Independent Learning through Asynchronous Instruction

The current state of education has provided educators with an opportunity to teach in a whole new way. Most teachers have decided to teach remotely, which involves primarily teaching through a video conferencing tool such as skype. However, some teachers have chosen to be a little more adventurous and use asynchronous learning through prerecorded videos, which allows students to learn independently.

This post will go over the pros and cons of using prerecorded videos and tips for how to be successful when using this approach.


There are several benefits to going entirely into e-learning with prerecorded videos. The most substantial benefit, and this post’s theme, is the benefit of students becoming totally independent learners. When students are expected to log in, watch videos, and complete assignments without supervision, it provides them with an experience of being almost totally in charge of their learning. For many students, this is an unusual experience. Most students are used to the teacher being right there to share content, motivate, and provide instantaneous informal feedback. As such, students cannot learn on their own in many situations.

For many teachers, education aims to develop students who can learn independently without the teacher after their students. People are looking for individuals who can acquire information and judge its validity based on their thought processes. Developing these skills needs to be guided, but there is also a benefit to a sink and swim experience.

A second significant benefit of prerecorded videos is the avoidance of zoom fatigue. Remote learning has its own set of challenges and among them is how draining the experience can be. When students are expected to sit through a live lecture online, it is hard to stay focused. We have all fallen to the temptation of checking emails, surfing the web, or even merely logging in and walking away during online meetings or video conferencing.

With prerecorded videos, this is no longer a problem. Students watch 10-15 minutes worth of videos, complete some activity and move to the next video. If they want a break, they can take it whenever they wish in-between videos or even during the videos by hitting the pause button.

A final benefit of prerecorded videos is the engagement. When making prerecorded videos, it is often possible to insert questions during the video that the student has to answer. Having to answer these simple questions forces a student to pay attention and be engaged. In a regular classroom, a teacher might ask one student a question while everyone else is disengaged. With prerecorded videos, everyone is asked the question and responds appropriately to earn the points they want for their grade.


There are naturally some drawbacks to an entirely asynchronous experience. The biggest problem may be student frustration. Most students have never had such an experience, as mentioned earlier. This can lead to a shock experience for students who are new to this. They may conclude that the teacher is not doing their job or does not care etc. However, when the experience is over and everything is explained, students are often more supported by this type of learning when they see the skills they have developed.

A common problem for the teacher is not having a strong sense of how the students are doing. Of course, the teacher marks assignments, but something is unnerving of not answer questions directly or seeing that look of confusion on a student’s face when they do not understand. Many teachers cannot tolerate this and will use videoconferencing just to be in “touch” with the students. This is not wrong, but a unique opportunity for developing autonomy is missed in such a situation.

Another problem is that students take longer to do everything when they have to do it themselves. This leads to a perception that the teacher has given more work when the content is asynchronous, even if the teacher timed how long it should take to do something. It is important to remember that now all students have to do everything themselves, and this heightened responsibility gives the impression of more work. This needs to be explained to the students, so they do not overreact to the autonomous learning process.

Perhaps the biggest drawback is something that mainly affects the teacher, and this is the massive amount of preparation that goes into planning and developing prerecorded videos. Unless you have help, a teacher will have to do the following to make prerecorded videos

  • Plan all content for each video
  • Determine the approximate length of each video
  • Edit videos when necessary
  • Make sure not to go over the lecture hours in a given week of the syllabus
  • Upload videos
  • Embed videos into the LMS
  • Insert the questions into the videos to encourage interaction
  • Mark all related assignments

Most of this is already part of the job. However, with videoconferencing, there is more of a free flow to completing much of this as it is happening in real-time. AS such, the amount of prep work can be too much for many people to do alone. However, once it’s done, the content only needs minor revisions and can be useful for awhile.


Here are some tips to help students have success with asynchronous learning.

Set a schedule. Encourage students to study during the regular class time that was set aside in the course schedule. They are already used to this, and it will help them to manage their time. Of course, they can complete assignments whenever they want as long as they complete them before they are due.

Be Strict. The teacher must make sure the students are moving together through the content. This means that assignments need to be submitted on time. It is easy for students to be spread out with different people working on other chapters or weeks in the course, and the teacher has to keep track of people who are all over the place. In addition, once a student falls behind several weeks, there is little hope they will catch up.

To alleviate this, assignments from last week should be submitted during the current week so that students are up to date. Therefore, a ruthless late policy is needed to motivate students to stay current on assignments. It is also necessary to contact students when they do not complete assignments so they know they are being held responsible.

Give feedback quickly. Students are alone and isolated. They want to do how they are doing, and it is the teacher’s job to provide this. Therefore, the teacher has to be updating the grade book weekly as this serves as a form of communication with the students. This helps the teacher know how everyone is doing so that struggling students can be contacted through messaging or email for follow-up.

Communicate Frequently. Constant communication is needed when teaching 100% asynchronously. When students ask questions, they should be answered immediately, especially during regular business hours. The teacher also needs to provide frequent announcements to the class about major assignments are adjustments to the course. Teaching online means being at your desk and dealing with inquiries in real-time because this establishes a presence in the online learning environment.

Fix problems Fast. If something is not working in the LMS or the course, the teacher needs to immediately deal with this. Remember that frustration grows fast when students are alone like this, and it is the teacher’s responsibility to make sure everything is running smoothly. Let the students be your eyes and ears for broken links and other tech problems while you address how to solve them.


Online learning provides an opportunity for students to learn in a way that is unfamiliar to them. A natural extension of this point is that online learning is a new experience for many teachers. This medium of instruction provides students with a chance to learn independently and for the teacher to focus more on being a facilitator of learning rather than the controller of it.

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