Asynchronous Teaching

Asynchronous [remote] learning, commonly facilitated by media such as e-mail and discussion boards, supports work relations among learners and with teachers, even when participants cannot be online at the same time. It is thus a key component of flexible [remote] learning…Asynchronous [remote] learning makes it possible for learners to log on to an e-learning environment at any time and download documents or send messages to teachers or peers. Students may spend more time refining their contributions, which are generally considered more thoughtful compared to synchronous communication.” (Hrastinski, 2008).

Check out this Smeal Academy Session about Student Engagement for Remote Instruction (Part 2) for some asynchronous strategies to increase student engagement.

When Should I Deliver Instruction Asynchronously?

Asynchronous instruction works well for independent learning of content and course concepts. This method gives students and faculty maximum flexibility for their learning schedule and reduced technical difficulties associated with live-streamed events.


  • Allows for personalized learning – This method gives students and faculty maximum flexibility for their learning schedule and engagement with tools.
  • Students can take time to watch and/or read course material, think and reflect before answering questions or joining discussions.
  • This format will have minimal technology disruption because of its flexibility.


  • Be sure to provide a “channel” (such as Canvas discussions) and guidelines for students to ask questions and find help.
  • Avoid just sharing PowerPoint and other files without explanation of how everything is connected. Remember to explain how students should utilize these resources as you would in a face-to-face class setting.
  • Consider including a “netiquette” statement in your syllabus so students are clear about your expectations for asynchronous discussion and engagement.


  • Consider creating shorter instructor videos of lecture content (ideally videos are no longer than 5-7 minutes). Research shows that students will watch a larger percentage of course videos that are shorter versus longer (Brame, 2016).
  • Create advanced organizer lesson pages in Canvas to guide students through lesson tasks outlining what they should read, watch, do, and discuss. Here are the instructions for creating a Canvas lesson like this:

Screen Shot of a Canvas page with a lesson that includes the following sections: 1. Lesson Overview, 2. Lesson Objectives, 3. Things to Do, 3a. Read, 3b. Watch, 3c. Do, 3d. Discuss
Screen Shot example of a Canvas “advanced organizer” lesson page.

  • Use Canvas discussions to allow students to engage more deeply with the content and interact with one another and with their instructor(s).
  • Use regular (typicaly weekly or bi-weekly) Canvas Announcements to recap general assignment concepts and to remind students about important tasks and topics for the week.
  • Set up Canvas assignment drop boxes and quizzes with instructions and due dates for all deliverables.
  • Use third-party videos and content so you don’t have to create everything on your own.
  • Use readings from the library and from online resources. Remember that you can use up to 15% of any textbook for teaching purposes under the TEACH Act.
  • Consider collaborating with colleagues teaching the same courses or course concepts to share the workload.
  • Create a course schedule document to give students an at-a-glance view of course lessons and assignments.
  • If you use a publisher’s homework platform, consider adding a link to that platform on your Canvas course navigation.

Key Asynchronous Instruction Tools

  • Canvas
  • Zoom
  • Kaltura

Learn More: Tools and Resources

Use Zoom to record lectures or occasional live sessions and share them in one of the following ways:

Kaltura is Penn State’s enterprise-level, cloud-based media management platform for storing, publishing, and streaming videos, video collections, and other media. Kaltura will work in tandem with Zoom, the University’s conferencing system, to help users record, store, and stream media. You can share Kaltura recordings in Canvas and even capture student analytics if you want to verify whether your students have watched your class videos.

Works Cited

Brame C. J. (2016). Effective Educational Videos: Principles and Guidelines for Maximizing Student Learning from Video Content. CBE life sciences education, 15(4), es6. Hrastinski, S. (2008, November 17). Asynchronous and Synchronous E-Learning.