Semi-synchronous learning is the new frontier of online learning. With its features and benefits for learners, instructors, trainers, and course creators--it can solve the pressing challenges of how we learn, teach, and train online.
In this modern time, online learning has evolved exponentially. Experts have been coining terms and buzzwords for practical learning experiences. Two of the most popularly known are asynchronous and synchronous learning.
Today, we‘ll talk about this new frontier between these two learning formats coined by NomadicLearning.
One of the challenges in online learning
Who’s here who never experienced Zoom fatigue? I bet everyone in the digital world, whether you are working or studying, experienced Zoom fatigue. Unfortunately, staying in live meetings, workshops and classes is one of the biggest challenges of online learning.
This challenge does not only apply to learners, but also to trainers and instructors too! The amount of preparation they put into a live class would be double the amount of the class itself. Apparently, there are several things simultaneously happening in a live collaborative learning environment. Not only students or employees are overwhelmed, but also the instructors and trainers.
The good thing is, that this is not the only way we can learn online. Most of the time, we learn through scrolling in educational social media posts, watching tutorials by ourselves, participating in online communities, commenting on open forums, and debating in open discussions.
After all, learning together doesn’t just happen in live group discussions. Although this is where more collaboration sparks, learning offline is still considered valuable. And this is how the idea of semi-synchronous learning came up together.
What is Semi-synchronous Learning?
If you’re familiar with asynchronous and synchronous learning, it might be easy to get what semi-synchronous learning means. It’s time bound with the right mixture of both asynchronous and synchronous learning.
In Teachfloor, we call it the hybrid cohort-based course model. This model is the best way to scale your cohort-based course. The concept is similar to the semi-synchronous learning model. Indeed, we believe it is the future of online learning as it solves both the current challenges of MOOCs and Cohort-based Courses.
Asynchronous learning is a form of learning that does not occur at the same place, at the same time, or that is offline. Generally, students learn at their own pace, at their own time with a variety of instructional interactions with content materials. Examples are:
- Online discussion boards. commonly seen in community platforms, web apps, mobile apps, and more
- Community channels. these channels in your private learning community where students can chat, ask questions, give comments, and react to one another regarding any topic
- Chats and email exchanges. learning also happens in chat and email with the instructors and mentors
- Peer-to-peer feedback. Peer-to-peer is usually curated and facilitated by the course provider or instructors. You can do this in one of your community channels or if not, with a built-in LMS feature
- Game-based tasks. usually, homework group tasks are fun, and full of milestones and the winning group will earn a prize afterward
Meanwhile, Synchronous learning is a form of learning that is live and does occur at a specific time. Students learn together, with instructors, and live. Examples are:
- Live lectures. virtual classroom-type where live discussion is led by teachers or instructors
- Class reviews. 1-2 hrs of a review session for difficult topics
- Workshops. 1-3 hrs of group work and discussion led by a facilitator, mentor, or expert
- Webinars. live talks with subject matter experts with live Q&A at the end of the presentation
- Networking events. social gathering from people of similar interest, projects, and program
- Ask Me Anything (AMA). open space for questions directly answered by guest speakers, experts, celebrities or popular figures
- Fireside Chat. open discussion with 2 or more invited guests talking about a specific topic, followed by open Q&A from the audience
- Socials. capacity building virtual calls to socialize and strengthen relationships among students, employees, and learners
Benefits of Semi-synchronous learning
A case study has proven that mixing asynchronous and synchronous learning can bring value to employees in corporate training. However, we believe this is applicable to anyone who is learning and teaching online.
Decrease Zoom fatigue
For students and instructors, one of the benefits of mixing these two is less Zoom time. Given these points, cohort-based courses, boot camps, and sprints don’t really need everyday live classes.
It can be 1-2x live sessions with instructors and 1-2x sessions with mentors or with the group. And then, the rest can be done offline to avoid Zoom fatigue and information overload.
Collaboration happens both online and offline. However, for the collaboration to continue, teams need to work, meet and discuss together. That’s why the semi-synchronous format really works in a collaborative learning environment. Instructors can give assignments to teams.
Particularly, teams can freely discuss and organize when to meet and discuss. It’s all organic. It strongly entails self-leadership and ownership.
Less hands-on work
Since synchronous learning needs more preparation time from lectures to exercises to group work, mixing it with asynchronous can put less hands-on work for the instructors. Instructors can pre-record videos and provide other content materials that students can go through during the course.
In this way, there’s more freedom for the students to learn the materials. They can go back to it anytime they want. However, the difference between this from self-paced learning is students are bound to finish the course in a specific time.
Large cohorts with small groups
In live sessions, 20-50 students are the best numbers to accommodate. Sometimes, more than 50 is too much. Imagine a class of more than 50 students. Isn't that intimidating?
However, in semi-synchronous learning, instructors can accommodate more than 50-150 depending on the topic they teach and their course design. Instructors may divide the large cohort into mini-cohorts or groups. This way, students have the chance to collaborate with medium-sized groups and connect with a large cohort.
Features of a Semi-synchronous learning
Semi-synchronous learning can be effective with the right mix of asynchronous and synchronous learning. In Teachfloor, we suggest a 70-30 mix to create a transformative learning experience for your students and employees.
Prepare your content materials by using an all-in-one learning platform. Remember that you can reuse your content from your previous course curriculum and media content.
The only difference is you are going to design it in a more effective way for you and for your students using the semi-synchronous learning format.
After preparing your content, feel free to identify which lessons, exercises, and group work should be offline and online. What you can do for the synchronous sessions is to schedule at least 1-2 live sessions with your students to discuss and answer questions they may have from the offline content.
You may also apply workshops, networking activities, and AMA to build relationships among your students and employees.
Don’t forget that semi-synchronous is time-bound. You still have a specific schedule like a cohort-based course. The only difference is it’s not pure live class, but also with offline content. This is important as it solves the problem of accountability of your students to finish the course they’ve started.
Your online learning community is where asynchronous learning mostly happens. After all, it’s not only from your offline content. It's mostly from joining discussions, volunteering to lead groups, ideating, debating, and building authentic relationships with your peers.
Designing an online learning environment is not that easy. As a trainer or instructor, experimentation is a must! But sometimes, it's good to know that there are new models that have been proven and tested by experts.
This way, we can save more time with iteration and testing what works and what does not. Let us know your thoughts once you test out this model. Feel free to reach us on LinkedIn and Twitter!