The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Asynchronous Learning

The Coronavirus lockdown/stay at home order changed a lot of things and how we learn/teach is certainly one of them. Being forced into an online model of schooling, we were faced with attending classes or gathering class information online. Online learning can be either Synchronous or Asynchronous. While online Synchronous learning happens in real-time, online asynchronous learning occurs at a student’s own pace, and with pre-recorded lectures and assignments.

We still interacted with our teachers through messages and zoom calls, which were an everyday occurrence. 

During normal times, my school district managed class materials, tests, and assignments on a platform called Schoology, which is a prebuilt online-dependent learning management system. ( That’s a mouthful!) . With this LMS already in place and in use, I think the transition was rather smooth.

Although Asynchronous learning gave a lot more control to students, there were strict rules we had to adhere to:

Attendance discussion posts must be filled out on the required day(no earlier, no later).

  • We had to respond to a teacher’s email within 3 days.
  • All of the week’s assignments had to be filled out and summited by Friday.
An Example of an Attendance Discussion
A typical submission box for assignments
A typical class dashboard

Benefits of Asynchronous Learning

Now let’s reflect on the many benefits of this type of online learning.

Time, freedom and control

One of the most important benefits is time. Asynchronous learning classes do not have a specific length, therefore providing much more free time for students who complete their work early. For example, I got an entire half-day to explore my hobbies and learn new things. I got back into learning to play the piano, which I hadn’t done for years, and learned a few coding languages. Most importantly, I was able to start this blog, which has been quite the experience 🙂

This gives students the freedom to control their learning experience. Students can plan their day in a way that suits their learning style and around times of the day that works best for them.

Along with freedom on how they manage their time, students also get plenty of academic freedom. Normal schooling is standardized, so that means we spend time on topics that are deemed difficult and breeze through topics that seem easy. However, some students may have trouble with easy topics, and vice versa. With Asynchronous learning, students can choose what topics they wish to spend more time with, putting the power of learning in their hands.

Since everything is posted online, I find it easier to manage class materials and keep my calendar up to date. I can track my submissions and find everything I need in one place.

Downsides of Asynchronous Learning

Most of the downsides of Asynchronous learning closely relate to the benefits.

The burden of self motivation

Self-motivation is a very important and required trait. However, it may weigh heavily on us if we are bearing the burden of it all the time. And especially when there is so much at stake. Freedom and time are wonderful things when you are motivated and feeling productive, but they can be your worst enemy when you aren’t feeling up to getting things done. Without a strict schedule and teachers to help, you can feel tired, bored, and stressed due to the amount of time and responsibility on your back. This is one of the things I miss about normal school. I loved waking up early, attending classes, and being productive all evening. Always moving and working. When I hit the bed at night, I was out asleep in an instant. We don’t get that same feeling with online learning, synchronous, or asynchronous.

Emotional Intelligence (Thanks to a good friend’s help I decided to update the post with this section.)

Another major negative to asynchronous learning and online learning in general is the lack of a student’s development in regards to their emotional intelligence. Emotional Intelligence is a term used to describe a person’s ability to understand and manage their personal emotions, other people’s emotions, and motivations. There are four main pillars to emotion intelligence. These include: self expression, self perception, interpersonal, decision making, and stress management.

Online learning in general makes it very difficult for students to develop in all of these categories, but interpersonal intelligence is the most affected. Interpersonal intelligence helps us understand what the people around us are feeling, how we can help manage their feelings, and how to deal with interactions overall. However, since school has transformed into an online learning environment, we are robbed of this opportunity. We don’t see many people, and the few people that we do interact with are most likely not close to us in age. This makes it hard for us to be able to properly understand other people’s emotions. When we leave the house after this situation ends, it will take a very long time for people to be able to interact in the same way they did before.

