Monday, July 13, 2020
Home Opinion Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Learning

Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Learning

UCI faculty members are finding themselves educating students through Zoom due to the coronavirus. Despite Zoom’s meteoric rise in popularity, it is not an effective teaching tool in the midst of the coronavirus. The coronavirus is already presenting enormous challenges to college students on its own, and synchronous video lectures are only making these challenges worse. However, these difficulties can be remedied through an asynchronous learning format.

Students living in different time zones are attending lectures at inconvenient times. I initially enrolled in a 7:00 p.m. – 9:50 p.m. course and the professor did not provide recorded lectures or allow us to record. I am fortunate that I live in California, but what about other students living in other time zones? Central Daylight Time students are starting class at 9:00 p.m. and finishing at 11:50 p.m. Eastern Time students are starting at 10:00 p.m. and ending their day at 12:50 a.m. It is unfair to require them to be up later at night.

Additionally, not all students have privacy or a quiet room to watch lectures uninterrupted. I’ve often noticed family members in the background of students’ screens folding laundry, cleaning dishes, playing board games, talking or doing other activities. These activities are a constant distraction to online learning.

With asynchronous learning through the use of recorded lectures, students in different time zones can view recorded lectures during their relative day. Students in distracting environments would be able to rewind the lecture to portions they missed, and not worry about the video stream cutting in and out. Clearly, this method provides students with more flexibility and the means to succeed. It is vital, especially now, to provide students with as much support as possible.

Students have experienced extraordinary levels of difficulty recently. Many of us found ourselves having to leave campus to quarantine themselves. We had to suddenly learn to adapt to an online learning environment while also having to cope with our changing living situations. On top of this, some students may have found themselves unemployed or underemployed, especially considering that since the pandemic started, almost 17 million Americans have filed for unemployment

Faculty members have said they want to protect student’s privacy by maintaining a synchronous format, but this does not mean that they are restricted to Zoom. Faculty can protect student privacy by recording only themselves and posting it directly to their course’s Canvas page. Some faculty are already doing this — one of my professors records her lectures and uploads them into the course module. My fellow classmates and I have access to these videos 24 hours a day. Recorded lectures do not require professors to spend hours on Zoom during specific time periods, and it can help provide more flexibility to juggle other responsibilities. Furthermore, it is important to remember that professors are also adapting to changes brought on by the coronavirus, and flexibility could significantly benefit them and their families. 

I believe faculty are doing the best they can to provide a quality education, but many are unaware of the hardships students are facing. In addition to professors transitioning to recorded lectures, students need to voice their concerns. How are professors supposed to know that students are struggling if they do not communicate with faculty? If students contact their professors and address their current academic obstacles, then professors might change their teaching format. As students, we should not only communicate our struggles but also our ideas because this could increase the quality of online education we receive.

Zoom is an effective tool for the synchronous format, but it is an obstacle for students who must face the challenges brought on by COVID-19.  However, for faculty to change their teaching methods, students need to make them aware of any academic barriers. Students and faculty must work together to establish a stronger and more successful online learning environment. Asynchronous classes can be the bridge that leads to this.

Thomas Solano is an Opinion Intern for the 2020 spring quarter. He can be reached at twsolano@uci.edu.