Point/Counterpoint: Synchronous vs. asynchronous online courses

Debating which form of online learning is best for students

Queen’s students make their cases for the best kind of digital course.


Please—no more frantic note taking and screenshotting.

Asynchronous learning lets you take a much-needed break from Zoom—and it has benefits for learning.

Asynchronous courses, which consist of prepared course material that’s made available to students at any time rather than through scheduled classes, enable students to learn at their own speed. Pre-recorded lectures allow you to go back and replay parts of a lesson you didn’t understand the first time through; pre-written lessons make it easy to move through hefty content at a pace that works best for you.

Asynchronous learning also doesn’t require stable Wi-Fi—for you or your professor. I’m sure most of us have experienced when a professor’s Wi-Fi boots them out of the call and the class sits there in awkward silence waiting for them to come back. Asynchronous classes would also be a blessing for the TAs looking like deer caught in the headlights when they become the new host of the Zoom call and don’t have anything to say.

Not to mention, if your own Wi-Fi cuts out, you won’t have to miss any of your lecture or scramble to catch up.

When we’re not in lockdown, students are able to safely bring their learning to different study spaces, like coffee shops and libraries. Unlike synchronous learning, they don’t have to be alone in a quiet space, ready to speak in a discussion or answer a question at any time.

I think we can all agree that Zoom calls are exhausting. Even if you don’t have any synchronous lectures, we’re all inundated with Zoom calls, and asynchronous learning allows students to take breaks when they need them.

Asynchronous learning lets students create a schedule that works best for them. Best of all, you can do it in your pyjamas.

Although asynchronous learning has its challenges, I’ve learned how to make the most of it. As long as the professors can get the content uploaded on time, sign me up.

—Julia Stratton, Staff Writer


This year, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, students are no longer flocking to campus and learning in sizeable lecture halls, studying in multi-storied libraries, or engaging in labs. Instead, the majority of Queen’s students remain at home, learning through their laptops.

When it comes to remote learning, every student has their preferences. However, there’s no denying that synchronous courses, live online classes during which professors deliver course material directly to students in real time, are the most advantageous for individual students and are instrumental to course progression.

Synchronous courses generate a sense of community that’s missing from asynchronous learning. A platform in which students, professors, and teaching assistants are communicating in real time creates an environment that isolated, individual learning simply can’t match. Real-time learning also gives students the chance to connect with other classmates, leading to vitally important academic connections.

Live discussions provide students with increased engagement opportunities and allow them to make instant connections with professors. This type of ongoing feedback can improve the capacity in which students succeed. If any student feels uncomfortable in these situations, online learning also offers the anonymity of keeping your camera off, which most professors will accommodate.

Synchronous courses allow the transition to online learning to feel much smoother and more familiar. Virtual classrooms manage to not only imitate and provide similar benefits to an in-person experience, but they actually improve upon it by supplying a myriad of collaborative tools that stimulate active learning. Zoom’s breakout rooms, electronic drawing boards, and screen sharing provide advantages not found within the typical classroom experience.

Some students may prefer asynchronous courses because they’re able to work at their own pace. However, this disconnected, non-scheduled format encourages procrastination and a lack of engagement with course content.

The bottom line is that synchronous classes are the most effective method of delivering online learning—their structure upholds the integrity of in-person instruction through active student engagement and community creation.

—Nicole Sobolewski, Contributor

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