Making Strategic Decisions
Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Online Activities & Lectures
Moving all scheduled class time into a synchronous (live) online video session can seem like the simplest solution to unexpectedly moving classes online. However, in most cases, live lectures can usually be supplemented with high-quality and easy-to-implement online content and activities to reduce the dependence on synchronous tools and activities. This guide will help identify some of the teaching contexts in which both faculty and students would be best served by a blend of formats.
While reviewing this guide, it will be helpful to consult your learning outcomes and your complete course syllabus. Have this handy as you consider the reflection questions and strategies suggested here.
There are a number of considerations which indicate that holding live lecture sessions for all of your previously scheduled class meetings may not be the best solution. In most cases, we’re recommending a blended and strategic approach.
Please also note that those teaching large lecture courses with more than 200 students, should contact LMS-Faculty-Help@nau.edu or (928) 523-3335 at least 72 hours in advance to request a high-bandwidth connection be made available for that live session using Collaborate Ultra. Contact ITS for information regarding Zoom support for large-enrollment live sessions as well.
The Case for Asynchronous Course Activities
Asynchronous course activities allow the most flexibility for students and faculty in a fluid situation like the current COVID-19 scenario.
Considering the Student Experience and Access to Technology
With many of our students coming from low-income backgrounds, there are some logistics around access that we must consider during this time. When students are living on campus, they have full access to computer labs, libraries, laptop check-out, and other technology tools and services provided to all students who attend in-person classes on any of NAU’s campuses.
However, if students remain at home with their families, they may not have access to the same hardware or internet access we could reasonably expect them to access while on campus. When students register for fully online classes, expectations about access to technologies for taking those classes are made clear in advance of the course start dates. This expectation was not made clear to in-person students whose courses are now moving online.
Additional considerations: Some students and families may…
- only be able to access the internet in public spaces like libraries or coffee shops.
- experience interruptions in access to utilities and internet due to financial insecurity caused by missed paychecks, work shutdowns, or illness/hospitalization.
- live in remote/rural areas with limited or no at-home access to internet.
- be using public access or borrowed computers onto which they do not have permission to download software, apps, or browser plug-ins (e.g., Zoom requires a software download).
- have home access to internet, but not at an optimum speed for streaming live video for long periods.
Asynchronous Activity Resources
Best Uses for Limited Synchronous Activities
Once again, we recommend limiting synchronous video lectures and activities as much as possible, for the reasons outlined above. However, in a few cases, you may choose to conduct a synchronous session. Best practice is to hold such a session at your regularly scheduled class meeting time (Arizona time).
The question of synchronous vs. asynchronous activity depends on your learning outcomes for existing projects and assignments. If your learning outcomes are content-based, and able to be conveyed via asynchronous learning activities, you may consider doing that. If, however, your learning outcomes are skills-based and focus on interpersonal interactions and communications, live synchronous sessions could be the best fit.
If your course learning outcomes specify student mastery of or practice with some of the skills listed below, strategic inclusion of synchronous all-class/small group activities might be the best solution for activities measuring those learning outcomes in your course.
- Oral communication skills
- Interactions with customers/patients/clients
- Interviewing skills, or other skills that require live person-to-person interactions
Group and Individual Presentations
Group and Individual presentations to the entire class can be delivered live using Collaborate Ultra. If your existing assessment involves peer review, Q&A sessions, or other interactive components, this is a great time to implement live video.