Synchronous learning

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Synchronous learning refers to a learning event in which a group of students are engaging in learning at the same time. Before learning technology allowed for synchronous learning environments, most online education took place through asynchronous learning methods. Since synchronous tools that can be used for education have become available, many people are turning to them as a way to help decrease the challenges associated with transactional distance that occurs in online education. Several case studies[1][2][3][4] that found that students are able to develop a sense of community over online synchronous communication platforms.

While many online educational programs started out as and with the advent of web conferencing tools, people can learn at the same time in different places as well. For example, use of instant messaging or live chat, webinars and video conferencing allow for students and teachers to collaborate and learn in real time.

Practical applications[edit]

A lecture is an example of synchronous learning in a face-to-face environment, because learners and teachers are all in the same place at the same time. Another example of a synchronous learning event would involve students watching a live web stream of a class, while simultaneously taking part in a discussion. Synchronous learning can be facilitated by having students and instructors participate in a class via a web conferencing tool. These synchronous experiences can be designed to develop and strengthen instructor-student and student-student relationships, which can be a challenge in distance learning programs.[5]


Synchronous communication in distance education began long before the advent of the use of computers in synchronous learning. After the very early days of distance education, when students and instructors communicated asynchronously via the post office, synchronous forms of communication in distance education emerged with broadcast radio and television.[6] However, it was not until the 1980s, with video-conferencing and interactive television, that students could ask questions and discuss concepts while seeing participants in a synchronous setting. Manifestations of interactive multimedia, the Internet, access to Web-based resources, to synchronous and asynchronous forms of computer mediated communication followed in the 1990s[7] (Bernard, et al., 2005; Simonson, et al., 2012, p. 37).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nicholson, S. (2002). Socialization in the "virtual hallway": instant messaging in the asynchronous web-based distance education classroom. The Internet and Higher Education, 5(4), 363-372.
  2. ^ Oztok, M., Zingaro, D., Brett, C., & Hewitt, J. (2013). Exploring asynchronous and synchronous tool use in online courses. Computers & Education, 60(1), 87-94. See page 15
  3. ^ Schwier, R. A., & Balbar, S. (2002). The interplay of content and community in synchronous and asynchronous communication: Virtual communication in a graduate seminar. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology/La revue canadienne de l'apprentissage et de la technologie, 28(2). Available at
  4. ^ Hrastinski, S. (2006). The relationship between adopting a synchronous medium and participation in online group work: An explorative study. Interactive Learning Environments, 14(2), 137-152.
  5. ^ Orr, P. (2010). Distance supervision: Research, findings, and considerations for art therapy. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 37, 106-111.
  6. ^ Bernard, R. M., Abrami, P. C., Lou, Y., Borokhovski, E., Wade, A., Wozney, L., Wallet, P., Fiset, M., & Huang, B. (2004). How does distance education compare with classroom instruction? A meta-analysis of the empirical literature. Review of educational research, 74(3), 379-439
  7. ^ Johnson, G. M. (2006). Synchronous and asynchronous text-based CMC in educational contexts: A review of recent research. TechTrends, 50(4), 46-53.

Further reading[edit]

  • Foreman, Joel (July–August 2003), "Distance Learning and Synchronous Interaction", The Technology Source Archives, University of Carolina.
  • "Asynchronous and Synchronous E-Learning", EDUCAUSE Quarterly.
  • "Asynchronous and Synchronous E-Learning" (PDF), EDUCAUSE Quarterly, 31 (4), 2008.
  • Park, Yun Jeong; Bonk, Curtis J (Winter 2007), "245 Synchronous Learning Experiences: Distance and Residential..." (PDF), Jiol, NCOLR, 6 (3).