What is an asynchronous classroom?

By Allen Emmett

In this week’s blog, I consider what is an asynchronous classroom, and what is the value of an asynchronous classroom.  If you are like me the first time I heard asynchronous classroom I had no clue what the presenter was talking about. In this blog, I will share an explanation and then consider some positives and weakness.

Traditional classroom       

20180419_092333The first day of school the teacher welcomes all of the students to the class and set the rules and gives the first assignment, along with the due date and any chalkboard, whiteboard, or flipped lecture notes or assignments.  Students do their homework. Grades get entered into the grade book be it paper or computer program.  The next day the same routine is repeated, and so goes the year.

If a new student enters, the name goes on the roster and the student begins where the class is.  The class moves through the year. Students move with the calendar.

What about the assignments not completed or material not mastered?  A gap is created but the class must go on; the summative tests will show the non-mastery. Some remediation will be administered but the class must move on.

This is the traditional sequence and the way to keep everybody in step or in other words, synchronized, and on schedule to complete high school in four years.


  • Teacher controls when students study which  topics
  • Fits the assembly line pattern established decades ago
  • Easy to know what work has been done and who is missing work
  • All students are doing the same work
  • Makes it possible to pass high school in four years


  • Teacher controls what topics and when student study
  • Students with absences or are slow learners or already have gaps may not be prepared to learn new material will continue to fall behind and have more gaps
  • No established time to fill-in-the-gaps
  • Students with mastery must follow the class and do needless repetition
  • Students waste time if the students already know the material
  • Students have no early graduations

Asynchronous classrooms   

20180308_094648.jpgIn short, an asynchronous classroom refers to a classroom where students enroll in and move out of according to the amount of time needed to master the material of the course, even to test out of material already mastered by the student.

Asynchronous classrooms have fixed amount of work and time is flexible. Amount of time to complete the course depends on the amount of time used to acquire the skills, learn the knowledge and master and completed the required work.


  • A student can work independently at their own speed and skill level.
  • A student is in control of how long it takes to complete the course.
  • A student could complete courses in a shorter time frame than regular schools.
  • A student could take longer to complete a course than a regular schools.
  • Students graduate when they achieve all the needed credit.
  • More one on one teacher time.
  • The teacher is more like a mentor or “lead learning advisor.”


  • Students unable to work or study independently is not a good fit.
  • Students with time little or not time management skills have difficulties
  • Few opportunities for group discussions and collaborations
  • An asynchronous classroom may have several subjects and/or grade levels
  • The classroom is usually independent study and very little direct instruction
  • The teacher is present in the classroom and helps with clarification and feedback.


Traditional classrooms and asynchronous classrooms are not conflicting pedagogy environments competing for status of which is better or worse.  Asynchronous classrooms are alternative education environments. They allow flexibility in differentiation, reduced class sizes and adjustments to time in school. Emotional needs, anxiety, can be supported.  Teachers have more one on one time.  Asynchronous classrooms can be boon to students who don’t survive in large comprehensive high schools.

Schools with asynchronous classrooms:

Stockton High School, Stockton, California 
Middletown City School District, Middletown, New York




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