As Kimura (2002) states, “No matter what technology we employ, it is still the human experience that is most important. Students learn from teachers, their peers and knowledge experts. No one learns from a computer” (as cited in Finkelstein, 2006, p. 65). In short, it is the human interaction that makes learning more empowering. The question; however, remains in regard to the relationship between learning and learning modality to bring the best learning results for adult learners. The use of Microsoft PowerPoint in instruction has not been only popular with its effectiveness for facilitators of adult learners but also necessary for the learners to enhance their learning. In asynchronous learning modality, it is essential for both learners and the facilitator to share the platform that they can commonly access regardless of geographical or time zone differences. The delivery medium, such as SlideShare, provides a web-based information-sharing platform and can be accessed at anytime and anywhere. It supports sharing of presentations, documents, PDFs, videos, and webinars (SlideShare, 2012). Web-based information sharing platforms are the tools “too-good-to-be-true” and they extend learning potentials of adult learners who take courses asynchronously from remote locations. In this presentation, the comparison of two learning modalities; asynchronous and synchronous; will be presented using SlideShare. SlideShare is an appropriate choice to present the comparisons created on Microsoft PowerPoint as it enables both learners and the facilitator to view the same slides from each remote location at their convenience. This delivery medium is a practical method to make full use of asynchronous leaning modality advantages.
Asynchronous learning can be helpful to students on many levels. Asynchronous learning allows students to communicate with fellow students and the instructor at his or her convenience. Students can access information immediately, such as the book for the course, instructor information, assignments and due dates, discussion questions, et cetera. Because of the immediate accessibility, students can work ahead, wait to the last-minute, due coursework out of order, et cetera (Lado, n.d.). Asynchronous learning is perfect for full-time workers, mothers and fathers with small children and do not have a babysitter or cannot afford to pay for daycare, people with physical disabilities, et cetera. Asynchronous learning allows these individuals to reach their goals and dreams in life without leaving his or her home.
As with anything, there are some disadvantages of Asynchronous learning. One disadvantage is the discipline each participant needs to participate in an asynchronous learning environment. Without a structured environment, students tend to become lazy, unorganized, forgetful, and are usually last-minute to complete assignments.Another disadvantage is a student’s confidence level with technology. Some of students lack confidence when concerning technology; therefore, as stated by Haythornthwaite and Kazmer (n.d.), “students might feel isolated and not part of learning communities, which is essential for collaboration and learning” (as cited in EDUCAUSE Quarterly, 2008).Asynchronous learning is not for everyone; therefore, before students make a decision to go this route, he or she needs to know their learning style as Asynchronous learning may not accommodate him or her.
Synchronous learning means students meet at a predetermined place and time and stay for the duration of the class period. The synchronous learning environment allows the student to “feel” connected to his or her classmates and the instructor which makes learning less stressful. Students can ask questions and actively participate in real-time discussions rather than posting or e-mailing a question and waiting for a reply. With synchronous learning, “the content of the course can be shaped to the needs of a student, instead of being one-size-fits-all. An instructor can access students’ levels of knowledge and tailor course materials appropriately” (Schullo, n.d.).
Some disadvantages stem from not knowing how to use the technology presented in the learning format (Skylar, 2009). With the growth in the technology resources, it can become difficult to keep current. Each student has a different level of technology confidence. Some students may know basic functions, some may know advance functions, and some may not even know the basic functions of the technology presented to the course. Another disadvantage is distance between students and instructor. Different time zones may cause a problem when communicating or participating in class. What is convenient of one group of students may not be for another group of students ("Business-Software.com", n.d.). Another disadvantage is what individual student has in terms of computer systems, Internet speeds, and video and voice software. If a group of students are using a high-speed connection while another group is using a dial-up connection, videoconferencing times will be delayed; therefore, some students may miss some of the information sent, which causes longer class ("Business-Software.com", n.d.).
