3.8. Asynchronous & Synchronous Strategies

Using asynchronous content effectively

Whether you are teaching in dual-mode, as a remote instructor, or in a fully remote context, you'll need to carefully plan for what your students will do outside of scheduled class meetings. If you’ve shifted the rhythm of your course as suggested above and plan to use class meeting time primarily for interactive elements, then out-of-class time may be well spent on asynchronous content that offers first exposure to class concepts. 

What is asynchronous content?

Asynchronous content is consumed by students at a time, place, and pace of their choosing. It does not require learners’ presence in the same place (physical or virtual) at the same time.  Asynchronous content may be text, audio, video, or simulation - whatever format best meets the instructional need. The popular misconception that it has to be videos of you lecturing is false.

How much asynchronous material should I use?

As there is no hard and fast rule on this, we encourage you to use your best judgment.  Note that Notre Dame classes should primarily hold synchronous class meetings during the scheduled class time.  On occasions when you do choose to replace a face-to-face class session with asynchronous content, we encourage you to plan a set of content and activities for the students that will take roughly the same amount of time to complete (It is also acceptable if asynchronous materials take somewhat less time -- e.g. 60 minutes of asynchronous content replacing a 75-minute class session -- due to the lack of introductory / closing activities). The type and amount of homework you assign between class sessions should not change due to modality.  (To get a sense of time needed for students to use asynchronous content, the Course Workload calculator offered by Rice University provides a useful means of generating a rough estimate).

Types of asynchronous materials:

  • Text-based:  Books, articles, case studies
  • Image-based: Powerpoint slide decks (annotated using speaker notes), figures, graphs, images
  • Video-based: Recorded video lectures (screencasts), links to external videos (YouTube, TedTalks, documentaries available online), recorded Zoom calls with guest speakers, white board recordings
  • Discussion-based: Discussion forums in Sakai, collaboration via Google Suite

Things to remember:

  • Give students clear explanations of your expectations for how they use asynchronous materials.
  • Use a descriptive, systematic file naming system to aid in organization.
  • Consider attaching a small, low-stakes assignment to your asynchronous materials - e.g. “After watching the video, reflect in 200-300 words on its connections with the paper we read last week. Do you think the video’s speaker would agree with the paper’s position on immigration?”
  • While asynchronous material can be shared in a variety of ways, we recommend using Sakai as the main repository for storing course materials.  


Using Zoom for Effective Synchronous Teaching 
One of the key technologies for classes with some or all remote students is Zoom. While Zoom can be used as a as a lecture capture tool for creating asynchronous videos (see above, or “Creating & Integrating Media, Worked Examples, & Screencasts”), it is best known as a video conferencing tool for synchronous interaction. 

The table below offers an overview of some zoom features that may be useful in your synchronous class meetings. We encourage you to experiment with some of these techniques, but take it slow and don’t try to use all the features at once.

Zoom Feature           Sample Classroom Use                                         
Zoom room Class sessions, tutorials, virtual office hours, semi-proctoring exams
Breakout rooms Small group discussions
Recording Recording class sessions for absent students or as study aids
Screenshare Sharing slides, websites, or images
Whiteboard Chalk talks, demonstrations
Chat Backchannel discussion, opening questions, support during exams
Yes/No voting Polls with two optons
Thumbs up/down Audience checki-in

Things to remember when using Zoom

  • At the start of the course, privately survey students to make sure they have sufficient internet bandwidth and minimum computer system requirements (including webcam and microphone) to participate in remote Zoom sessions. If they do not, the Office of Student Enrichment can work with students to ensure they can access that equipment.
  • Be sure to check with OIT and the Knowledge Base for Zoom how-to tutorials, tips on setting customization, security/privacy recommendations, and updates.