My Routine With A- Synchronous Learning

I talked about this briefly in my earlier post, “My Story”, however, I didn’t go into the depth of the academics in my routine. If you want to check out that post, here it is: https://sa-blogs.com/2020/05/11/my-story/#more-79

During online learning times, I would usually wake up around 5:30 – 6:00 in the morning. I know this might be incomprehensible to some people, but the reason I wake up this early is that I get more motivated when I know I have more hours left in the day. Honestly, it’s just a good feeling, and if you haven’t tried it before, I recommend giving it a shot.

I start by logging into Schoology and planning out my day using google calendar. This is helpful because I can see what I should be accomplishing each hour, ensuring that I don’t lose focus on my goals. Immediately after doing this, and fill out my attendance for every single one of my classes. I do this first thing to make sure that it doesn’t slip my mind later. After attendance, I look at my assignments on a todo app called Todoist.

Todoist is a wonderful to-do list app that I used for most of my Freshman year. It’s a great tool that helps with my organization and task management. If you want to check it out, click this link for more information: https://todoist.com/overview

On Monday of each week, I take a look at the agenda for all my classes. I then write down my assignments for the week on Todoist, where I can easily view and check them off without having to worry about missing assignments during the week.

With my assignments planned and ready, I sit down for stretches of deep work. I usually finish my assignments around 1:30 pm, which gives me loads of time to pursue my interests.

Management Tips

I have talked about the good, bad, and ugly of asynchronous learning, so now I will recap by giving you some tips/action items for the future.

Number 1: Plan out your day

I have talked about this over and over again on the blog, but this is a truly important step if you want to ensure that you are being as productive as possible. Whether you plan by the hour or through tasks, some sort of time organization is needed. I recommend Google Calendar because of the ease of use, features, and integration with a mobile app for planning on the go (not that you will be going anywhere during this lockdown.)

If you want to know more about Google Calendar and how to use it, this lifewire article is great:https://www.lifewire.com/google-calendar-1616582

Note: Along with using Google Calendar for time management, use a to-do application for task management. These two in combination is great for organization!

A typical week on Google Calendar!

Number 2: Chunking

If you are not obsessed with productivity-based YouTubers, then you may not have heard of this tactic. In short chunking or batching is a very popular technique for getting things done. Similar to how we wash all of our clothes at the same time rather than running each one in the washer one by one, by grouping tasks together we can get more things done in a shorter amount of time. How do you apply this to work? I’m glad you asked!

I manage my work through sprint sessions of 90 minutes. Within these sessions, I plan to cross off 3 to 5 things on my todo list. During these sprints, I work with no distractions, full focus. After each sprint, I will take a 15 minute-ish break to help out around the house or relax. The reason this chunking thing works is because of something called the FLOW state. First discovered by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow is the state in which human beings are in their most optimal performance state. Your determination, motivation, focus, and everything else goes up during flow. It’s this evidence-based psychology that is inducted through working at something for a long time. I like to think of it as the avatar state of productivity.

A Diagram that shows how the flow state is induced.

Number 3: Fighting the slump of motivation

Now let us look at how we can fight this major motivation problem. I’ll share some of the things that work for me, hopefully, some of them will help! (Just keep in mind, everyone will feel burned out sometimes, so make sure you are taking it easy when you think you need to.)

The first thing that we need to do is to change how we think of motivation. Our attitude to work is in our control, and by doing a few things, we can get back on track. I really like the phrase “motivation is a myth” because whenever I am feeling down I just know that it is in my control.

One of the things that we can do to fight a slump is to do something that puts us in a good mood. I know I know, easier than it sounds. But for me, I really like listening to music and cleaning up my room. It gives me a wind of energy/motivation that I can use to power through my work. Experiment and figure out what works for you, and it will help. Again, sometimes you can feel really burned out, and these things may not be able to help you. In that case, the best thing you can do is take a break! After this, you will be in a fresh mood to get back on track.

I hope this article helped you get an idea of what you can do if you are in this asynchronous learning situation again. If it did, please like this post and comment down below! Let me know if you have any questions or advice, I will respond to you as soon as possible!

Thanks and I will talk to you shortly!

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