Oct 14 2022

How Asynchronous Learning Can Spur Student Success

Students are looking for learning-life balance, and technology tools can make it easier for colleges and universities to help them achieve it.

The way students learn has fundamentally changed. According to data from EDUCAUSE’s “2022 Students and Technology Report: Rebalancing the Student Experience,” in 2020, 35 percent of students said they preferred completely face-to-face learning, and just 5 percent said they would opt for completely online experiences.

What a difference two years makes: Today, just 29 percent say they want completely face-to-face learning, while 20 percent would rather go completely online. Thirty-nine percent fall somewhere in the middle, with preferences for mostly online, mostly in-person or 50-50.

The result is an emerging educational framework that focuses on asynchronous learning, meaning student and professor interaction that may happen at different times and in different places. This shift has also led to a change in evaluation methodology. Instead of prioritizing completion, many postsecondary schools are now opting for a competency-based education approach that sees students learning at their own pace and showing their progress based on competency of material rather than memorization or testing.

Here’s what this shift means for student success.

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What Does Asynchronous Learning Mean?

According to Jenay Robert, a researcher at EDUCAUSE, “asynchronous learning generally refers to a teaching modality in which students complete coursework independently and on their own schedules. Asynchronous learning is most commonly associated with online or hybrid (partially online) courses.”

Students surveyed in the recent EDUCAUSE report highlighted key benefits of this asynchronous approach, noting that competency-based frameworks can more easily accommodate students’ disabilities, family obligations or work schedules.

ISACA Senior Vice President of Product Ryan Taylor, meanwhile, says “the modality of asynchronous learning has always been happening — the past two years just accelerated the impact. But pressure makes the demand. As asynchronous tools have evolved over time, the focus has shifted from completion rates to measuring student understanding.”

READ MORE: Transforming higher education for the hybrid future.

Asynchronous Learning Helps Students Achieve Learning-Life Balance

In much the same way that work-life balance has become a post-pandemic priority, learning-life balance is now critical for student success. To help achieve this goal, two components are critical:

Tailored Experiences

“It’s not just about throwing content out there,” Taylor says. “How do teachers create an engaging environment? Students now expect a level of personalization that includes both educational and social elements tailored to their learning styles.”

He points to the 40-20-40 training model developed by professor Robert O. Brinkerhoff, in which 40 percent of instructor effort is put into pre-teaching activities such as goal setting and adaptation to student needs. Another 40 percent goes into post-learning functions, such as discussion and feedback, while just 20 percent is dedicated to instruction and exercises.

This model is critical to student success in an asynchronous approach, since it recognizes that learning doesn’t only happen in sync with teaching; it happens at multiple points in time.

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Targeted Technologies

No matter how good the plan and the process, asynchronous efforts won’t succeed without the right technologies.

For Robert, this starts with tech equity.

“Schools can support equity by providing students with access to reliable hardware, internet and software,” she says. “Some concrete examples are one-to-one device programs, in which schools provide each student with a device, and financial support for internet service, software and other technologies.”

Postsecondary schools also need technologies capable of securing key data, empowering collaboration and bringing campus services to off-campus students. For example, schools can benefit from the adoption of portable hotspots to enable access anywhere on campus, along with authentication tools to ensure only authorized users can access the network.

Solutions such as Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams, meanwhile, can help enable student connection and collaboration no matter where they choose to access educational content. Finally, technologies such as interactive displays and virtual reality headsets can help take in-classroom experiences to the next level.

The result is tech that supports students no matter how, when or where they want to learn.

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Asynchronous Learning Can Deliver on Disruption

Asynchronous, competency-based education is here to stay.

“The face-to-face versus online dichotomy has been disrupted,” says Robert. “Now is the time to leverage hybrid modalities and resources to support every aspect of life and learning. The hybrid nature of the new normal is amplifying challenges that urgently need to be addressed by higher education leaders. More than ever, we need to focus on providing resources that are equitable, accessible and secure.”

In practice, this means combining personalized learning frameworks with adaptable technologies to deliver learning environments that are flexible, functional and forward-thinking.

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