Instructional Design

The Road From Asynchronous to Active Learning

Think back to your favorite class in school and your favorite teacher. Did your favorite teacher teach your favorite class? That’s no accident. When you were interested in a subject and your teacher engaged you, it created a perfect storm for you to learn and excel. Did you pursue more knowledge on that subject, perhaps major in it in college or make a career out of it? Learning doesn’t get more active than that. Much of today’s learning is asynchronous eLearning; it happens outside the traditional classroom on a flexible timetable. It’s still possible to engage eLearners in the virtual classroom, and it’s a beautiful thing when an asynchronous learner evolves into an active learner.

Asynchronous Learning – On Your Own

Think of asynchronous learning as “push learning.” The instructional designer pushes out the information, and the student determines when and how to access it. It’s next to impossible to engage students with zero interest in the subject matter. For example, you will never engage me in math—Not. Gonna. Happen! I made up my mind decades ago, and my closed mind is impenetrable. But I’m the outlier, and you can engage eLearners who have even a passing interest. Focus most of your attention on “activating” the 80 percent rather than browbeating the 20 percent.

Active Learning – The Road Less Traveled

Think of active learning as “pull learning.” Active learning occurs when the learner takes initiative and pulls information of interest without prodding. Self-starters are lifelong active learners. They’ll immerse themselves in learning as long as the opportunity costs don’t overwhelm them.

As an instructional designer, you don’t get to physically see the “ah-hah” moment when an asynchronous eLearner turns into a rabid, active learner, but course and performance evaluations measure your success in getting through to eLearners.

Nudging the Leap From Asynchronous Learning to Active Learning

The road to asynchronous learning need not be long and winding. Three no-cost techniques can nudge asynchronous learners into active learning.

  1. Use “Where to go from here” segments at the end of each module.
  2. Set up social learning as a component of the eLearning.
  3. Include a voluntary mentoring program even if it uses virtual mentors, because “being mentored” is active learning, and it leads to leadership.

Not all active learners are leaders, but all leaders are active learners. What’s the point of learning if it’s not to mold leaders and encourage leadership?