Taking into account that synchronous communication is simply communication that happens at the same time -a casual conversation, a phone call, a discussion session, exchanges in an AOL chatroom- and that asynchronous communication, on the other hand, is communication that can wait in which no reply is required at that moment - a voice mail message, a mail to a friend, or comments on a paper (Haefner, 2000), I think that the best thing to do is to look for a balance or mix of real-time, synchronous interaction and asynchronous communication by offering teachers better guidance for the appropriate use of computer-mediated communication, so that it is easier for them to decide how to balance synchronous and asynchronous modes in their online classes.
Many teachers nowadays are very committed to using digital technology in the classroom and in my opinion, the most appropriate kind of virtual education for them is one that includes both synchronous and asynchronous information exchange. In this way, students are given different and more varied opportunities to express themselves, share with others, and produce new knowledge. So, balancing synchronous and asynchronous exchanges in today’s classroom is key for the educational community to succeed in modern education.
It is true that the great advantage of an asynchronous class is that students can do the work at any time of the day, but computer-mediated communication is not for everyone and that convenience and flexibility carries liabilities such as a sense of disconnection and isolation for some students. What teachers need to do is to find ways to energize and motívate their students trying to maintain the humor, the energy, and the excitement of the real life classroom.
The profile of the online learner population is changing and this change in profile poses considerable pedagogical challenges that can be addressed through a better understanding of the emerging online learner who is someone who has a strong academic self-concept; is competent in the use of online learning technologies, particularly communication and collaborative technologies; understands, values, and engages in social interaction and collaborative learning; possesses strong interpersonal and communication skills; and is self-directed. In order to support and promote these characteristics and skills more effectively, the online course developer, instructor, or teacher should focus on designing online learning environments that support both synchronous and asynchronous communication. Environments that help engage learners in online learning activities that require collaboration, communication, social interaction, reflection, evaluation, and self-directed learning.
Haefner, Joel. (2000). The Importance of Being Synchronous. Academic.Writing.
Retrieved from http://wac.colostate.edu/aw/teaching/haefner2000.htm [Available
as an E-resource]
LaBonte, Randy et al (2003) Moderating Tips for Synchronous Learning Using
Virtual Classroom Technologies. Odyssey Learning Systems Inc. Retrieved from
http://odysseylearn.com/Resrce/text/e-Moderating%20tips.pdf [Available as an
Palloff, Rena and Pratt, Keith (2007). Building Online Learning Communities, Wiley.