Asynchronous online learning

Asynchronous Online interactions

Asynchronous Online interactions

Asynchronous online interactions are usually intended as a way to provide an online space where students and teaching staff engage in discussions/interactions across time and space. Most asynchronous online learning happens primarily in text form, usually as forums or discussion boards but if also using multimedia (audio and video) this type of learning can play an important part in developing student’s ability to engage more actively with other students and lecturer/teacher especially when there are not many opportunities to meet face-to-face.

Thinking about asynchronous online interactions

Online asynchronous interactions, when appropriately planned and moderated, can improve engagement with lecturers, course content, link course content to wider contexts, provide a space for critical thinking, problem solving, etc.
Often, and especially if courses that have a large number of Non-English Speaking Background

(NESB) students, asynchronous interaction provides a less intimidating space for collaboration and exchanging of ideas among students and lecturers. The other factor, that is sometimes miscompared to synchronous interactions, is the mental space offered in asynchronous interaction to reflect on content, ideas and/or issues providing a more meaningful participation but again this is achieved with careful planning and engaged teacher/lecturer participation (see article at the end of this document).

However online interactions also have a higher potential of failing if students lack the motivation to participate and feel that their involvement is just perceived as a token task especially when expectations are not clearly expressed by the lecturer and there is no engagement or feedback from the teacher/lecturer. In fact, most commonly, the 3 more important factors for such activities to have poor participation are technical issues, poor planning in setting objectives and expectations and lack of teacher/lecturer engagement/feedback. To ensure that time invested in asynchronous online interactions from both sides (students and teachers) is worth the trouble a set of important points needs to be addressed:


  • What the students need to do (practice, comment, learn), how and how often (provide clear and detailed instructions)
  • What technologies are going to be used. Test both as a teacher and student to ensure everything will work consistently and as intended, have a plan B just in case technical issues come up and provide clear and detailed instructions as well as a test-practice first session to address possible issues earlier on.
  • For text based (forum) discussion provide Netiquette to ensure that interactions are in the appropriate context and set dos and don’ts. There are some sites already for online Nequette so if you are unsure take lead from those.
  • If the activity is part of their assessment ensure that it is clear how they will be assessed and what kind of feedback they will receive.


  • Start with an ice-breaker or activity that is low risk to allow students to get used to the kind of activities you will expect from them.
  • Ensure that your presence is constant, provide feedback, comment on what students are doing in the asynchronous space (not only there but also during lectures/tutorials). A good strategy is to start your lecture/tutorial with a comment regarding the students participation in the asynchronous space for example “I was really pleased to see that in discussing X there was a lot of you commenting on X and raising valuable points about Y” if you can make it personal and mention some of the students by name.
  • Play particular attention to reserved and less engaged students, a follow up personal email to ensure they are coping well or ask how they are going is a great motivator.
  • If the activity is part of their assessment ensure that mark/feedback is prompt and meaningful.

Technologies to use

Probably the most common tool used in Wattle for asynchronous interactions are the Forum (that can accommodate both text, audio and video) but the wiki and glossary tool can also be used for this purpose, depending on the objective of the interactions. You can also link into your site external tools like Flipgrid, NowComment or Voicethread, just to name a few.

Some links that can help you:

On Netiquette –

Developing Students’ Critical Thinking through Asynchronous Online Discussions: A Literature Review