When it comes to online learning, students employ synchronous and asynchronous communication to get their work done.
The word synchronous means working together at the same time, and in the online learning world, chat rooms and online conferences are good examples of synchronous communication. In a chat room, people's comments to each other are relayed immediately, enabling a real-time discourse. Similarly, online conferencing with the benefit of voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) tools enable real-time conversations to take place online. Learning from synchronous communication is enhanced because real-time conversations allow people to explore, through writing or talking, the class concepts. The act of verbalizing helps students build bridges between different ideas and concepts, thus helping them retain information more effectively.
Asynchronous communication is the relay of information with a time lag. Discussion forums and email are two examples of how asynchronous communication is employed in online learning. It is very helpful to communicate in this way, because students have plenty of time to formulate thoughts. By communicating via email, students are able to respond in detail to a question or topic that they might have answered incompletely in a real-time conversation. This time lag in communication helps students internalize information by giving them time to research certain ideas or merely extra time for contemplation. The main disadvantage to asynchronous communication is time lost waiting for a response.