How to Encourage Student Collaboration across Time Zones

It’s Spring 2022, and as the pandemic is finally closing, more and more schools and organizations are beginning to opt for hybrid learning environments, giving students and instructors the flexibility to learn from the campus or anywhere in the world. This changing landscape calls for a shift in teaching pedagogies that effectively engages with students living abroad and working across different time zones. Enter asynchronous learning!

This need will see asynchronous learning taking centre stage in higher education. Here’s what we will be covering in this article:

  • 7 Strategies that Instructors can implement when teaching across Time Zones
  • 5 Ways to Encourage Collaboration among Students in different Time Zones

7 Strategies that Instructors can implement when teaching across Time Zones

1. Record all lectures

Instructors using asynchronous learning methods can record lecture videos and send them to their students. When they do this, they are building an inclusive learning practice that gives access to course material to students based in different time zones. Students can learn at their own pace and watch the recording multiple times. This helps students increase comprehension and results in higher retention. 

2. Provide all materials ahead of time

By sharing lecture resources well in advance, instructors can give students enough time to prepare for the next lecture. This gives students the opportunity and flexibility to explore topics on their own merit, as in-depth as they desire, and in various different ways. When students believe that the resources provided are both adequate and beneficial to their learning, their confidence will increase along with their eagerness to learn.

“When determining student satisfaction in an asynchronous environment, educators must consider how students perceived the usefulness of the learning resources available to them.”  -Allen, Hrasrinski, Rovy & Essex[1]

3. Regularly communicate deadlines 

Communicating often and on time will ensure that students are well-prepared to succeed in their courses. This allows students to schedule their work as per the deadlines set by the instructor in advance. 

4. Periodic Check-ins on Student Progress

Checking in on students' progress via small timely assessments helps understand learning gaps, if any. This avoids delays in teaching schedules and allows the instructor to communicate with all their students, irrespective of time zones, effectively. 

5. Give multiple options to provide an Inclusive Learning Environment

Adopting strategies that ensure equal participation and opportunities is key to the success of the course. By allowing students to log in and complete work at times that are most convenient for them or giving them a choice of how they want to present their work, instructors can ensure that students are getting a fair opportunity to be successful.

💡Pro Tip: Asynchronous learning is especially beneficial when engaging students in developing countries, as many do not have consistent access to the internet, making it difficult to adhere to a fixed schedule and hard due dates.[2]

6. Stay organized and plan ahead

Giving students pre-recorded videos with discussion points beforehand can help manage classroom time efficiently. Students who can’t make it to the class can benefit from hearing their peers' discussion, which adds to their learning. 

7. Be flexible 

Since students might take up a course under varying circumstances, like working a part-time job, managing their business or caring for a family member, flexible deadlines help with the successful implementation of asynchronous learning. This may look like having softer deadlines, increasing the margin of acceptance for late submissions, or even utilizing a grace period, all of which are included in Kritik.

💡Pro Tip: A flexible approach helps to facilitate more effective learning, as when logging on at a self-determined time of readiness, students become more focused on task-specific learning behaviour[3]. As interactions are not in real-time, students have the opportunity to absorb and consider the information before responding, which encourages more comprehensive contributions and a deeper level of understanding of course content[4].

5 Ways to Encourage Collaboration among Students in different Time Zones

Making an engaging asynchronous learning experience starts with giving students enough collaboration opportunities. Keeping in mind that students may be working through varying schedules, here are some ways instructors can implement collaboration opportunities in their course design:

1. Group work

When working with students from across the globe, they have access to different ways of thinking. By including group assignments in the course design, students can solve problems together as a team. Irrespective of the class size, the instructor can assign presentations, discussions, debates, dialogue creation and several other activity types.

💡Pro Tip: For better engagement, instructors can create groups on a rotational basis. When students work with new people every time, it enhances their level of comfort and understanding among them.

Engage students while teaching asynchronous classes.

2. Discussions

Discussion board activities are a great way of getting students to participate in activities. Instructors can ask students to reflect on the topics/lectures learned within the last 24-hour period. This helps students who learn in different time zones to optimize their learning as they discuss pre-recorded class videos. 

3. Peer Assessment

Peer assessment ensures engagement while allowing students to get the most out of their learning. When students get to see each others’ work and give critical feedback, it helps to improve the quality of their submissions.

💡Pro Tip: Instructors using Kritik can guide students with a rubric to do effective evaluations. Students learn to see what to look for in an assignment and reflect on their own work.

Drive successful peer assessment with these methods. 

4. Award points for Class Participation

Awarding points for meaningful contributions to a class discussion can ensure engagement. This encourages shy and timid students to speak up and share their ideas.

Here are ways to improve class participation.

5. Office Hours to accommodate students across time zones

Since students are spread out across time zones, offering extended office hours to accommodate everyone makes the instructor more accessible. Students appreciate 1:1 time with the instructor to ask questions they may hesitate to ask during class.

Build Engaging Asynchronous Learning Environments with Kritik!

If the pandemic has taught us anything, learning can happen from anywhere. Asynchronous learning is here to stay due to accessibility and affordability. The code that remains to be cracked is student engagement, and peer assessment provides a scalable approach to solve this problem.

Schedule a demo with Kritik to help you deliver effective learning experiences across time zones.


[1] Branon, R.F., Essex, C. Synchronous and asynchronous communication tools in distance education. TECHTRENDS TECH TRENDS 45, 36 (2001).

[2] Borup, J., West, R., & Graham, C. (2012). Improving Online Social Presence through Asynchronous Video. Internet and Higher Education

[3], [4] Li, T., Greenberg, B., & Nicholls, J. (2007). Teaching experiential learning: Adoption of an innovative course in an MBA marketing curriculum. Journal of Marketing Education

Dirk Holtshousen
Education Researcher