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Synchronous and Asynchronous Training: When Each Makes the Most Sense and Why

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Thu Apr 29 2021

Synchronous and Asynchronous Training: When Each Makes the Most Sense and Why
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Traditionally, a lot of employee training was held asynchronously (also known as on demand). Employees could log in and access training at their leisure to accommodate variations in their personal preferences and schedules. With the emergence of the pandemic, though, and a shift to remote and hybrid work, training sessions are also being held synchronously as employees become more comfortable meeting virtually.

It’s not an either/or training environment these days. Synchronous and asynchronous training have their places, and both have specific benefits and drawbacks for online employee training and employee engagement.

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Terminology of Synchronous and Asynchronous Training

Synchronous training is learning that takes place in real-time with an instructor, which allows learners to engage with each other. Asynchronous training takes place in settings that don’t require participants or instructors to be engaged at the same time.

Bloom’s taxonomy, a long-standing model in the field of education and instructional design, can provide some direction from an academic standpoint about how to make choices designed to boost learning and employee engagement.

Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Decide Which Kind of Training to Provide

Dr. Richard Kordel says that if he were speaking to instructional designers, he would point to Bloom’s taxonomy as a guide to when synchronous or asynchronous training may be the best approach.

Things toward the bottom of Bloom’s taxonomy—facts, figures, and capabilities—may best be presented via an asynchronous class, says Kordel. This type of information, he notes, “might need to be reviewed multiple times, and the recorded class might evolve into a reference document until memorized.”

Topics at the top of the pyramid, though, that require more analysis and interaction lend themselves to synchronous training. “Simply put, most of the time, these lessons would not be as effective if interaction was not possible,” Kordel notes.

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There are practical considerations as well. L&D experts consider learning models and employee engagement as they seek to determine the best ways to share information.

Considering Employee Engagement, Synchronous, and Asynchronous Training

Molood Ceccarelli, a leadership and change management coach and the founder of Remote Forever, says there are benefits to synchronous and asynchronous methods for training employees. “In my experience, asynchronous training provides a better opportunity for people to digest information at their own pace when they are ready and willing to receive the information. It also gives the trainee an opportunity to pause and reflect on what they have learned as well as the space to do their own research to supplement their learning,” she states. “On the other hand, synchronous training has the advantage of providing the trainee with emotional belonging to their company and team as the whole group receives the training at the same time.”

From a company standpoint, though, synchronous employee training has some drawbacks, Ceccarelli says, including the need to repeat a training program multiple times for each group that needs to be trained. The solution: a hybrid model. In a hybrid model, says Ceccarelli, “the content is delivered and consumed asynchronously accompanied with synchronous sessions for further practice of the learned material and Q&A.”

Taking a Hybrid Approach to Employee Training

Today’s L&D professionals have the advantage of being able to combine the best of asynchronous and synchronous training as they seek to engage employees who may be remote and on-site.

“Asynchronous work is a great modality for prep prior to a synchronous session. Asynchronous workshops also give employees independence and provide them the space to really take the time to tease out the concepts presented at the training,” says Dr. Sana Shaikh, an organizational theory and behavior expert and consultant who has conducted both synchronous and asynchronous workshops. And, for those that need additional time processing, asynchronous work is a great vehicle for different learners who need that time, she says.

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When deciding between synchronous or asynchronous training, it’s not an “all or nothing” proposition. Both have their place depending on the information being shared as well as instructor and learner preference.

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