Encouraging Student Collaboration Across Different Time Zones

Preparing for the Hybrid Future

It’s Spring 2022, and as the pandemic is finally drawing to a close, more and more schools and organizations are beginning to opt for hybrid learning environments, allowing students and employees to make their own decisions about when they wish to be physically present. In this changing landscape, educators must reevaluate how to effectively engage their students who are living abroad and working in different time zones. Enter asynchronous learning. 

Removing ‘Time’ from the Equation 

Asynchronous learning describes the process of teaching and learning in a technology mediated environment that does not require the teacher and learner to interact at the same time. Instead, students are able to interact in delayed time, and at their own convenience (Dziuban,2007; Johnson, 2006; Rovy, 2001). This unique ability of learning at their own convenience allows students to realize a number of benefits, including: (Branon & Essex, 2001; DeNeui & Dodge, 2006)

  • Engaging in a more thoughtful discussion over a longer period of time
  • Interacting with students in different parts of the world at various times of day

Asynchronous learning is especially beneficial when engaging students in developing countries, as many do not have a consistent access to the internet making it difficult to adhere to a fixed schedule and hard due dates (Borup, West, & Graham, 2012; Johnson, 2006). By allowing these students to log in and complete work at times that are most convenient for them, we provide them a fair opportunity to be successful. Check out this article for an in depth analysis of asynchronous learning’s biggest benefits and challenges. 

Effective Habits to Engage Students in Different Time Zones 

Asynchronous teaching has the opportunity to yield even greater results in students' understanding and retention than typical classrooms, but it must be implemented effectively to prevent failure. Following these four simple steps will ensure a successful asynchronous environment, and will help students realize the greatest learning outcomes. 

Step 1- Providing Students with an Abundance of Resources 

Because asynchronous learning enables students to complete work at their own convenience, they are no longer confined to what can only be taught during a predetermined lecture time. Instead, they now have the opportunity and flexibility to explore topics on their own merit, as in depth as they desire, and in various different ways. Providing students with an abundance of resources to explore, considerably more than in a standard classroom, enables students to reach their maximum potential and explore their curiosity of new topics far greater than they otherwise would. When determining student satisfaction in an asynchronous environment, educators must consider how students perceived the usefulness of the learning resources available to them (Allen, 2002; Hrastinski, 2008; Rovy & Essex, 2001). 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. 

Step 2 - Being Flexible and Having Loose Deadlines 

A key element to the successful implementation of asynchronous learning is being flexible and understanding. 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. 

With students completing work at various times of the day, it is difficult to adhere to fixed deadlines, especially when a collaborative approach is required. Professors need to be understanding and accepting of student specific issues, as working from home can create unforeseen detriments to productivity and students need to know they are still supported. This 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 behavior (Li, Greenberg, & Nicholls, 2007). Because interactions are not in real time, students have the opportunity to absorb and consider information before responding, which encourages more comprehensive contributions and a deeper level of understanding of course content (Li, Greenberg, & Nicholls, 2007). 

Step 3 - Engage Students with Group-Based Learning and Peer Assessment 

Utilizing groups and implementing peer assessment are easy and effective ways to engage students across different time zones. Interaction between students in an online learning environment promotes both knowledge sharing and personal reflection, and does so in an open and interactive way that is great for learning (Rovy & Essex, 2001).  A big reason for this is that students are internally motivated by interactions with other students, and more importantly the sharing of ideas through experiences and critical reflection (Kolb & Kolb, 2005). Providing students from all over the world an opportunity to collaborate truly opens the doors for deeper and more thoughtful discussions, which in turn provide a richer learning. 

“By sharing this feedback and building off of each other, it [Kritik] promotes the sense of storytelling and also discovery and creation. I end up learning a lot from other students because we have a very multi-national student body. It’s a totally different world and students bring those kinds of experiences into the classroom.”     - Dr. Michael Jones  See more here. 

Step 4 - Provide Opportunities for Students to be Supported 24/7, Wherever they are

A simple, but often overlooked aspect of asynchronous learning environments is the ability to be supported in real time. Students often develop anxiety around virtual work, because they fear they will not have the necessary support when they need it most, or they will be stuck on their own with no one available to help them. These are logical fears and they negatively affect the quality of work a student is able to produce. This means that having a 24/7 support system with a real human being is extremely important for helping students feel comfortable. At Kritik, we pride ourselves in supporting our customers and ensure we always have someone monitoring the live chat to provide real time personalized support to anyone in need. 

Individual Institutions with a Global Outreach 

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we must be flexible and adaptive to the constantly changing education landscape. As we return to the new version of normal, hybrid environments will become more prominent, and so must asynchronous learning which can bring on many great benefits. Providing students with an abundance of resources to work through at their own pace allows them to explore their interests in greater depth and develop a stronger understanding of the topics that matter most to them. Having flexible deadlines ensures that students are in their best head space when they log on to complete work, and results in more thoughtful contributions. Utilizing groups and peer assessment expose students of various different cultures to each other's experiences and paves the way for valuable personal reflection. Finally, by providing real time support, students feel protected and are able to produce their best work in confidence. Following these four simple steps will not only help you overcome any time zone teaching challenges, but it will also ensure a great opportunity for students to collaborate with a diverse group of individuals from all over the world. Take away the pains of teaching across different time zones and help your students thrive wherever they are with Kritik. 

References

Borup, J., West, R., & Graham, C. (2012). Improving online social presence through asynchronous video. Internet and Higher Education

Branon, R. F., & Essex, C. (2001). Synchronous and asynchronous communication tools in distance education. TechTrends

DeNeui, D. L., & Dodge, T. L. (2006). Asynchronous learning networks and student outcomes: The utility of online learning components in hybrid courses. Journal of Instructional Psychology

Dziuban, C., Moskal, P., Brophy, J., & Shea, P. (2007). Student satisfaction with asynchronous learning. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks

Hrastinski, S. (2008). Asynchronous and synchronous e-learning. Educause Quarterly

Kolb, A. Y., & Kolb, D. A. (2005). Learning styles and learning spaces: Enhancing experiential learning in higher education. Academy of Management Learning & Education

Larbi-Siaw, O., Owusu-Agyeman, Y. (2017, May 17). Miscellany of Students’ Satisfaction in an Asynchronous Learning Environment. Journal of Educational Technology Systems. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0047239516667499

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

Johnson, G. M. (2006). Synchronous and asynchronous text-based CMC in educational contexts: A review of recent research. Tech Trends

Northey, G., Bucic, T., Chylinski, M., Govind, R. (2015, June 4). Increasing Student Engagement Using Asynchronous Learning. Journal of Marketing Education. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0273475315589814

Rovy, B., & Essex, C. (2001). Synchronous and asynchronous communication tools in distance education. Tech Trends

Dirk Holtshousen
Education Researcher

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