By Nandini Agarwal, February 11 2021—
Before the world turned upside down and we were able to interact with strangers without the fear of coronavirus, we were also attending lectures that were in-person and synchronous. But since classes moved online, there has been an increase in asynchronous lectures, meaning students are responsible for learning the material on their own time while sitting in front of a screen for multiple hours each day. So, my question is — how effective are asynchronous lectures and are they even necessary?
I have had the best of both worlds in terms of lectures and have never experienced a fully asynchronous lecture. I wake up at 7 a.m. every day to attend synchronous lectures, so my judgement would be poor and biased.
So I reached out to a number of students for their opinion on the delivery of courses and what their thoughts were on asynchronous lectures. The majority of students I spoke to believed that asynchronous lectures can be effective if done right. However, there are moments when the professors fail to meet the criteria for a healthy learning environment through an online and asynchronous delivery of course material.
While sharing his opinion on the topic, Chris Wu, a third-year student, emphasized the need for the asynchronous lectures because “they’re needed for our international friends.”
“For example, if I’m based in India, with a 12-hour time difference, a synchronous lecture based in Calgary will mess up my sleep schedule,” he said.
On the other hand, Amna Fayaz, a fifth-year student, said they are not effective because she “becomes very unmotivated and lazy.”
“It’s much better when classes are engaging. I find that I learn more that way and I can get more from the class,” she said.
All students, but especially international students, are missing out on in-person class experiences while also paying a large amount of money.
It is important to hold professors accountable for the course material they post and their level of engagement with the students throughout the semester. Both Rayane Issa, a fourth-year student, and Shaira Diaa, currently in her third year, brought forward concerns regarding professors and the importance of their engagement with students throughout the semester in order to provide a decent education.
Diaa, from personal experience, discussed how one of her professors has “posted everything for the entire semester so now he just sits back and waits for the emails.”
“I have no sense of time anymore,” said Diaa.
Issa also emphasized the importance of synchronous lectures in terms of mental health.
“The initiative that professors have taken to make it more engaging and convenient for us through synchronous lectures not only makes us students happy, but it helps us during our isolation,” she said.
She added that it is “incredibly frustrating” to see professors choose to do asynchronous courses when it is in their capability to do a synchronous one.
If the professor is just repeating what’s going to happen in a live lecture, it can be awful.
“Other profs do a full asynchronous lecture and then a more casual Q&A during a live lecture,” noted Aniqa Kassam, a student in their last year. “But it still takes a lot of prep to watch the videos, do the readings, and the assignments to prep for the live class.”
During an interview with Rody Visotski, he pointed out the importance of synchronous lectures for first-year students as they need to be able to interact with their peers, especially since they are missing out on other social aspects of the university experience. When asked if he considers them effective or lazy, Visotski said that “it truly depends on the student but it overwhelmingly encourages laziness because it does not help develop healthy study habits.”
In the end, university life is like 2020 — unpredictable but with its silver lining. While we are not able to hang out with our friends on the third-floor of the TFDL while studying for midterms, students are able to attend lectures on their own terms while working or living in a different time zone.
We need to consider though, that it is also highly inconvenient for international students to be paying more than double the fees while having to stay awake at midnight to attend a professor’s office hours in order to clarify a question from asynchronous lectures. It is hard to balance what can or cannot be done in order to support the students, while also not overlooking the mental and physical health of professors, but it would be beneficial to have recorded synchronous lectures for those unable to attend due to conflicts caused by the pandemic.
This article is part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet’s editorial board.