Support from FASE's Education Technology Office

Choose your course modalities

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Most courses are a mix of modalities, with both collaborative, real-time activities and individual, self-paced activities. This mix is determined by considering your high level learning outcomes, while remembering that neither modality is better than the other. The goal is to come up with activities that meet your goals and that you feel confident in achieving, within the constraints of your design process (e.g. time, resources, funding, etc.).

You could also consider:

  • class size
  • required instructor to student interaction
  • required student to student interaction
  • necessity to schedule class at a specific time
  • your comfort with managing live sessions

1. Things to consider when choosing between asynchronous and synchronous activities



Learning activities are done in own time, individually

Learning activities are done in groups, in real time, often with teaching teams present
Does not involve teaching team supervision Involves teaching team supervision and monitoring
Greater flexibility and autonomy for students; can determine their own schedule and workload Less flexibility, but direct, timely feedback and learning intervention
Used to share content (e.g. videos) Used to facilitate collaboration (e.g. tutorials, discussions)
Class-size is irrelevant Class-size can make it difficult to moderate, impede effectiveness and overload tools (e.g. webinar applications)
Requires creation of content (e.g. videos) or activities (e.g. discussion boards) in advance; can be very time consuming Requires real time moderation; often unpredictable; must be confident running activity and using tools

2. Examples of each type of modality

These examples are by no means exhaustive, just a few commonly used activities to consider. The tools suggested below are all included as part of the Quercus Academic Toolbox.

Asynchronous Synchronous

Develop structured mini-lectures (e.g. flipped classroom model; see self-recorded and assisted video production services at Engineering)

Facilitated, interactive discussions (e.g. webinars; prepare for synchronous sessions)
Create a course orientation video (e.g. walking students through your syllabus and giving them a tour of your Quercus course; see How to record a video in an announcement) Live student presentations (e.g. using Teams)
Create discussion gradeboards (e.g. see What are Discussions?; how to assign a graded discussion) Conduct online office hours or other small groups meetings and consultation (see Microsoft Teams Meetings integration)
Staged peer review (e.g. using PeerScholar) Live polling/quizzing during sessions to provide formative feedback (e.g. Microsoft Forms; part of O365)

3. Watch CTSI's video: Moving Online: Synchronous and Asynchronous Video Options (6:12 min run time)

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