Balancing Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning Online

Veteran teacher Mikaela shares her experience and thoughts about how to balance "live" (synchronous) instruction and independent offline (asynchronous) learning activities in a remote learning scenario.

Updated on: September 15, 2020

Synchronous and asynchronous learning tips

There is so much to balance this year as a teacher. My head has been spinning and I’ve been having trouble discerning up from down. The new technology and vocabulary I’m learning constantly leaves me exhausted and frustrated, and I have a feeling the year is going to be filled with lots of deep breathing and tears. In moments like these, I like to write down what I know and what I can control.

So, here’s what I know about balancing asynchronous and synchronous learning online:

I Know There Will Be Many Glitches and It Will Be a Learning Process

No matter what age they are, let your students and their families and guardians know that there will be hiccups along the way. Emphasize that it is important they give you feedback. Let them know how to give you feedback. I’ve asked for email and google form feedback to help me stay organized, and to allow me to read the feedback when I’m ready and able to take some deep breaths.

I Know My Students and Their Families Have a Virtual Home Base

Google Classroom is a great platform, but I’ve found that many things get lost, especially the links for frequently used resources. One of my coworkers showed me a class website she made using google sites. Naturally, I copied her and now I have a classroom page with all of our video meeting links, frequently used resources, schedules and contact info for students and families to use as a homebase. 

I Know I can Offer Students Options

The beauty of balancing asynchronous and synchronous is that it allows students more autonomy and options, something every student needs. If you’re planning a synchronous lesson followed by asynchronous work time, you can offer students options for how that work looks. They can log off and work solo, they can work in a breakout room, they can work with you, or they can stay on and work quietly among other students. You can also provide menu options for how students accomplish the task. Instead of reinventing the wheel, look for already made resources and options or use your own curriculum which may have options built in.

I Know What My Goal for Synchronous and Asynchronous Time Is

My synchronous time will be focused on team building and small lessons. I know I will start my synchronous sessions with team building (for us that’s Crew Time!) and then we will go into a mini-lesson or a discussion that students have prepared for during asynchronous time. 

Asynchronous time will be for practicing a skill we’ve just learned or preparing to present in a discussion or presentation. Sometimes it will be completing a flipped lesson, where students watch a video lesson or read an article and then we incorporate it into our practice or lesson.

I Know I can Master One or Two Online Resources

There are so many resources and it feels like my inbox has been an explosion of old sites creating new features, teachers and friends sharing apps and places I didn’t know had my email suggesting I try a new program that allows me to do everything I’ve ever wanted. It’s so tempting to try them all, but I’ve found that if I focus on incorporating one resource I love then I learn how to use it really well. For me, that’s EdPuzzle this fall.

I Know I Can Be Honest with My Students About How I’m Feeling

I think true balance is born from honesty. We have to be honest with ourselves that this year is going to be challenging and frustrating, but it will also be exciting and joyful. I think it’s important to model and share our feelings with our students, and talk about how we deal with those feelings. They are all going through this too. They may not be in charge of the planning, but being on the other side of so much new technology comes with its own frustrations. 

I Know We Can Do Hard Things

I had a professor in grad school who repeated this mantra, “we can do hard things.” It’s one I repeated my first year of teaching, and I will do the same this year. It will not be graceful, it will not be the year we finally make it through all our grand plans, but we can do hard things. Remind your students of their own ability to do hard things, and then take time for deep breaths, dance breaks and maybe some good chocolate.

Mikaela Prego is an elementary educator from Massachusetts. She spent the last 3 years teaching 4th grade in Colorado, now she is back teaching in Massachusetts. Her favorite subjects to teach are math, science and social studies and she is a huge fan of putting the students in charge of as much of their learning as possible. You can follow her classroom (@whoareweintheworld) on Instagram.

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