Mar 31 2022

How to Incorporate Asynchronous Learning in K–12 Districts

Self-directed learning has worked in higher education for a long time, but K–12 schools are now adopting this model. Here’s how they can get started.

Asynchronous learning, an educational model in which students learn on their own schedule, is exploding in popularity in K–12 schools. As the number of devices and familiarity with online learning increase, districts are finding students prefer a more flexible schedule.

There are many ways districts can approach this trending educational model, including flipped classroomsvirtual-only schools and through variations of blended learning, project-based learning and more.

While it might seem overwhelming at first glance, it isn’t difficult to incorporate asynchronous learning into the classroom. Here’s how K–12 school districts and educators can get started.

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What Are the Tools That Support Self-Directed Learning?

Very often, technology is the key to succeeding with asynchronous learning. Educators should have a platform where they can post lessons, and students should have a safe online location to host discussions, ask questions and find information.

“We were pretty much one-to-one before the pandemic, and we were using Google Classroom,” says Matt Renwick, principal of Mineral Point Elementary School in Wisconsin. The elementary students in his school work on projects during dedicated self-directed learning time and then share their work with teachers, peers and family. “In first grade, they create a project, and they hold it up and record themselves on video.”

Frequently with asynchronous learning, educators record videos that students can watch on their own time. Class time is subsequently used for discussion, deeper analysis and additional guidance from the teacher. To create instructional videos, educators should have high-quality cameras and microphones and a stable internet connection. Google Classroom and other learning management systems provide a secure location for hosting the videos.

Digital libraries and databases are also great tools for schools to build out as part of an asynchronous learning initiative. “A lot of students’ self-directed learning revolves around research, especially at the primary level when they’re researching a topic,” Renwick says. “They’ve been really smart about using e-books and digital texts.”

DIVE DEEPER: Digital resource libraries continue to engage K–12 students.

Data Analytics Tools Measure the Success of Self-Directed Learning

Schools that want to implement asynchronous options should start small to find out what works best for their classrooms.

“The idea originally came from Google, where employees have 20 percent of their time to just play with ideas,” Renwick says. “Start really small. Don’t worry about actually devoting 20 percent — one day a week — of your time.”

For younger students, such as Renwick’s elementary learners, he recommends implementing a short period of self-directed learning during the week, such as 30 minutes every Friday. For older students, educators can start off with a single lesson recorded and taught asynchronously before they jump into recording their entire curriculum.

Matt Renwick
We’re looking at more of a strength-based model where the kids have a say in what they want to learn.”

Matt Renwick Principal, Mineral Point Elementary School

Then, measure the impact of the new learning model.

“My wife, who was a second-grade teacher at the time, set it up in her classroom, and she saw a 70 percent reduction in negative behaviors,” Renwick says. “Students were more engaged and wanted to be in the classroom.”

There are numerous data analytics tools that can help schools measure the impact of the new education model, such as those from GoGuardianLightspeed and BrightBytes. Finding a model that makes learning more enjoyable and boosts student engagement can show results in academic performance and student well-being.

“My kids are so behind. So, we’re looking at more of a strength-based model where the kids have a say in what they want to learn,” Renwick says. “Through that, they’re going to develop their reading and writing skills, because they’re reading and writing about things they truly enjoy, and that will accelerate their learning.”

LEARN MORE: Discover three tech tools for teaching literacy.

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