Tools for Online Asynchronous Learning

Computer and books

For anyone who has taught face-to-face classes, making the transition to fully online may feel completely overwhelming. Course writers and instructors alike might find themselves asking questions such as, “How will I translate my classroom materials—activities or laboratory experiences—in a way that will benefit the online student? How will I generate discussion and engagement between students? How will I take an adaptive approach to teaching?” For many, the online platform makes these considerations feel far more daunting than they need be. The following information includes ways to transition to asynchronous learning.

Instructional Activities

  • Lectures or Presentations: If you lecture or use PowerPoints in your class ask yourself, “why does it need to be a video”? Start with your current presentation and make a few modifications in the organization, information presented, and how the information is conveyed. You can create a concise, logically organized, visual presentation for the asynchronous online learner. For example:
    • Create videos (Movenote, Moovly), podcasts (Audacity, Podbean), narrative PowerPoint presentations or other multimedia. Pre-write a script. A script helps you focus and organize the materials in your presentation. It ensures that no vital information is left out and doesn’t allow you to throw in extraneous information. It’s never too late to begin familiarizing yourself with recording options. Scripts are also a great additional resource to post—some students appreciate having a transcript while others require it due to a learning difference.
    • Ask yourself why it needs to be lecture? There is always the option to not lecture. Consider taking your lectures or PowerPoints and turning them into documents, such as an eBook.
  • Demonstrations: Class demonstrations are a great strategy for capturing student interest. They introduce students to equipment or materials by demonstrating how they’re used, and they increase students’ engagement with a concept. Record your demonstration as a video clip or develop a document with step-by-step illustrations. To ensure that your videos are accessible, add transcriptions or closed captioning. By publishing your video to sites such as YouTube, you can upload transcripts or create auto captioning and edit as necessary.
  • Group Activities: While there’s no doubt that students benefit from group work, in the online environment group work can present both the instructor and students with a different set of challenges. To help facilitate group dynamics and overcome barriers to online group work:
    • Provide students with tools for online collaboration (such as Google Docs, Dropbox), video conferencing tools (Google Hangout, Skype, Zoom), and/or a platform for brainstorming ideas (Padlet, Mindmeister). You will notice that students often find their own ways to collaborate effectively given their circumstances.
  • Simulations: Resources such as animations, video clips, or other multimedia are freely available or available for low-cost through MERLOT, WikiMedia, or from professional societies.
  • Student Presentations: both formal and informal presentations where students prepare and present a speech, and then respond to questions or critiques are invaluable learning experiences. Media such as VoiceThread, Flipgrid, Screencast-o-matic, students can record their presentation and share the link with the class.
  • Discussions: Student-to-student and student-to-instructor dialogue can occur outside the standard discussion board within a learning management system. One of the most significant transitions from face-to-face teaching is the loss of in-class discussion. In an asynchronous online course, faculty can employ discussion boards to foster dialogue. While some faculty are skeptical about their value, when used effectively, they provide unique opportunities for students to engage with you, each other, and the content.” Alternatives to traditional discussion boards include blogs, journals, portfolios, Wikis, or even social media.
  • In-Class Practice Activities: Add self-check questions to videos or lecture materials using interactive presentation tools (Nearpod, ClassFlow). Alternatively, online learning activities such as word puzzles, jeopardy, audio flashcards, or quizzes can be created (Quizlet, Jeopardy Labs, StudyStack).
  • Quizzes/Exams: Students appreciate frequent feedback on their success in a course. Automatically scoring quizzes can be used to provide students with immediate feedback. Quizzes also are great for formative assessments as they provide you with a glimpse of how well students are meeting the course objectives.


Asynchronous learning gives students the opportunity to learn from anywhere and at any time. While this can be scary for someone designing or teaching their online course, remember that with a few modifications to your existing course materials, taking your course fully online can be a rewarding experience. Engagement, communication, and community all look different in the online classroom, but, by using some of the tools discussed here, you can continue making meaningful connections with your students.


Clinefelter, D. L. & Aslanian, C. B., (2016). Online college students 2016: Comprehensive data on demands and preferences. Louisville, KY: The Learning House, Inc.

Posted December 6, 2017
Author Joann Lau