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Content Delivery

content delivery

When adapting your content delivery:

  • Make a week-by-week plan for asynchronous and/or synchronous content delivery
  • Review current materials and find opportunities to break them into smaller chunks
  • Ensure that you deliver course content in an accessible way
  • Consider ways to rethink your three-hour classroom lecture time


Synchronous and asynchronous content

With the transition from face-to-face to online teaching, content can be delivered in two ways: synchronously and asynchronously.

Synchronous learning

Synchronous learning enables content to be delivered to students in real time, allowing students to communicate with each other and the instructor at the same time. This learning environment facilitates a classroom community, and increases student motivation (Hrastinski, 2008). Synchronous learning is best for explaining complex information, guest lectures, Q&A sessions, and virtual office hours (Roch & Stracuzz, 2020).

  • Provides a level of engagement that is analogous to face to face classrooms (White, Ramirez, Smith, & Plonowski, 2010)
  • Less structured session that promotes student to student interaction, promotes discussion, and creates a sense of community (Lidstone & Shield, 2010; Roseth, Akcaoglu, & Zellner, 2013)
  • Promotes increased instructor to student interaction
  • Can be used for virtual check-ins to give students the opportunity to ask questions or discuss the content
  • Technical difficulties for students or the instructor may limit the effectiveness of the session (White et al., 2010)
  • Ask yourself whether synchronous sessions are needed to achieve the learning outcomes of the course
  • Accessibility issues (e.g., students in different time zones, students without reliable, high-speed internet, students who are front-line workers) may prevent students from participating in live sessions
  • If you do incorporate synchronous learning into your course, we recommend these sessions be voluntary and recorded for students who could not attend; this helps to maintain equity in the classroom

Asynchronous learning

In asynchronous environments, students engage with the content at their own pace allowing for flexible learning (Hrastinski, 2008). This is particularly important given the competing responsibilities that students may have during this time related to work and family commitments. Although asynchronous learning can be associated with a loss of community and collaboration in the learning experience, there is evidence of increased reflection and processing of course content (Hrastinski, 2008). Asynchronous learning is best for delivering lecture content, ensuring the course is accessible for all students (Roch & Stracuzz, 2020).

  • Flexible content delivery – students can watch pre-recorded modules, or participate in asynchronous activities on their own time (i.e., the learning is self-paced). Because students can engage with the content at their own pace, they can revisit content to review or check their understanding. 
  • Asynchronous learning is a less immediate, lower bandwidth option than synchronous sessions which makes the content more accessible for students who do not have access to reliable, high-speed internet.
  • As student to student interaction is beneficial for the learning experience, consider ways that you can provide these opportunities asynchronously (discussion boards in D2L, Google Chat groups, collaborative Google documents)
  • As positive student to instructor interaction is important for the success of the course, consider ways that you can connect with your students asynchronously (e.g., post an introductory video of yourself, online icebreakers, frequent announcements on D2L Brightspace)
  • Because the learning is self-paced, students may have difficulties with motivation and commitment to engage with the content.

Below are some suggestions for delivering asynchronous content in your course:


Recorded mini-lectures

Including external learning materials

Connecting Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning

In order to maximize the impact of both synchronous and asynchronous learning, it is crucial that all activities are woven together into a clear learning path so that students can make connections between both spaces.

Find ways to bring online work into live sessions, perhaps by showcasing some student submissions or providing an answer to a question posed during the asynchronous learning. Discuss what the next asynchronous modules will entail. 

Conversely, find opportunities to bring the content of the live sessions into the self-paced online portions of the course. Consider starting group work in a live session that can continue throughout the week, or have students complete a reflection activity based on a guest speaker’s presentation. 

When planning course delivery, ask yourself:

  • How will each component connect to the next one in the learning path?
  • How will the live session connect to the online learning?
  • How will the online learning connect to the live session?
  • Is the learning path clear for students?
  • How will you communicate the learning path to your students?

Ask yourself when, why, and how to implement asynchronous and synchronous learning into your course. When you are making these course-design decisions, we recommend implementing low bandwidth and less immediate activities, external link as much as possible to ensure all students can fully participate.

Videoconferencing Alternatives: How low-bandwidth teaching will save us all

Rethinking your three-hour classroom lecture time

The structure of a three-hour lecture is up to the instructor and the norms in their department or faculty. There is value in synchronous and asynchronous learning environments; each environment can be beneficial depending on the learning outcomes of the course and the type of content being delivered. You may choose to deliver your course completely asynchronously, or you may consider a blended approach that incorporates both asynchronous and synchronous delivery.

Asynchronous activities include: readings, pre-recorded modules/lectures, self-paced activities (such a listening to podcasts, watching videos, exploring websites), quizzes/tests/exams, and assignments.  Synchronous activities include: collaborative activities (such as debates, role play, think-pair-share)  Activities that can be done either synchronously or asynchronously include: lab/equipment demonstrations, practice problems, small and large group discussions, guest lectures, student presentations, group work, and group check-ins.

For more information on asynchronous and synchronous learning environments and their respective advantages and disadvantages, take a look at this PDF fileinfographic from Concordia University (PDF), external link.

Structuring a three-hour lecture

If you are considering a blended approach, here are some examples to structure your three-hour lecture:


Asynchronous learning

Synchronous learning

Example A

  • 1 hr: self-paced activities
  • 1 hr: collaborative activities
  • 1 hr: live group check-in

Example B

  • 2 hrs: self-paced activities
  • 30 mins: lab demonstration
  • 30 mins: live Q&A

Example C

  • 1 hr: self-paced activities
  • 1 hr: group discussion
  • 1 hr: group work

For ideas on how to structure asynchronous learning, try these google docfive sample structures of self-paced activities., external link