This paper discusses the organizational and pedagogical aspects, benefits, and disadvantages of synchronous and asynchronous technologies as platforms for creating distance learning environments. By comparing the advantages and challenges of the two learning environments, teachers will be able to match the appropriate learning environment and its teaching strategy to their learning goals. These two learning environments involve distance learning. Distance education (or what is commonly termed “distance learning”) is a method of education in which the learner is physically distanced from both the teacher and the institution providing the instruction. Learning may be undertaken either individually or in groups. According to USDLA (2006), distance learning is: “The acquisition of knowledge and skills through mediated information and instruction, encompassing all technologies and other forms of learning at a distance.”
Key Terms in this Chapter
Distance Education: Distance education or distance learning is a field of education that focuses on the pedagogy, technology, and instructional systems design that is effectively incorporated in delivering education to students who are not physically “on site” to receive their education. Instead, teachers and students may communicate asynchronously (at times of their own choosing) by exchanging printed or electronic media, or through technology that allows them to communicate in real time (synchronously). Distance education courses that require a physical on-site presence for any reason, including the taking of examinations, are considered to be a hybrid or blended course or program.
Asynchronous Distance Learning (ADL): Any learning event where interaction is delayed over time. This allows learners to participate according to their individual schedules, and be geographically separate from the instructor. It may be in the form of a correspondence course or e-learning. Interaction can use various technologies like threaded discussion (DeVry University, retrieved July 25, 2006, from http://www.elearners.com/resources/glossary.asp )
Synchronous Distance Learning (SDL): A type of distance education that connects students and instructors via real-time communication. Typically, audio and video links connect the distributed learning sites, supporting cross-site discussion. Synchronous distance learning has benefits over watching a pre-recorded video of the instructor only when students learn from each other and from the instructor through interactive episodes ( Anderson et al., 2003 ).