Traditional training is usually seen as a team effort: An instructor sits in with a group of learners as they discuss and work together. But that face-to-face learning has a few limitations, especially when it comes to respecting the independence of individuals. For those who prefer a more independent approach, asynchronous learning makes more sense. While it’s not perfect as a standalone method of training, it might be a worthy addition to your current efforts. Sometimes, working solo can be a benefit for learners and instructors alike.

What is Asynchronous Learning?

Despite the complicated name, asynchronous learning is actually pretty simple: It’s a learner-lead method by which the course is accessed and completed at different times for each individual. Unrestrained by the necessity of in-class instruction or having to access a module at a specific time, asynchronous learning gives each person maximum control over how, when and where training happens.

Tools of the Trade

Chances are that you already have many of the tools used for asynchronous learning in place – it’s just a matter of utilizing them for learning and development. Some of the most common tools include:

  • Virtual libraries and resource centers
  • Organizational forums and FAQs
  • Online portfolios
  • Learning management systems

In short, any tool that a learner can access anytime, anywhere, can be used as a tool for asynchronous learning. Since a learner isn’t constrained by working face-to-face with an instructor, he or she can check in, grab pertinent information and even share with other learners online without a traditional classroom environment.

Benefits

So, what’s the point in taking learning online? There are clear benefits to utilizing asynchronous learning, and most boil down to a healthy respect for the individual. Not all learners absorb material in the same way, so autonomous learning means they can brush up on the stuff they need and skip the material they already know. It’s also the most flexible method for learning, which is ideal for tight schedules and large groups. And, since it’s learner-led, students can read material, think and reflect before answering questions or joining discussions.

Of course, the fact that asynchronous learning programs are cheaper to produce and administer doesn’t hurt the case, either

Disadvantages

Okay, so asynchronous learning sounds pretty flawless. But it’s definitely not perfect. Unfortunately, the lack of a class atmosphere can sometimes cause a disconnect between the learner, the material and the other people involved – both instructor and other students. That can result in a lack of motivation to log in, read the material and finish the course while flying solo.

Another issue to consider is the lack of instant feedback that asynchronous learning offers. In short, a learner could be completely misunderstanding the material and demonstrating that misunderstanding with incorrect discussion questions, but because the course isn’t live, the instructor might not catch that misunderstanding until it’s too late.

In the end, asynchronous learning is awesome, but it’s not the answer for everything. Instead, it works best when blended with other methods to make sure all learners are accounted for when it comes to understanding, access and discussion.