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These terms are important in online education and crop up a lot. The first refers to activity that occurs in real scheduled time or ‘live’. The second refers to activity that can take place at any time or in the students’ (or teacher’s) ‘own time’, albeit within the overall structure of the course e.g. the weekly asynchronous activity (some background reading, say) must happen before the next weekly synchronous event (an online discussion of the reading). Designing an online course usually requires planning for a mixture of synchronous and asynchronous activities and making productive relationships between them.
Synchronous large group teaching and learning (>35 participants) organised in a live virtual meeting room e.g. Teams or Big Blue Button where students and teacher(s) meet together to communicate with voice, video and whiteboard. Live Online Lectures fall into this category, but also some other activities like virtual ward rounds, where being in a large group does not adversely affect the student’s learning experience. We recommend that such sessions should not be longer than 2 hours and that there should be breaks after 20 minutes.
Asynchronous delivery to a large group where the lecturer records a lecture outside of class and shares with students in a digital format e.g. via Panopto, often breaking the content down into smaller chunks and interspersing these with quizzes and other activities to maintain student engagement and consolidate learning. This type also includes the use of curated online content from trusted sources to explain specific concepts. Pre-Recorded Lectures can be accessed remotely from anywhere. We recommend that students should not be asked to listen to pre-recorded lectures of longer than 45 mins and note that a break after 20 mins is advisable. Breaking content into 10-minute chunks is often best practice. An example of a bite-size lecture is available here.
In its broadest meaning, self-directed learning describes a process in which individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes (Knowles, 1975, p. 18). Self-paced learning is learning that students can undertake in their own time, asynchronously.
Synchronous activity (up to c 35 students) via Teams or Big Blue Button where you can talk to students, share materials, use polls, and get students to contribute their thoughts and ideas in discussions and sometimes work in smaller groups with other students. Activities can include students making a presentation on set topics/issue, lecturers giving mini lectures which require high-level interactivity from the students, discussions around assignment questions, and so on. Can also take the form of a practical workshop with more hands-on learning (around clinical or communications skills for example). Group size can vary but it may be harder to manage and provide a good learning experience where numbers are larger. Break-out rooms can be effectively used to maximise interaction.
Can take place synchronously within small group teaching; and can be student-led or lecturer-led. Can also be a project that students undertake collaboratively over some time.
Synchronous activity which can be delivered within a small group teaching setting; this can be student-led or lecturer-led. PBL consists of problems designed to challenge students to use problem-solving techniques, self-directed learning strategies, team participation skills, and disciplinary knowledge. This can be unstructured open-ended problems used to drive learning. CBL presents students with specific scenarios that are inspired by real-world examples that students may experience.
Synchronous activity which can be delivered within a tutorial or workshop setting. Team-Based Learning (TBL) is a prescribed version of Problem-Based Learning that is highly engaging for students because it confronts them with real-world problems and forces them to work in teams to make a decision; TBL flips the classroom so that students must come to class armed with the knowledge that they will then use to grapple with the problems presented to them.