3 Benefits to Asynchronous Learning

You may have seen this buzzword around a lot for online school and learning programs, but what is asynchronous learning?

Simply put, asynchronous learning is learning that doesn’t require real-time participation – you don’t have to be in a classroom at a specific time to receive a lesson.

With plenty of online courses out there to help you pick up any number of skills, from learning a new language to learning to code, the asynchronous learning model is hugely popular.

Because asynchronous learning gives you, the learner, a lot more control over the pace at which you learn and how you learn, many experts predict it’s going to become a critical part of your future learning.

Of course, synchronous learning – learning that does happen in real-time with an instructor directly teaching and interacting with you – has its own merits and strengths.

There are lots of options out there for you to choose from when it comes to a synchronous learning model, an asynchronous one, or a hybrid model that balances out both.

And to choose the perfect learning program for you, you need to know the exact learning benefits these different learning models offer.

Table of Contents

1. You Can Pace Your Learning in a Brain-Friendly Way

2. You Can Break Learning Down into Brain-Friendly Chunks

3. You Can Adjust Your Learning to How You Learn Best

3 Benefits to Asynchronous Learning

1. You Can Pace Your Learning in a Brain-Friendly Way

3 Benefits to Asynchronous LearningOne of the biggest advantages of asynchronous learning is that it gives you much greater control over your learning.

And this means you can pace yourself to how your brain learns best!

You might be used to classes going on for an hour or more at a stretch, but neuroscience finds that this is not how you learn best.

The Ebbinghaus curve of forgetting illustrates this.

Herman Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist, found that people tend to remember more of what they learn at the beginning (primacy) and at the end (recency) of a learning session.

The longer the gap between this beginning and the end, the more you’re likely to forget, especially if you don’t attempt to retain this information in some way.

This happens because when your brain is focusing on learning something, it’s placing this information into a short-term memory called working memory.

Your brain gathers new information and places them in your brain’s hippocampus, so that it can look over what it learned and connect it to what it knows, creating longer-term memory.

But if you don’t give your brain the chance to take a break from new learning, and keep adding on information to this growing data pile in your brain without taking the time to consolidate it, your working memory goes above capacity.

It’s like you’re playing jenga, but instead of giving yourself the time to carefully plan out which blocks you’ll remove and how you’ll stack them, you’re rushing to build up your tower. Chances are, at some point the whole thing just collapses.

Neuroscientists and learning experts have a solution, though.

Simply reduce the gap between the beginning and end of your study sessions!

3 Benefits to Asynchronous LearningA study session that’s roughly 20 to 25 minutes long, followed by a 5-minute break, is ideal to give your brain enough time to switch gears and allow the information you just learned to soak in.

During this 5-minute break, your brain isn’t idle. Because it’s no longer focusing on what you’re learning, it can go over what it’s learned so far, make sense of it, connect it to existing knowledge, figure out answers to questions or come up with new ideas, and start creating long-term memory.

Since you don’t control the pace of synchronous learning sessions, you can’t exactly take these brain-friendly breaks to keep your working memory fully charged up.

If you’ve ever started zoning off in the middle of a class, or only remember what you learned at the start of the class and near the end of it, this is why.

In asynchronous learning programs, though, you have much greater flexibility and control over how to pace your learning.

And you can use this to your advantage to maximize your learning efficiency and recall!

2. You Can Break Learning Down into Brain-Friendly Chunks

3 Benefits to Asynchronous LearningHave you ever faced a big learning assignment or deadline and blanked out because the goal seems so big and daunting?

Trying to complete a learning goal like studying for a test or covering an entire hefty chapter is a bit like trying to swallow a giant piece of cake whole.

You’d be gulping down huge bites without really chewing or digesting anything because you’re trying to get everything down.

And not only does that mean you’re barely tasting or enjoying your cake, you’re more likely to choke on it and end up coughing it out too.

Breaking your learning down into brain-friendly chunks is more like taking your time with your slice of cake – chewing every mouthful, swallowing, savoring every bite before moving on to the next morsel.

Here’s the brain science behind why this works. Your in-built motivation system responds much better to checking off a series of smaller goals adding up to a big goal, than it does to intimidating, huge goals.

This is thanks to the work of the brain chemical dopamine. When your brain expects that it’s about to achieve a reward, it releases this chemical, lighting up your brain’s reward center.

