Today’s learning environments are divided into two categories: synchronous and asynchronous. With online learning becoming the preferable choice for many students, these formats seem to fit perfectly with the requirements of a student-centered learning environment. This is also known as the Flipped Classroom Model.
Synchronous Learning - A learning environment in which everyone takes part at the same time. A webinar is an example of synchronous learning in an online environment, where learners and teachers are all in the same online classroom at the same time. This learning is conducted in real-time with an instructor and other students, and is usually at a set class time each week. Given that there is a schedule associated with this form of learning, the structure must be adhered to by students in order to “pass” this part of the class.
This has always been the function of a traditional classroom environment – bringing students together on a regular basis for formal lectures and learning. This has now evolved for the online classroom, where students and instructors come together in virtual classrooms or meeting rooms.
Examples: online studies through chat, videoconferencing and webinars, group or team work in virtual classrooms, quizzes and polls, virtual classrooms, whiteboards, online assessments, traditional classroom settings.
Asynchronous Learning - A student-centered teaching method that uses online learning resources, such as videos, to facilitate information sharing outside the constraints of time and place among a network of people. This is far less structured than synchronous learning as students select when they wish to work on their required items – their only rigid requirement is the delivery date of assignments or group work. This is the component that so many online students love about taking a class remotely – they essentially control the pace of the course by directing their own study outside of any required online class time.
Examples: reviewing learning resources such as textbooks, videos, documents, case studies etc., use of email correspondence with classmates and instructors, and forums or message boards for group discussions outside of a live environment, gamification.
Why do students benefit from this learning structure?
The Flipped Classroom Model is Constructivist in nature, meaning that people construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world, through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences. As a result, this model increases student-centered engagement and self-directed study. By sharing content with learners outside of the classroom (whether traditional or online), students are able to explore and reflect on that content. This way, the classroom sessions are dedicated to discussions based on that prior study.
The latest neurological students have shown that students who are actively engaged in learning are using more of their brains. This allows for greater retention of materials taught and helps the students see more success in their learning in the long run.