#25: Time is on My Side (Summer Shorts)

Welcome to Wired Ivy… Summer Shorts! I’m Kieran, and today we’re going to explore time and relativity as they pertain to teaching synchronous, asynchronous, and self-paced courses.

I know this is hard to believe, given what comes out of the 24-7 media fire hydrant we’re all tapped into, whether we try to be or not, but there’s plenty of evidence that our species is experiencing a kind of golden age of peaceful cooperation. Not for each and every person, of course, but your odds are better now than at any time in history.

We like the idea of living in peace… but apparently we also miss the thrill of a rivalry, the camaraderie a shared enemy creates. Why else do we constantly grasp for ways to sort into us-vs-them, town-vs-gown, Harvard-vs-Yale, beer-vs-wine?

And now, it seems there’s a new showdown brewing on campus: Team Sync, Team Async, and running as an Independent candidate, Team Self-Paced. Fans of each are sorting themselves out on the sidelines and, I gotta be honest with ya, if Self-Paced wins it will be a Cinderella story for the ages.

Like so many conflicts, the adversaries are more similar than different. Look past the uniforms and the grudges and you’ll find the line drawn between them is about as solid as chalk on a playing field.

Comparisons of real-time and pre-recorded course delivery options are framed in binary terms, like we do: all together, or all on your own. But that’s a false dichotomy. Because, seriously, when was the last time you attended, or taught, a 100% synchronous course, if ever?

When we say a course is taught synchronously, what we really mean is that one or more of the contact hour activities take place in real-time, and we’re choosing to focus on that single component as defining, even though concurrent is only part of the lesson plan. There are also assigned readings, homework, group projects, take-home exams, all of which probably do not take place during scheduled class time. 

Sync and async are a spectrum, not two sides of a coin. 100% synchronous, mythical creature though it may be, is on one end of the continuum and on the other end is… not so fast! It isn’t asynchronous, not even 100% asynchronous, because this delivery model still has assignment deadlines that are the same day and time for everyone in the class. No, the polar opposite of synchronous delivery is self-paced, although even then there are variations in how much time a student can take to complete individual assignments and the entire course.

The flipped classroom is on that spectrum, too. Exactly where it falls between the terminal points depends on the amounts of real-time and independent components the instructor folds into the syllabus… same as for every other class, whether it’s taught in a room with brick and plaster walls, or in a room on a Zoom app, or a virtual room in a cloud made of computer hardware.

Let’s hear what you have to say!  Send us your questions, comments, and suggestions!  You can leave a voice message at speakpipe.com/wiredivy or send an email to kieran@wiredivy.org or dan@wiredivy.org. And help Wired Ivy grow by sharing, subscribing, rating, and reviewing us on your favorite podcast app.. 


Asynchronous learning is a general term used to describe forms of education, instruction, and learning that occur without students and teacher together in the same place at the same time.

A flipped classroom is an instructional strategy in which students often watch pre-recorded lectures prior to coming to the physical classroom so face-to-face time can be used for discussion, applying concepts to specific situations, help with homework, and other forms of active learning, rather than for the more passive activities of listening and note-taking.

Self-paced instruction is an educational design approach based on learner response. The student proceeds from one topic or module to the next at their own speed, rather than in a cohort of students simultaneously enrolled in the same class.

Synchronous learning refers to an educational activity in which a group of students participate together, in the same place and at the same time, usually with the teacher present as well.

Next up on the Wired Ivy virtual Summer Shorts music festival stage… give it up for Rolling Stones!

The Rolling Stones – Time is On My Side (1964)

Wired Ivy is wholly owned by Kieran Lindsey and Daniel Marcucci, and we are solely responsible for its content.   Views expressed in this podcast and affiliated media are those of Kieran, Dan, and our guests, and do not represent Virginia Tech or any other institution.  Our audio engineer is Star Path Images, and a license for our theme music, Breakfast with You, was purchased from SmartSound.

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