Synchronous vs Asynchronous Communication

4.2 Synchronous vs Asynchronous Communication

World Wide Learn describes Synchronous vs Asynchronous Communication in the following direct quote: “The word synchronous means working together at the same time, and in the online learning world, chat rooms and online conferences are good examples of synchronous communication. In a chat room, people’s comments to each other are relayed immediately, enabling a real-time discourse. Similarly, online conferencing with the benefit of voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) tools enable real-time conversations to take place online. Learning from synchronous communication is enhanced because real-time conversations allow people to explore, through writing or talking, the class concepts. The act of verbalizing helps students build bridges between different ideas and concepts, thus helping them retain information more effectively.

Asynchronous communication is the relay of information with a time lag. Discussion forums and email are two examples of how asynchronous communication is employed in online learning. It is very helpful to communicate in this way, because students have plenty of time to formulate thoughts. By communicating via email, students are able to respond in detail to a question or topic that they might have answered incompletely in a real-time conversation. This time lag in communication helps students internalize information by giving them time to research certain ideas or merely extra time for contemplation. The main disadvantage to asynchronous communication is time lost waiting for a response.”(World Wide Learn)

Reflect upon the questions below:

  • What are the merits of the two basic types of tools?

Asynchronous is “easier” as it allows both parties the time freedom to communicate.

Synchronous involves more time commitment from both parties.

  • When would you use one and not the other?

Synchronous  – When dealing with a student F2F, perhaps during orientation or if a student is having difficulty in the course.

Asynchronous Communication – the majority of communication in my elearning experience is asynchronous. A student has to have a good work ethic and willingness to wait sometimes to get an answer that they are stuck on or do their own research.

  • Are there particular types of learning that can only be supported by one type?

Groupwork sometimes benefits from periodic synchronous communication. For example, a shared project (doc or presentation) could be done asynchronously in google docs, but then students could meet in google hangouts for some synchronous F2F group time to “speed up” the time lag that slows down asynchronous communication.

  • Are synchronous tools really necessary in an eLearning course?

Yes, some use of synchronous tools is what separates an elearning course from distance learning or correspondence.


Q: For each scenario describe how the issue could best be addressed by using an asynchronous (scenario #1) and a synchronous tool (scenario #2).


Scenario 1 – A student has a question about an assignment or course material. A student might be overwhelmed with her first elearning course and be on the verge of dropping the course.  Think about a how we feel when we call for customer service and get an automated phone menu. A student might enjoy using synchronous tech (google hangouts) to talk F2F with a teacher to resolve larger issues. An elearning teacher might have office hours where they could be reached easily or a scheduled appointment could be made.

Scenario 2 – An elearning teacher might make a last minute change to an activity based on student feedback and broadcast out a message through the LMS’s internal email system to notify students. In this case, email (an asynchronous tool) works great and people get the message when they are best suited to read the message.

Here are some great resources posted by some of my classmates:

Resource 1:

Resource 2:



World Wide Learn, “What Do Synchronous And Asynchronous Mean?”, ND, WEB, Aug 30, 2016,


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