Benefits of Self-Paced Online (Asynchronous) Classes
Like many online curriculum providers, Homeschool Connections has two options for delivering course content: live, interactive courses and recorded, self-paced courses. If we want to use proper educational jargon, these options are known as synchronous and asynchronous education. Live courses are called synchronous because they are “synchronized” to a specific schedule set by the instructor or institution. Recorded courses are called asynchronous because you learn at your own pace; you are not tied or “synchronized” to any fixed schedule.
Given the choice, many parents choose synchronous classes for their children. The benefits are obvious: students get live interaction with a teacher and peers, and they are kept accountable by a fixed schedule. However, other families choose recorded courses for a variety of reasons: their children prefer the self-paced option, they are more affordable & flexible, and families can learn together as a unit.
Every homeschooling family should do what they consider best for their own children’s education, and if you think that live, interactive coruses are the only way to go, then by all means stick with it! However, if you’re open to new ideas, I’d like to review some of the benefits of asynchronous education.
Flexible Pacing Benefits Students
While a synchronous course keeps the learner attached to a fixed schedule, an asynchronous course requires the learner to find their stride. They can go at their own pace, pause to review content, and revisit things at their leisure for mastery. Students rarely learn at the same pace, and in a live class, students who need more time to process information may feel hesitant to ask questions in class or request clarification. Asynchronous learning is ideal for these students as it allows them to pause as needed without having to speak up in front of their peers. It allows the learning experience to be more reflective of the learner’s own abilities.
Options for Collaboration
Asynchronous learning does not mean a student must be completely isolated from options for collaboration. For example, at Homeschool Connections, students may still communicate with instructors via phone or email with course questions. For greater involvement, parents can sign their students up for Instructor Access and have their work graded by the instructor. Students may communicate with one another on the Homeschool Connections student Café (where they often form their own threads dedicated to certain courses to discuss material with their peers). Collaborative options will certainly look different across different programs and providers, but the point is that asynchronous learning does not mean learning in isolation. There are many opportunities available for meaningful collaboration with teachers and peers.
Inclusion of Family
One of the coolest ways we have seen parents use asynchronous learning is by including the family in watching recorded classes. They might get the entire family into the living room, link the laptop to the TV, and watch a course together. This is way more difficult with a live class—but if you have the ability to review a course on your own time, why not turn it into a opportunity for learning as a family? This is especially helpful in homeschools that use a whole unit structure, where every child in the home is learning about the same subject or historical era simultaneously. This is a tremendous benefit of asynchronous courses.
Take Ownership of Learning
We tend to think of live classes as requiring more discipline: a student must commit to being logged into class at a certain time every week, he must maintain proper decorum while in class, and must stay accountable with the schedule dictated by the syllabus. While this does build discipline, sticking to a schedule is not the only type of discipline; there is also the discipline of creating ones own schedule. In fact, it could be argued that it requires more discipline to build one’s own schedule than to adhere to something premade that is handed to you. In other words, asynchronous learning helps the learner take ownership of their learning—not only in the choice of content they receive, but how they receive it.
Not Better or Worse, Just Different…
Suppose I were to ask you which is better, jogging or weightlifting? Of course, there is no correct answer; how you respond depends upon what your physical fitness goals are. Both jogging and weightlifting have their own advantages. Which we choose depends on what we are hoping to get out of our exercise.
Similarly, synchronous and asynchronous education each have their own advantages. You may think asynchronous is deficient because it can’t replicate the benefits of live education. However, if we consider asynchronous education for the benefits it can offer instead of comparing it to something it was never meant to duplicate, we may begin to see things in a different light. You may just end up joining the throngs of families who are using asynchronous courses to great benefit.
As for Homeschool Connections, our asynchronous course offerings are called Unlimited Access. Unlimited Access gives you access to Homeschool Connections’ library of 450+ online courses for all subjects ranging from grades 3-12. If you’re not sure, you can sign up for a free 7 day trial to check everything out. If you like it, you can maintain access to the entire catalog for $34.97 a month; we also have pricing for an entire year, as well as options for individual classes. Click here to learn more about Homeschool Connections’ Unlimited Access.