Got your attention? Great. This sounds like an extreme statement, and I agree it is. I make this statement based on my experience of being a student taking asynchronous sessions and as a coach designing professional learning opportunities for educators. Also when I say 'doesn't work' what I mean is that it isn't the most optimal design for motivating and engaging learning. Let me explain.
It's all about connection
I believe the most critical component of any learning environment is the connection and community that makes learning real. When I am in a professional learning session, say a workshop or conference session for example, I get more out of it when I somehow connect to the other participants and the person leading the session. Feeling this connection is definitely possible in an online synchronous session. This type of session might start off with a 'how are you feeling' today rating discussion.
So what might be the solution?
- Create a session that includes both synchronous and asynchronous components.
- Conduct an initial 'kickoff' synchronous session where the participants can meet and start getting to know each other. They also get an overview of class expectations and know how to get support as they need it.
- Design asynchronous work that allows the authentic application of the learning goals. Also, have them be prepared to share when we meet again.
- Weekly check-ins work best. If the class is 3 weeks long then you would design an initial kickoff, with two more sessions, one every week. These sessions would include a scaffolded approach, as well as time for sharing and collaborating. (to continue building your community)