There are many differences in facilitation strategies between asynchronous learning and synchronous learning. When using the synchronous learning modality, instructors must track written participation and attendance. Since Asynchronous learning is not in real-time, instructors also have time to respond to student questions; although it is still important to respond promptly to maintain student trust and accountability. Asynchronous modalities provide more flexibility in preparation requirements and interaction. Responses can be more thought-out and strategic, and the information delivery is focused more on student self-discovery (Slezak, 2011).
In synchronous learning facilitation, the instructor is in charge of a live classroom. They must be prepared to answer questions immediately and have prepared a lecture. As a facilitator for this type learning environment, instructors should assign the students presentations that can be delivered during the class. Probing students for further information will help with self discovery and also help promote participation (Slezak, 2011). The major difference between facilitators is that facilitators of asynchronous classes are looked upon more as a guide than an instructor. They do not provide live lectures to the students.
There are many differences between the learners of these two modalities. One must consider their own learning style before choosing their modality. Learners should also ask themselves the following questions when trying to chose: “Which modality offers the greatest schedule and flexibility? Which modality offers access to the most resources? Which modality offers the most comfortable environment for discussion and critical thinking?” (Harriman, 2012). If the student prefers immediate feedback and a structured class time, the synchronous environment would work better for the student. If the student prefers flexibility and can self-study, the asynchronous environment works better.
During the instruction design phase, it is crucial to create course materials that enable learners to achieve interactions and “careful selection of communication channels” (Berge, 2000, pp. 25-26) regardless of the course delivery medium. Developing interactions is an important element of adult learning theory. A delivery medium such as a web-based information sharing makes these interactions possible. In the case of SlideShare, it allows viewers to exchange ideas and thoughts underneath the slide shows. A web-based knowledge-sharing tool could also be used to present course materials in a synchronous learning modality by having learners access the same information at the same time but remotely. Learners who appreciate the benefit of immediate feedback functionality will find this delivery medium practical, and this delivery medium can be applied to many educational institutions and teaching environments if used properly and appropriately. As long as the selected platform is confirmed to be from a reliable source, it only takes the Internet to apply this delivery mode.
Learning Modalities Comparison
Introduction Use of Microsoft PowerPoint in asynchronous and synchronous learning Slide Share allows access to tools such as PowerPoint anytime and anywhere Slide Share also supports PDF’s, webinars, videos, and documents
Advantages of AsynchronousLearning Allows students to communicate with other students at his/her convenience Students can access course information at a moments notice Permits busy parents, full-time workers, and disabled people the opportunity to attend school
Disadvantages toAsynchronous Learning Students must be self-disciplined and take responsibility completing work on time Students may not be comfortable with the technology needed to be successful in this environment
Advantages to SynchronousLearning Students feel connected by having “real- time” discussions with the class and instructor Course can be molded to fit the level of students in class
Disadvantages to SynchronousLearning Not all students will be up-to-date on newest technology needed for the classroom Time zone differences may make it difficult for all students to attend class Some students may not have Internet speeds that are as fast as others
Facilitation Strategies Synchronous Learning Instructors must track participation while session is taking place Responses to students happen quickly, with little time to prepare Asynchronous Learning Instructors and students have more time to prepare a response Instructors are able to view students responses less stressful environment as the time constraints are not as rigid as in synchronous learning
Differences in Facilitation Synchronous Facilitation Instructors have a live audience Must be prepared for immediate responses to students Must be able to answer all questions immediately Asynchronous Facilitation Facilitator is a guide in the classroom Responses and answers to questions can be prepared and fine tuned before posting
Differences in Learners Synchronous Works well for students who want immediate feedback Students enjoy real time learning Learners prefer a structured environment Asynchronous Works well for students wanting flexibility as to when they are online Students who prefer self study and reviewing responses before they are submitted
Conclusion Slide Share is a useful web tool as it allows participants to comment on the slide show after it has been viewed Slide Share works well in both the synchronous and asynchronous learning environments This tool can be utilized by all colleges and universities to enhance student learning
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