video demonstrations can be supplemented with other materials such as step-by-step illustrations. Use open educational resources - A plethora of freely available animations, video clips, simulations and other multimedia can provide alternate ways of engaging in hands-on activities.
The Transforming Teaching Toolkit by the Centre for Teaching & Learning, Queen’s University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.