The learning and development (L&D) industry stays relevant despite the disruptions of the new normal. More industries see the essential nature of employee training as a means of advancing through the new economy. However, there is no silver bullet when it comes down to employee training.
Organisational leaders and managers must find the most appropriate courses according to their workers’ specific needs – i.e., flexibility, social aspects, and learning mediums. When broken down into its bare essentials, digital learning and development may fall under two categories – synchronous and asynchronous methods.
However, it is crucial to note that both methods carry a unique set of pros and cons, and employers can optimise learning outcomes by creating a hybrid course structure.
Understanding Synchronous and Asynchronous Methods
As the root word “sync” might suggest – the terms synchronous and asynchronous relate to time. In synchronous learning tools, learners and instructors carry out sessions in real-time. In contrast, asynchronous methods relate to pre-recorded material that students may access at their convenience.
A modern online learning and development curriculum is likely to incorporate synchronous and asynchronous elements to provide employees and trainers with a flexible yet productive experience.
Synchronous online training methods provide attendees with a social experience similar to those found in conventional classrooms and lecture halls. The synchronous online teaching method enables employees and trainers to interact in real-time, facilitating discussions, feedback, and collaborations without missing a beat.
Trainers may apply synchronous methods with high success rates in social soft skill lessons such as public speaking or customer service. Real-time training enables trainers to offer immediate feedback to improve worker performance in realistic situations.
Synchronous courses rely on the human touch, which is an integral component in industries such as hospitality management and PR. Trainers get the opportunity to engage with virtual learners from a remote location while dispensing subtle social cues that contribute to the lessons.
The most common forms of synchronous learning and development tools include webinars, live-stream videos, and teleconferences. Platforms may also feature highly interactive chat functions, enabling attendees to react, poll, and submit queries according to the program flow.
Employers and managers should consider synchronous learning and development tools when introducing a new company policy or industrial standard. Real-time lessons will empower learners to engage in relevant Q&A that expedite learning and adaptation to novel information.
Disadvantages of Synchronous Methods
Synchronous training may prove unsuitable for workers with hectic and irregular schedules, who may not have the luxury of attending scheduled events. Additionally, attendees must maintain access to a reliable internet connection and digital device during training lessons or risk missing out on valuable information.
Asynchronous methods focus on information processes. Most of the time, this relates to a highly technical subject matter that might require convenient access for reference and review. Subjects may include complex workplace skills that involve technical information, skills such as software proficiency, or prototyping design.
Asynchronous learning content is usually available as pre-recorded webinars/seminars or lectures, written pieces, and podcasts. Learners can access asynchronous content at their convenience, regardless of time. Also, learners may refer to a specific time-stamp or segment of the content with ease while skipping the less significant parts.
Additionally, mentors and tutors can record/prepare materials in bulk without accompanying learners during their lessons. The process frees up time that mentors/tutors can spend on more value-added tasks such as course development and offering one to one coaching (when necessary).
Although asynchronous training provides learners with unmatched flexibility and convenience, trainers/instructors need a reliable way to gauge content effectiveness and participation. Course coordinators can achieve this by implementing tests and quizzes at the end of a module/lesson that requires completion by a given deadline.
Disadvantages of Asynchronous Methods
While asynchronous methods provide employees with independence and flexibility in their learning journey, they may lack the guidance and motivation to fulfill learning objectives. Work-from-home scenarios have shown the counterproductive effects of procrastination, which may similarly affect asynchronous learners.
Additionally, there is loneliness and disconnectedness, which may lead to disengagement and disinterest among learners. Asynchronous methods attempt to swap out dynamic, fast-paced classroom learning (with discussions and debates) for systematic and contemplative self-guidance techniques.
However, autonomous learning may not prove suitable for every employee, especially individuals who continuously find themselves distracted by environmental factors. Some workers may require proactive support and engagement from facilitators to guide them towards the right track.
Hybrid Learning and Development Methods
There are many ways to incorporate both learning methods into an e-learning course. For instance, trainers may conduct synchronous webinars on cybersecurity while following up with asynchronous reference material (i.e., recorded lesson) via email to help employees refresh their understanding when necessary,
It is understandable to assume that personal, dynamic face-to-face interactions confer a more profound impact on learners than online/static content. One primary reason involves the delayed responses and passive environments synonymous with digital learning.
According to renowned communication expert Professor Albert Mehrabian, effective face-to-face communication comprises three core elements: tone of voice, the intrinsic meaning of the spoken word, and nonverbal behavior (facial expressions and body language).
While the limitations of traditional digital communications may lead to garbled voice, choppy/lagging videos, and misinterpretations, novel technology such as 5G provides trainers and learners to recreate high-definition realistic settings from a virtual vantage point.
Additionally, the digital world enables trainers to conveniently integrate asynchronous content with synchronous lessons through intuitive collaboration tools. For example, Kaltura provides users with digital whiteboards and screen-sharing to communicate ideas while watching a pre-recorded course.
Modern employees and organisational leaders find themselves in an era powered by endless possibilities. The most effective learning and development structure will offer active discussions fueled by dynamic exploration of ideas while empowering attendees to control their learning pace.
The future of learning and development at the workplace thrives with quality communications that unite on-demand technology with seamless user connectivity.
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