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Synchronous and Asynchronous Teaching Methods

Course Delivery Definitions

Asynchronous course delivery refers to delivering course material in a way that is not bound to a particular time. Course content and assessments delivered asynchronously leaves it up to the students when they participate in your class. Students who have other responsibilities or less frequent access to technology will benefit from asynchronous teaching methods.

Synchronous course delivery refers to delivering course material to students at a particular time, all together. Course content and assessments delivered synchronously require students to participate in your class at a particular set time or window of time. While you may see this term used more commonly to refer to synchronous video sessions such as Zoom lectures, standard in-classroom class sessions are also synchronous. Students who are unable to attend at the designated time may benefit from special accommodations such as recording live sessions for later viewing by those who were unable to participate.

  • For more information on Pitt’s current guidelines on recording synchronous class sessions, and for resources to support your implementation of this, see the Teaching Center’s main webpage.

Video Definitions

Asynchronous video is, for example, a video you recorded in Panopto and posted on Canvas for your students to watch before they come to class, or if they need some extra help understanding a particular topic. These videos can be watched at any time and place.

Synchronous video is, for example, a scheduled video lesson on Zoom. Students are often requested to attend at the scheduled time, and to participate during the lesson.

If you record your Zoom lesson or your in-class synchronous session and post it to Panopto for your students to watch later, this becomes an asynchronous video.

Should I teach this specific thing synchronously during class time, or post an asynchronous video about it?

Most course plans include both synchronous and asynchronous lessons. There’s simply not enough scheduled class time to do everything synchronously – homework is a fact of life. So, the question is: what should you teach synchronously, and what should you teach asynchronously?

As a quick rule of thumb, if you do not plan on your students engaging with you or each other (asking questions, answering questions, discussing, etc.) during a particular lesson, consider taking the opportunity to teach that lesson asynchronously, leaving synchronous class time to be more interactive.

Take a look at our Synchronous vs Asynchronous comparison table to learn more about the pros and cons of synchronous and asynchronous teaching in different situations.

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