Asynchronous Online Course

Table of Contents


Asynchronous courses are defined as online courses where the instructor, the learner, and other participants are not engaged in the learning process at the same time. There is no real-time interaction between students and instructors, and the content is created and made available for later consumption. Learning is self-paced, and learners learn and complete assignments during their own time. The instructor provides online learning through a Learning Management System (for example D2L Brightspace or Canvas), and instruction may include pre-recorded lectures and scheduled assignments for students.

Differences between Asynchronous and Synchronous learning

Asynchronous Learning Examples

  • Online courses through Learning Management Systems (D2L, Canvas, Schoology etc.)
  • Websites and Blogs
  • Pre-recorded video lessons or webinars – LinkedIn, Khan Academy, TEDx Videos, YouTube videos, instructor videos
  • Online forums and discussion boards
  • PowerPoint presentations with voice overs

    Instructors can deliver content using their own recorded lectures (audio and video), own textual content with graphics and audio, resources from YouTube, Khan Academy, LinkedIn, open educational resources (OERs), and free resources from Creative Commons (CC).

Engaging students in an Asynchronous course

Although not taking place in real time, asynchronous learning still allows the opportunity for feedback and engagement. Learners are free to share thoughts and questions with instructors and fellow learners, though they may not receive an immediate response. Some activities that can keep students engaged are:

  • online group collaboration projects
  • weekly discussions
  • instructor recorded presentations
  • timely feedback on assignments
  • general and individual feedback on assessments

Asynchronous Teaching: Advantages for Instructors

  • Instructors can create accessible, useful and aesthetically pleasing courses and assignments with pre-recorded videos, existing free videos (YouTube) webinar recordings, audio files, text, online resource links etc. and can use these courses through different semesters with minor changes, if required. 
  • Instructors can share courses that learners can access in their own time. It's not necessary to be online when your learners are, which means instructors can use their time for other important tasks.
  • Instructors can build their content one time and make it available for a lifetime.
  • Asynchronous courses are cost-effective for institutions and can be scaled up or down as necessary. 
  • Instructors can get analytics and data about their courses and participants through the LMS. They can find knowledge gaps and make adjustments to their material. This can be done by extracting reports related to assignments, login history, participation etc. and through feedback collected from students in the LMS.

Asynchronous Learning: Advantages for Students

  • Asynchronous learning offers lots of flexibility. It supports individualized learning to students around their own schedules. Because asynchronous learning does not have real-time interactions and learning is self-paced, students learn on their own time. This makes it very convenient for individuals who are looking to complete a degree or certificate but work full time or have other obligations.
  • Asynchronous courses can be taken online, from any location that has an internet or Wi-Fi connection, and can be planned around other activities and responsibilities (work, family, children, volunteer work etc.).
  • With asynchronous learning, learners have significantly more time to reflect on the material they are learning, which means they are likely to understand it more thoroughly. Although there’s usually a deadline in sight, asynchronous learners can progress at their own pace while keeping due dates and deadlines in mind.

Disadvantages of Asynchronous Learning

  • For asynchronous learning, instructors are assigned courses and learners are assigned instructors. However, due to the instruction and learning not being face-to-face and in real time, contact between learners and instructors may be limited. Answers to queries cannot be given instantly (for example, learners may need to wait for an answer to an email). This can be overcome if email response deadlines are defined in the syllabi. Also, having a Q&A discussion forum accessible to all students gives learners a space where common questions can be posted, answered, and discussed.
  • Due to a lack of student and instructor interaction, and limited student to student interaction, some students may feel isolated. Feeling isolated could lead to a lack of and engagement in courses. This can be combated through engaging Q&A forums, based on course content, which are reflective and require “discussions” and eliminate one-word, objective answers. Creating online group collaboration projects and using applications like Flip Grid, Padlet and Voice Thread are great options for introducing interaction between students and between students and instructors.
  • Asynchronous learning requires self-discipline from learners because it is learner centric. Learners who lack self-discipline and organization skills may fall behind on course material and assignment due dates. Using the calendar in their phones and setting reminders on planners (hard copies and software options) can help students organize their study time and remind them about assignment due dates.
  • Instructors and learners must have a reliable internet and Wi-Fi connection to teach and learn online. Slow internet and Wi-Fi connection may hinder students from accessing online study material and completing assignments online.
  • Instructors who don’t have a proper communication plan for their courses may lose that connection with their learners and hence isolate them, which may lead to a lack of motivation in students. Communication plays a big role in students being on track in online asynchronous learning. The following tools in most Learning Management Systems could help instructors maintain timely communication with their students, reminding students of their due dates, content related information and important announcements related to the course:
    • Announcement or News Tool (D2L)
    • Email tool (D2L)
    • Calendar tool with due dates (D2L)
    • Intelligent Agents (in D2L) for login reminders and assignment due dates
    • Discussion forums (D2L)
    • Audio video messaging related to course and assignments (D2L)
    • General Audio and video feedback for completed assignments (D2L)

Further Training

Sustainable Course Design Workshop


Infographic on Asynchronous Vs Synchronous Learning

Source: Lawless, C. (2020, April 23). Synchronous vs asynchronous learning: Which is right for your learners? Retrieved from