Better Distance Learning Courses are the Way Forward

Universities and colleges were among the first to close their doors and send students home when the pandemic hit in early 2020. All governments believed this to be the most straightforward thing to do as virtual learning environments and learning management systems have been used in this sector for a long time. 


However, now that they have emerged from this first period of quarantine teaching, higher education institutions ought to take stock. Distance learning has shown itself to be viable, not simply a last resort. If the will is there, it could be a feasible long-term solution for many students, whether this is due further lockdowns or simply that they cannot attend classes in person.

Better distance learning courses are the way forward for higher education Global Institute for Lifelong Empowerment GiLE

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And this second point really matters. Asynchronous instruction  has the potential to expand the geographical range of teaching, and help equalise opportunities for all students, whether they are studying under lockdown conditions, face the ill health of a family member (or ill health themselves), or would otherwise be held back by the absence of the right technical infrastructure needed for synchronous online learning to work well.


The difference between synchronous and asynchronous learning


The most important element of synchronous teaching is that all participants need to be present at the same time, possibly at the same place. I’m saying “possibly” because online teaching does not require students to be tied down to a given place; however, they do need to be there at the same time. This also means that those who miss the lesson miss out on everything that happens during that lesson. 


Asynchronous teaching, on the other hand, means that students have the liberty to study independently whenever and wherever they feel fit. There are still deadlines, but progressing through the course is mainly done at their own pace. 

Different Learning Modes Jo Szoke Global Institute for Lifelong Empowerment GiLE

In fact, the whole course should be designed with this distance learning element in mind. All the materials and self-check quizzes should be uploaded in advance to enable different learning speeds.  Feedback is either given in an automated form or after a certain delay.


Hence, recording a live synchronous lesson and sending it to absent students, which unfortunately has been done at several universities and colleges during lockdown, does not satisfy either learning mode. It is not synchronous teaching because absent students can only watch a recording which they cannot interact with. Likewise, it is not asynchronous because the lesson was not planned that way.

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Joanna Szoke

Article Writer & Content Contributor

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The opinions expressed in this article/publication are those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of GiLE or its members.

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