Understanding synchronous vs asynchronous learning

Since making the decision to move classes online, instructors have had more time to prepare and develop course materials to ensure that you experience the same quality of education as if you were taking classes in person—just with a different style of delivery. This also means you will have a consistent learning experience without further potential disruptions caused by COVID-19.

Remember, within this virtual world, USask students are located in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, other provinces in Canada as well as other countries around the world. Many are studying in different time zones and there are also students who are studying in rural communities and reserves and may have unreliable internet access. Let your instructor know if you encounter such restrictions.

All this and more is taken into consideration when instructors develop your remote classes.

What is synchronous vs asynchronous learning?


Everyone logs on together
  • You, your instructor and your fellow students are together online at the same time
  • A schedule is set and followed
  • Uses WebEx, Microsoft Teams and other videoconferencing platforms
  • It's important to have a private working space with adequate internet access and tools (e.g. web camera)
  • See the recommended technology page for more information


Everyone logs on at different times
  • You, your instructor and your fellow students are not required to be online at the same time
  • Class materials such as pre-recorded lecture videos and other supporting materials have been prepared and uploaded in advance so you can view and review when you want
  • You still need to follow a timeline and schedule but have more flexibility in how you manage your time—ask your instructor approximately how many hours a week you should be spending on coursework
  • You can engage with your instructor and fellow students through discussion forums or chat
  • Provides more flexibility—especially if you have other commitments or are studying from a different time zone
  • Better suited for students who have unreliable internet access
  • Opportunities to go back and review class material

A hybrid approach

In some of your classes, you may notice a hybrid approach, where some group activities are done synchronously at scheduled times and others asynchronously. If classes require you to log in and participate in a virtual classroom activity, make sure you are available during your scheduled class times.

Whether your remote learning activities are synchronous or asynchronous, you can expect to have the same amount of contact/study hours. The most important thing is to manage your time and balance your studies with your other life commitments.

Your instructors will provide you with more information about how each class will operate as the course progresses. If you have any questions, reach out to your instructor.

Visit the remote learning page for tips on how to get the most out of your experience.

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