Online communication synchrony

Remote Teaching

Online communication synchrony

Online communication synchrony

When working online, communication will change. You have to find new ways to get in touch with your students and rethink when you share what, and what channel you are using for this. There are two different ways of communicating in online education:

  • Asynchronous: different time, different place
  • Synchronous: same time, different place

Although university education at Leiden is in general centred around synchronous and face-to-face meetings, there are many other options available if we start considering asynchronous methods, such as forums, discussions boards, chats and pre-recorded lectures and presentations. Working with these alternative methods will allow you to spend more time on guiding and teaching your students to become academic professionals. Note that both synchronous and asynchronous elements can take place online.

Synchronous communication will always be important in online education, for example when providing feedback or supervising assignments, but adding some asynchronous methods to your course or lectures can have many benefits compared to their synchronous variant. These are listed below per activity.


  • Teaching in smaller time frames (videos are max 8 min) is not as exhausting as a live session and therefore quality is likely to improve.
  • There is less dependence on a stable connection.
  • Recorded materials can be reused many times (and are less likely to include video-bombing cats or interrupting housemates).
  • The planning and structure are pre-determined, so you can be sure to cover all the content and activities you want to.
  • You can ask students to prepare elements of the course (e.g. videos, screencasts or podcasts) as well.

Discussion forums

  • There is more time to write contributions and reflect upon them.
  • It allows students to find academic resources while contributing to a discussion.
  • Written discussions can be studied later in preparation for exams or be used as a reference.
  • There can be multiple discussions taking place at the same time and students can join multiple discussions if they want.

Self-regulation skills & attitudes

  • It stimulates the growth of self-regulation and autonomy for students.
  • For some students, it might be easier to participate in a written discussion, as opposed to being in a synchronous situation.

Practical considerations

  • When you are teaching within different time zones, a-synchronous teaching is the way to go.
  • Since you will be spending less time addressing all students at once, in which case not much interaction is taking place, there will be more time available to guide students, be involved with the content, provide feedback and supervise assignments. You thus use the available time for synchronous teaching differently.
  • You are less likely to bump into critical internet problems, as you are not as dependent on a stable connection. You can upload or react a couple of minutes later without a problem.
  • It can be a huge benefit to work on a more flexible pace, also for students who might be combining their study with jobs, living with roommates, having health issues, or are taking care of others.