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Comment: Please Don’t Require Synchronous Work in Your Remote Classes

Asynchronous work is the standard in undergraduate courses that are designed as fully online courses. In a high-stress situation in which faculty who typically teach F2F classes now have to teach remotely, they are necessary.It’s tempting to think that our students ought to be able to synch up to our classes remotely just as they were able to come to class in person. But that’s not reality.

Barrett-Fox, R. (2020). Please Don’t Require Synchronous Work in Your Remote Classes. Any Good Thing blog.

Another great post from Rebecca Barrett-Fox where she presents an argument for avoiding synchronous discussions entirely during the move to remote teaching and learning. Considering the additional pressure it adds to both teachers and students, and the potential to establish a two-tiered system (where some have access and some don’t), it’s simply not worth the effort it takes.

The reality of our students’ lives is that many of them will also be dealing with other challenges at home right now, and expecting them to all be available, connected, focused, and healthy at the same time isn’t reasonable (and probably unethical as well).

There are plenty of (asynchronous) alternatives that enable students to learn when it suits them, using low-bandwidth options, that allows you to achieve the outcomes we care about.

See also my comment on videoconferencing alternatives.

By Michael Rowe

I'm a lecturer in the Department of Physiotherapy at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa. I'm interested in technology, education and healthcare and look for places where these things meet.

2 replies on “Comment: Please Don’t Require Synchronous Work in Your Remote Classes”

Hi Page. Great to hear from you again. I hope that you’re well.

Good question. I think that being open and honest in your writing – maybe even vulnerable – is a great start to building a trust-based, respectful online community. You may not be able to do it all simply by writing but I think you can use text set the tone for future interactions. What you share and how you share it says a lot about who you are, which is a fundamental part the culture you want to build.

All the best. I’d love to hear how it works out.

Michael, I agree that asynchronous teaching is fine for content and much skill building.
My challenge is how to design asynchronous T/L to build a deep trust-based, respectful community. Appreciate any ideas!

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