Post 2 – Virtual Asynchronous teaching and learning.  

As promised in my last post, here I am, ready to share with you some insights, ideas and resources on virtual or online asynchronous teaching. In this case, for many of us who have been teaching face to face sessions most of our working lives, how to make learning happen in these asynchronous environments is quite a challenge. 

We may feel uneasy and a bit powerless in the face of the new teaching and learning situation. And as I have witnessed, many questions arise in our heads, as for example, “How am I going to present a new topic?” “How can I explain a structure to the learners or teach them how to improve their speaking skills in this new teaching mode?” “What about the socio-emotional impact in their learning? Will they be working isolated?” “How are the beginners or elementary learners going to understand the instructions of the tasks? I am not there to explain, and maybe parents don’t know English”. 

In order to give  you a helping hand I will address different aspects of this Asynchronous Teaching that may be good to take into consideration if we want to be successful. 

What is Virtual Asynchronous Teaching? 

According to Trach (2018) “Asynchronous Learning is the key feature of successful online learning programs. The word “asynchronous” means not keeping time together, which refers to students’ ability to access information, demonstrate what they’ve learned, and communicate with classmates and instructors on their own time–they don’t have to be in the same classroom or even in the same time zone to participate.” 

Jones (2020) explains that “Asynchronous classes are held in a shared online space, but the teacher and the students don’t need to be present at the same time.”

As you can see, asynchronous learning provides plenty of opportunities for learners to access content in different ways. At the same time, due to the fact that they work at their own pace, they have the great opportunity to devote time to reflection, elaboration, research before they upload their assignments or participate in a forum. In these Asynchronous classes, learners have the chance to develop deeper thinking, and therefore reach better and higher outcomes. 

But let’s look at those challenging areas in our asynchronous classes: 

Where to host the teaching resources

Different platforms provide a wide variety of possibilities for us or our schools to host the different content resources and activities we create. Some free examples are Edmodo, Moodle and many others. You can find some information in this link: https://www.bookwidgets.com/blog/2016/12/top-8-online-learning-platforms 

You need to take the audience into consideration when choosing choosing a  platform. The platform should be accessible by desktop or laptop computer with an Internet connection, or by smartphone or tablet (iPhone, iPad, iPod, Android). At the same time, the platform you choose should offer tools that encourage interaction between your learners, such a forums. Another important tool for many teachers would be if the platform gives has the ability to generate automatic reports showing progress of learners. It should be able to  export the information into another application, such as Microsoft Excel, and allow the information to be customised to include specific predefined variables.  In addition, the platform should allow administrators see the recorded history of the learners’ work, the grade book and feedback from the teacher.  A remarkable tools of some platforms is that they allow to create a library where teachers can upload content they have previously created as well as different resources from other platforms.

Content 

Different kinds of content may suit different teaching situations and ages. 



Teacher generated content: Handouts,  Screencasts, Videos, texts, audio recordings. Student Created content: Ss assignments, responses to activities, oral interactions. 3rd Party Content.  Novels, readers, storybooks,  Coursebooks, Videos, links, films, authentic materials.
2 to 5 year oldsEarly YearsMost of the content at this level is teacher created. Recordings of learners’ interaction  with the teacher, and with peers. Documentation of learning process might turn into interesting contentMainly storybooks, videos and authentic materials
6 to 12 year oldsPrimary School   
12 to 18 year oldsSecondary School    

Activities and Tasks

Sometimes, choosing or designing the proper activities is a tough task as we will not be there with the learners to explain the activity, check understanding or elicit examples. The strength of the pedagogical and didactics knowledge of the teachers will be at stake when designing the different tasks and activities. At this point, when the teacher has to choose, design and plan the different paths through which the learners will build knowledge is when the teachers have their “teaching moment”. The different activities or tasks should be thoroughly chosen but more importantly, they need to be carefully explained in accesible written language according to the stage of development of the learners’ command of the language. Teachers need to add a written example for the learners to see what the teachers expect learners to do. 

Evaluation 

It is advisable to design a marking criteria and a success criteria and share them with the learners on the platform you are using for all of them to see. As learners’ progress will be registered on the platform, and it should be quite easy for the teacher to evaluate it, using the marking criteria. But the most productive aspect of the evaluation is not making the learners’ work but giving them timely feedback so they can improve their performance and strengthen their learning of the language. Therefore, it is here that teachers have the chance to provide all the necessary guidance and support to each learner according to their demands, and weaknesses. In addition to the teachers’ feedback which is absolutely essential, teachers can invite learners to assess their peers work and even teach them how to self assess their performance using both, the marking criteria and success criteria. 

Here I share a chart from Hartinsky (2007) that compares Asynchronous e-learning to Synchronous (Live) e-learning.  

It is important to remember that learning in an online environment  might be quite challenging for some learners as well as for teachers themselves. So please, don’t worry if you go slowly, as long as you move on. Be open to feedback from learners and parents and don’t get disappointed if you have to struggle a little bit at the beginning. Just keep learning, keep trying and remember, practice makes perfect. 

Resources

Harstinsky, S. (2007) (PDF) Asynchronous and synchronous e-learning. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/238767486_Asynchronous_and_synchronous_e-learning [accessed Apr 06 2020].

Jones, C. (2020) https://www.cambridge.org/elt/blog/2020/03/13/moving-your-classes-online-2/ (Accessed April 05 2020) 

Trach, E. (2018) https://www.schoology.com/blog/asynchronous-learning-definition-benefits-and-example-activities (Accessed, April 06 2020)

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