You know that amazing feeling you get when you accomplish something, especially something you worked hard for? That feeling that all your effort was worth it, and that you’d be willing to do it again to experience this sense of accomplishment?

This happens thanks to the dopamine in your system and is the secret to your motivation!

When you chunk your learning down into a series of smaller tasks, you’re giving your brain a better chance of absorbing the information and keeping yourself motivated to meet your other goals.

Think about it this way – say you have to cover a whole syllabus for an exam.

If you set yourself the goal of finishing everything in one day, you’re going to have to work a lot longer and a lot harder to meet that goal.

Keeping your motivation and focus up the entire time is going to be tough, and the longer you go without experiencing the reward your brain expects, the more demotivated you feel.

On the other hand, if you split your syllabus down into the individual topics or subtopics you need to cover, you’ll be checking off goals more frequently.

For every goal that you meet, your brain’s reward centers are lighting up and it’s enjoying that sense of accomplishment and pleasure. This in turn keeps you motivated to move on to the next task.

Even if you don’t finish the entire syllabus, you’ll have made progress toward the end goal, all the while keeping your motivation, mood and focus up.

3. You Can Adjust Your Learning to How You Learn Best

3 Benefits to Asynchronous Learning

Synchronous learning often involves a room – be it a physical or virtual room – full of students of different learning styles and preferences, all being taught the same way.

And this, naturally, can put you at a disadvantage, because you don’t learn the same way as everyone else.

If you’re a visual learner, you’ll prefer information in text and visual forms. You’ll prefer reading your textbooks to lectures and experiments, and you’ll easily be able to grasp diagrams, graphs and charts.

If you’re an auditory learner, you prefer listening to information to learn and recall. More than reading, you’ll like lectures and class discussions.

And if you’re a kinesthetic learner, you’ll probably find it hard to sit still in a class reading or listening to your instructor. You’d rather be engaging directly with the learning material, with experiments or hands-on activity.

While in a synchronous classroom it’s extremely difficult to cater to the individual preferences of each learner, asynchronous learning allows you the room to tailor your learning to your learning preference!

For example, if you’re an auditory learner, and need to get through a ton of reading for a quiz or assignment, you can upload your reading material to a text-to-voice reader like NaturalReaders.com.

As the software reads and highlights the text, you’d be better able to embed the reading into your memory through your auditory channels as you read and listen along.

If you’re a kinesthetic learner, you could try acting out the reading material, or pretend you’re teaching it to an imaginary classroom.

Because you’re not limited to sitting at your desk for a fixed amount of time, trying to learn a set of information at the same pace as everyone else, you have the opportunity to use strategies that give you a learning advantage.

Does this Mean Asynchronous Learning is Better than Synchronous Learning?

The simple answer is – no. Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages.

Synchronous learning has its limitations, like its one-size-fits-all approach to teaching dozens of students of different learning preferences in a standardized way.

But it also has the advantage of real-time feedback – if you’re confused about something, you can directly ask your instructor for help and they can resolve your concerns one to one.

And while asynchronous learning allows you much greater flexibility in terms of how you learn and pace your learning, there’s also challenges like keeping yourself focused when learning independently.

This is why educators and learning experts are increasingly recommending a more hybrid model of learning – one that combines the best of both synchronous and asynchronous learning.

You get a more personalized experience where you can move through the program or course at your own pace. But you also get the direct one-to-one instruction you’ll need to keep you on track, give you individualized feedback, and help address any particular concerns or confusion you’re experiencing.

Knowing these benefits and drawbacks of asynchronous and synchronous programs doesn’t only help you choose the right learning program for you.

It also helps you figure out the right learning strategies to help you thrive in any learning scenario.

For more brain-based strategies that give you the success blueprint you need in any learning scenario, check out my course, Total Recall Learning!

pat wymanPat Wyman is the CEO of HowtoLearn.com and an internationally noted brain coach known as America’s Most Trusted Learning Expert.

Pat’s superpower is helping people learn, read and remember everything faster. She has helped over half a million people in schools and corporations such as Microsoft, Intel and Google improve their lives with her learning strategies, learning styles inventory and courses, including Total Recall Learning™.

Pat is the best-selling author of more than 15 books, a university instructor, mom and golden retriever lover!

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