June 24, 2022

Case for Async Learning with Srishti Sehgal

Enhancing the classroom experience using asynchronous learning

Homework has a bad rep. Children detest it in school, adults up-skilling themselves are unable to find time for it. But we need homework in all our learning, here is why….

Homework fundamentally means learning:

In the world of learning design, homework falls under what we call ‘asynchronous learning’. And much like homework, async learning also has a bad rep.

Here are 5 reasons why homework or rather, async learning is a great additions to classrooms and some examples it in action…

1/ Learning is fundamentally unconstrained

Learning is not just a switch that we can turn on when we enter the classroom, we are all learning constantly. For learning to truly be effective, we need to be able to connect it to our context.

By thinking about learning consciously while going through the material async, learners have more opportunities to think deeper about concepts and connect it with their world.

Example:

At NextLeap earlier this year, we did a fellowship for managers on People Leadership. While learning about team culture, we asked our learners to create a team manifesto with their teams. By helping connecting something as intangible as team culture to their context and their teams - the concept became a lot clearer. The exercise made some learners realise that their own team was not on the same page about its culture - making it easier for managers to figure out where they need to put their effort.

2/ More diverse connections

Learning async means more than just consuming content, it could also mean connecting with people. Connected with people asynchronously allows us to not just be restricted to people close to us geographically. The world is our oyster - quite literally and we can learn from and with a wider scope of people.

Example:

I’m a part of a community of L&D professionals called the L&D Shakers. Over the last 6+ months, I’ve interacted with 50+ L&D professionals from all across the world - all over Slack. I’ve heard their stories, learnt from their experiences and made friends - all asynchronously!

3/ Increased flexibility

By learning partly async, it reduces the pressure of learning everything from the classroom. For adult learners especially, this flexibility is invaluable.

Flexibility extends beyond just time, async learning also ensures all learners have enough time to learn and even go beyond the prescribed material if they’d like to go deep.

Example:

Earlier this week I was listening to a podcast while cooking dinner. The podcast was a ‘pre-read’ for a training I’m attending called Huddlecraft 101. I could make time for it only because I could multitask and hear the podcast on 2x while cooking.

4/ Flipping the classroom

By using async material for priming learners on the topic and using live sessions to dig deeper, learning experiences can be more meaningful. A good way to do this is to focus on the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ in the async material and go deep in the ‘how’ in the classroom.

Example:

At NextLeap all of our courses follow the flipped classroom model. For a session on user research, we got our learners to understand the what and why of user research before the instructor session. The instructor used the session to take questions, share examples and get the learners to do a demo interview!

5/ Time to reflect

Solo time for processing is necessary for any learning experience. Async allows space for silence and space to hear and share. For learners that are more introverted, it gives them time to engage with learning in a space where they feel comfortable to be themselves.

Example:

As part of the Huddlecraft 101 training, reflection is built in at the end of every session. We answer questions around what we’ve learnt and how we plan to apply in our context. These last 10 minutes are where I internalise most of my learning!

The next time you’re designing learning experiences here are some questions to ask yourself:

This article is based on the LXP Jam #4: The role of async communication in learning. Special thanks to all the participants for contributing to the discussion.

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