Synchronous or Asynchronous Learning?

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As a student in a virtual environment I feel I would benefit using a mix of synchronous and asynchronous approaches. Distance learning can be an islolating experience,especially when feedback or assistance is needed and you sometimes have to wait days or even a week to get a reply from your tutor,it tends to break the flow of thought. Working synchronously would also help to bridge the gap and make me feel like I’m part of the class and discussions could be more spontaneous and inspiring. I was recently part of a webinar which connected 80 teachers from around the world,Laurence Peters discussing Global Education with Steve Haragon. Synchronous learning is exciting for me,in this particular session a continous chat was running alongside the dialogue,people were making connections with one another for future classes,useful web sites were added as the session rolled out,it was possible to ask questions via chat or voice and the whole environment was really alive. That for me is a lot more exciting than reading through the material on my own. I think a mix of both synchronous and asynchronous learning would work great.
Barbour’s reading “Today’s student and virtual schooling” seems inconclusive as to whether or not either model has better results than traditional style teaching due to the lack of studies on virtual learning. He states ”students enrolled in virtual school courses do as well or better than their classroom counterparts”. Barbour cites Cavanaugh et al (2005) who disputed the findings of these results as the students may have been more ‘academically motivated and naturally higher achieving students’.

Learning online is still in it’s infancy in New Zealand and there are a number of variables to consider when assessing it’s value just as there are in the traditional classroom. The delivery style,the content,the opportunity to converse and meet with other members of the class,the availability and understanding of technology.

For me,the most important thing would be for all delivery avenues to be tried to find what works best for the individual,what stimulates the most interest and what maintains the enthusiasm for the student.

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