Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Online Learning: Which Is Right for You?


online student in class

Ready to enroll in an online college? Before you start, make sure to ask about the instruction method. There are two main types: synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous learning occurs at a particular time of day in a virtual classroom setting. There is a live instructor and you participate in real-time, discussing topics and asking questions. Asynchronous learning occurs anytime, anywhere. You can complete your coursework and assignments on your own schedule. You’ll still have due dates for tests and assignments, but the learning is more flexible. Both methods have pros and cons to consider. You’ll want to choose the one that will work best for your learning style and other life demands.

Pros of Synchronous Learning

  • Learn in Real-Time with Other Students: If you’re used to in-person learning with classmates, synchronous instruction resembles that experience in a virtual format. You and your fellow students arrive to an online platform to hear the same lectures at the same time. You answer live questions and participate in discussions with your cohort members and your professor.
  • Get Questions Immediately Answered: Because you experience the class in real-time, you can ask questions as they occur to you. You can ask your professor for clarification and listen as other students do the same. It allows you to have your questions answered right away before the instructor moves on to a new subject.
  • Access Immediate Feedback: With synchronous learning, the instructor can take quick surveys, give quizzes, or obtain opinions from students to assess their understanding of the material and encourage class participation. This helps instructors assess the quality and effectiveness of their teaching and may allow you to get feedback from the instructor in real-time.

Cons of Synchronous Learning

  • Must Attend at a Specific Time and Day: One of the reasons students often sign up for online courses is their flexibility. Synchronous learning takes some of that away. If you have other demands on your time such as a job or family, it might be challenging to attend an online class at a specific time and day.
  • Experience Added Technological Challenges: You need dependable internet for either synchronous and asynchronous classes, but real-time lectures may present additional challenges. Especially on video, a slow internet can cause lag times where you might miss key points or discussions.
  • Compete for Attention: Just like in a live classroom, you will attend online classes with other students. It might be difficult to get your individual questions answered with other students in the virtual room with you.

Pros of Asynchronous Learning

  • Attend Class at Your Convenience: If you have a busy life with a full-time job and multiple commitments, asynchronous learning lets you take classes when it’s best for you. Whether that’s early morning or late at night, you get to decide.
  • Learn at Your Own Pace: Pre-recorded classes and self-paced learning modules provide you with more time to think about and analyze information before you express an opinion or answer a question. You have more freedom to set your own pace and spend as much or as little time you need to absorb information.
  • Stay Your Introverted Self: If you consider yourself an introvert, in-person classes may have always intimidated you. You never know when the professor is going to call on you or when the attention of the entire room might be on you. Asynchronous allows you to speak up in forums and chats when you feel comfortable.

Cons of Asynchronous Learning

  • Miss Immediate Response: If you are confused about a topic or wonder if you are completing a homework assignment correctly, you might need to wait to get an answer to your questions.
  • Must Be Self-Disciplined: Self-paced learning where you don’t attend class at a particular time means it’s up to you to carve out a time of the day to complete all your work by its deadline. That means not saving all the assignments to do at the last minute.
  • Miss Live Discussions with Other Students: Although you can connect with your classmates outside of class, an asynchronous course means you won’t participate with live in-class discussions with them.


Before you choose any online program, consider your learning style and the demands you have on your time.

At National American University, we offer online Associate, Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, as well as certificates, in a variety of career specialties. Call 800-209-0182 to speak to a counselor.


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