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Design of Asynchronous Lessons


For those of us who were teaching this past spring, it was a challenging time as we shifted from face to face (f2f) teaching and learning to distance learning models that significantly reduced the amount of time we were able to spend f2f with our students. It quickly became apparent that some things and activities worked well in a synchronous situation on Zoom or in a Google classroom while other activities worked better when completed asynchronously. The design of effective asynchronous lessons is not something that most educators had a great deal of experience with and was arguably one of the biggest challenges.

Learning Objectives:

By the end of this lesson, you will be able to...

  • Identify activities that are best designed for an asynchronous mode.

  • Distinguish the difference between "homework" and an asynchronous lesson.

  • Use the concept of wayfinding to design an effective asynchronous lesson.

Getting started (15 minutes)

Take a look at the table below from Global Online Academy that lists some typical activities and whether they are better done synchronously or asynchronously.

synch vs asynch.jpg

Take a few minutes to think back on your experience from this past spring, either as a teacher or as a student, and jot down some notes in response to the following prompt: 


To what extent did the activities you assigned or were assigned during the spring 2020 term align with these recommendations? Write down some examples.

In order to continue to push you to think about the allocation of activities between synchronous and asynchronous times, complete the following sorting activity. Please be sure to take some time to complete the reflection questions at the end of the activity. You will have an opportunity to share your thoughts with your cohort. (Need Help? - Click here for a quick little video showing you how to open and manipulate the objects on the slides)

Homework vs. Asynchronous Work (13 minutes)

Watch this video that defines the differences between "homework" and "asynchronous lessons."

Wayfinding and Design of Asynchronous Lessons (15 minutes)

As part of the learning process, students constantly interact with different materials, resources, and information. In an in-person class, we may start the class with an agenda and goals written on the board, which we also convey verbally along with logistics for the day and a reminder about homework. We project a problem or prompt for students to engage in during a “warm up” exercise. We pass out a printed activity that they work through in a group. We provide guided notes to accompany a lecture or reading. We give a short lecture, which includes a video or demonstration.

In the asynchronous environment, we can no longer use the classroom as the hub from which resources are distributed, and we are no longer at the helm as students access those resources. Instead, our class pages on our LMS (Learning Management System - Canvas, Google Classroom, etc.) and our asynchronous lessons becomes that hub, and students must navigate on their own. For this reason, it’s important that we design our use of the class page and our asynchronous lessons thoughtfully, with the student experience in mind.

Read the following 2 articles on the concept of design as it applies to online class spaces or asynchronous lessons:

Design of an asynchronous lesson (Approximately 30 minutes)

It is your turn now! Begin designing an asynchronous lesson that you could use in the first few weeks of one of your courses. You do not need to complete the lesson by any means, but you do need to start the design process. Using the UbD framework, you should start with the end in mind.

What do you want students to know, to be able to do and to understand at the end of the asynchronous lesson?

Using the information from the video you watched and the articles you have read, begin assembling the components of your asynchronous lesson. If you are really bold, you can record a screencast of the introduction video for your lesson. 

Post your working draft on the Asynchronous Lesson discussion board for feedback.

Respond to a post from a colleague on the same discussion board and provide some helpful feedback. What specifically do you like about the lesson so far? What "have you considered...." questions do you have?

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