Synchronous Vs Asynchronous Learning: What’s the difference?

Synchronous and Asynchronous learning is regarded as new-age teaching modes. With a batch for whom the earliest experience of school has been virtual, synchronous, and asynchronous doesn’t seem unrealistic at all. Even though schools and colleges have a preference towards traditional classrooms, the tools and modalities of both synchronous as well as asynchronous learning is now a part of the traditional way of teaching. 

There are several defining features, including social context, technology acceptance, learner motivation, and digitized pedagogy. But some clear differences between the two need to be addressed.

Just as integrated as they’ve become in today’s generation, the meanings and differences between the two must also be accommodated. Hence, the blog below sheds light on their differences, pros and cons, and applications. 

Synchronous and Asynchronous learning: What do they mean exactly? 

Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning have coexisted for a long time, however, the clear-cut differentiation came in response to the pandemic. Schools, colleges, and institutes were affected by the sudden break in movement and gatherings. Hence, these learning modes were adopted, owing to the expanding technologies. 

Synchronous learning is a learning process that happens in real-time, be it in a virtual or physical format. The virtual synchronous learning format was made to replicate a traditional classroom as well as solve the physical problems taking place in a brick-and-mortar class.  Asynchronous learning, on the other hand, is a learning process that happens without the physical or virtual presence of a teacher in real-time. It was introduced to supplement both asynchronous as well independent learners. E-distance learning is the closest example of asynchronous learning, where the learner studies without classroom interaction, while synchronous learning is more of a replica of a physical classroom.

Key factors that make synchronous learning different from asynchronous learning

Technology is definitely the binding force between synchronous and asynchronous learning, however, there are some clear-cut differences between the two. 

1. Real-Time Learning

Real-time learning involves any type of learning that happens live and requires teacher and student. As there is no real-time learning, asynchronous learning is considered less suitable for most students. Synchronous, on the other hand, guarantees greater involvement between teacher and students and addresses doubts in real time. 

2. Collectivistic vs. Individualistic

Synchronous learning replicates a traditional classroom. Hence, it is more collectivistic, where the teacher considers the pace and understanding of the entire class. Whereas asynchronous learning is more individualistic, the learner works according to his pace and understanding. 

3. Structured vs. Unstructured

Synchronous learning is more structured with study resources and schedules. Asynchronous learning, on the other hand, allows students to access all the material at once and enables the learner to pick the pace for themselves. 

4. Learning Environment

Synchronous learning has always been in the picture, however, its virtual version came as a solution to the pandemic-imposed restrictions. Hence, its main aim was to emulate the interactive element of a physical classroom. Whereas asynchronous learning can happen without an interactive environment and the student can passively engage in the learning. 

5. Self-Guidance vs. Instructutional learning

Synchronous learning is an instructional form of teaching method, where the teacher takes the lead in facilitating and engaging students. Asynchronous learning is a self-guided teaching method where the learner decides how to engage with the material. 


Highlighting the main differences: Table of comparison

ClassroomTraditional ClassRecorded Sessions
Time scheduleFixedFlexible
PaceDecided by the teacherDecided by the learner
Mode of communicationLive interactions and messagesEmails
Learning EnvironmentInteractivePassive

What do Synchronous and Asynchronous classes look like?

Synchronous Learning classes and asynchronous learning classes are both driven by technology and the internet. While there might be single learners in asynchronous learning, there might be limitless learners in synchronous learning classes. An online classroom where one on one as well as group discussions take place is a synchronous learning class while learning happens as per the pace and schedule of an individual learner at their place of choice is asynchronous learning. 

Both asynchronous and synchronous learning courses are used in educating students and training professionals. However, synchronous learning classrooms are mostly opted for by institutes, while asynchronous are chosen by corporates for skill building and professional development. 

Verdict: Is one better than the other? 

Synchronous and asynchronous learning modes differ from how older generations have been taught, but each suits the needs of different learners. However, if retention and learning have to be quantitatively analyzed, there is more significant support for the synchronous format. The study[1] by Sabine Fabriz, Julia Mendzheritskaya, and  Sebastian Stehle concluded that satisfaction with learning and social engagement was much more significant in a synchronized setting than in an asynchronous one. 


Learners and teachers both constitute a learning environment. And while several have objected to the physical distance between the two, both virtual synchronous and asynchronous learning formats have proved to be great mediums for education, Moreover, synchronous as well as asynchronous learning overcame the obstacles presented by the pandemic and the traditional mode of learning. Both with their pros and cons, are here to add to the ease of teaching and learning. Yet, each can do better with software improvements to increase virtual classroom engagement and learning in students. 


[1] Fabriz, S., Mendzheritskaya, J., & Stehle, S. (2021). Impact of Synchronous and Asynchronous Settings of Online Teaching and Learning in Higher Education on Students’ Learning Experience During COVID-19. Frontiers in Psychology, 12.

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