The decision to use synchronous should always be dictated by the learning outcomes for the course. There are some outcomes that are best served by synchronous means.
Power of Group Discussion
Watching a class take off in an unexpected direction and explore a topic fully is very satisfying for an instructor. It is also something not commonly seen in many discussion boards. Asynchronous tools, such as the discussion board, greatly extend the amount of time it takes to explore a topic. Synchronous tools, if scheduling issues can be resolved, allow such interaction to happen much more rapidly. Even if all participants do not have microphones and must rely on chat for communication - the conversation unfolds much faster and often goes into greater depth.
Power of the Instructor's Voice
Most of you love your content and want students to appreciate it as well. You convey your enthusiasm for your content through your voice, your gestures, your presence, and your tone. Such cues are absent in most asynchronous tools and must be approximated with emoticons and additional explanation. Synchronous tools, although not perfect, do a good job of delivering audio and do allow you to improvise during a session.
The Need for Rapid Feedback
Some learning activities will benefit from immediate feedback. If students are practicing or demonstrating a skill, or you are assessing a particular skill - synchronous tools allow almost instant feedback. Such feedback can be done individually or done in a group environment where sharing of feedback will benefit all participants.
Difficult Concepts Need Elaboration
Some material is difficult to learn independently. Synchronous tools allow instructors to translate difficult concepts and materials for students to prepare them to encounter the material. Students hear the explanation and see translated materials before encountering the material. They can ask questions and seek further clarification via audio or text.
Synchronous tools also allow instructors to adjust the level of complexity immediately. Students do not enter the classroom with the same understanding of the material. Students can provide real-time feedback about what is understood and what is still confusing using synchronous tools. This allows instructors to adjust the explanation more rapidly than possible with asynchronous tools.
Rapid Pace of Change
Information is coming at instructors at an incredibly rapid pace. In takes considerable time and effort to modify asynchronous materials to take advantage of new research or findings. Synchronous tools allow instructors to discuss recent developments without preparing new materials or adapting existing materials.
page last updated 12/4/2013 2:09 PM