The offerings for online learning have grown significantly in the last couple of years, from normal video segments to complex, structured learning journeys that take place entirely remotely and on screen.

Asynchronous learning and its counterpart, synchronous learning, are the terms that rose to prominence as more online training (more broadly, education) became available with minimal constraints commonly associated with face-to-face training.

Even though organizations have reopened, flexibility is intensifying, for example, in terms of where employees are working or where they attend training sessions from.

As blended strategies and asynchronous learning grow, said flexibility is progressively expanding beyond the realm of location: when are employees learning is another question that is gaining traction.

The dialogue over synchronous vs. asynchronous learning over the past two decades, and especially now in the post-pandemic era, has managed to bring us to a learning crossroads.

Can asynchronous learning take over synchronous learning? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? And the most important question is, which one is better?

To better understand this, let’s begin with a definition of both terms.

What is asynchronous learning?

Asynchronous learning is more focused on the learner. It allows your learners to finish courses without having to be in a specific location at a specific time. In essence, asynchronous learning does not limit learners based on their location or time. Asynchronous learners can complete top-quality learning materials from students taking the same courses as them whenever and from wherever they want, as long as they are connected to the internet. By using such materials, they become smarter.  

Asynchronous learning, while not taking place in real-time, still enables feedback. Learners are free to share their thoughts and queries with instructors and other learners.

Here are some examples of asynchronous learning:

  • Online classes
  • Email
  • Blogs
  • Pre-recorded video courses or webinars 
  • Discussion boards and online forums

What is synchronous learning?

Synchronous learning encompasses all methods of learning in which the instructor(s) and learner(s) must be in the same place at the same moment for learning to occur. This covers in-person classes as well as live online meetings with the entire group or smaller groups. In synchronous learning, learners usually follow the same learning path as the instructor, who can provide assistance while learners complete tasks and activities.

The majority of online education occurs asynchronously, with synchronous learning occurring mainly when there is a special requirement for live interaction or discussion, or as a method to develop community among learners.

Advantages of asynchronous learning

Asynchronous learners generally gain the following benefits.

Greater flexibility

Asynchronous learning offers significantly more flexibility than synchronous learning. Learners do not have to be present at the same place or time. They can proceed with their other commitments and use the learning resources as and when they see fit.

Consistent pacing

Asynchronous learning also allows your learners to choose, define and set their own learning pace. They can either start from scratch or soak up new knowledge in accordance with their learning modes, media, and styles, depending on how much of a specific topic they have understood.

More affordability

Asynchronous learning outperforms synchronous learning in terms of cost-efficiency. Because it does not necessitate daily instruction or constant attention, its content is typically priced on a modest scale. This allows learners to learn as much as they can at a reasonable rate.

Disadvantages of asynchronous learning

As expected, there are some drawbacks to asynchronous learning.

Personalization is lacking

Asynchronous learning methods lack a personal touch when an instructor or peers are not present. Learners are unlikely to develop relationships as they progress through their journey of learning as they would in a live learning environment.

Lack of focus

A learner’s experience suffers as a result of the lack of real-time interaction with colleagues and instructors. Learners will be required to navigate challenges on their own if they do not have people to turn to in times of learning need.

Increases the possibility of misunderstanding

Inherently linked to the feeling of isolation is the high chance that course participants fail to comprehend the course content or the activities/tasks they participate in, and even lose interest.

In an asynchronous setting, disengaged learners are very difficult to detect and re-engage. These 10 asynchronous learning tips may help in resolving this issue.

But, if the learning journey is poorly designed and there isn’t any efficient feedback collection, both the instructor and HR will fail to evaluate what worked effectively and what didn’t, while the activity was in progress.

Advantages Of Synchronous Learning

In and of itself, synchronous learning provides several advantages, including the following. 

Adaptive learning

Synchronous learning enables the highly dynamic pursuit of concepts and topics. It provides a certain depth of instruction to your cumulative training routine because of its rapidity and swiftness.

Immediate feedback

In learning, synchronicity is primarily defined by immediate feedback. You can immediately point out any mistakes made by the learners and have them rectified on the spot. The learners do not need to make appointments with the instructors to receive advice and mentoring.

Learning curve acceleration

Furthermore, because learners can convey and clarify their doubts and questions on the spot, they can push through their learning roadblocks much faster, allowing them to ramp up their learning curve.

Disadvantages of synchronous learning

Synchronous learning also has some drawbacks. Here are the main drawbacks.

Not flexible

Because synchronous learning occurs at a fixed time, it is not adaptable to different timelines and priorities. Learners and instructors are both expected to commit to a specific time and location, which can be inconvenient for those who have other obligations.

Inconsistency in quality

The quality and effectiveness of a training session are entirely dependent on the instructor in synchronous learning. As a result, the quality of synchronous learning may be inconsistent.

Inadequate personalized attention

When there are multiple learners in a solitary training session, it’s natural to feel the urge to compete for an instructor’s attention. An absence of attention from instructors may also result in favoritism toward some learners.

Preteen schoolgirl doing her homework with laptop computer at home. Child using gadgets to study. Online education and distance learning for kids. Homeschooling during quarantine. Stay at home.

Synchronous vs. asynchronous learning: Which one is better for your learners?

After considering the differences, benefits, and drawbacks of synchronous and asynchronous learning, the strategy of learning you select is determined by a variety of factors specific to your organization. It’s important to consider your learning goals, the preferred method of course delivery, the types of content, and even instructor availability.

Although synchronous learning provides the benefit of real-time conversations with instructors or peers, the flexibility of asynchronous learning offers significant benefits to learners with demanding schedules, particularly those who work from home while caring for their families. Fixed class times may not work with their hectic schedules. They’re probably better off relying on recorded sessions or offline resources.

If you’ve conducted an assessment of the learners and discovered that some prefer synchronous learning over asynchronous learning or vice versa, it’s best to create an L&D plan tailored to each individual. This ensures a better return on investment. When employees feel more engaged and guided in their learning, they are more likely to absorb new information.

Variety is the best approach, regardless of which method you use. Especially if you’re creating a course, try to keep your learners as engrossed as possible by incorporating a variety of content delivery methods. A mixture of components such as video, text, and images will keep your learners engaged.


After reading the benefits and drawbacks of both synchronous and asynchronous learning, you can determine which type of learning is best for your organization. Although each has advantages and disadvantages, which one to use depends on a variety of factors specific to your organization. However, if you have the resources, a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning is also available.

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