Asynchronous Activities

Lectures, readings, and other forms of largely one-way communication to students work especially well asynchronously. If you want to move activities out of your live class sessions to make more time, then good options are recorded lectures or other asynchronous substitutes. 

You might be surprised to learn that it is widely accepted in the teaching and learning literature that student attention lapses after only 10-15 minutes of a lecture or even less. Or you might be surprised to learn that in recent years scholars have called into question the basis of that conclusion. (See Bradbury, Wilson and Korn.)

When learning online, keeping lectures short or otherwise breaking them up also serves other purposes. Without the opportunity to raise one's hand, regular pauses give opportunities for students to ask questions and check their understanding. Pauses also help students self-regulate their attention (by making them aware that their attention has wandered and calling them back to the activity) in an online environment where many other things are actively trying to distract them as they study. 

Tips for Asynchronous Delivery in any Medium

  • Break it down or break it up. Keep your students' focus by keeping each individual segment of reading or video short and interspersing activities. You can do this by producing content in smaller chunks or by adding break points or action prompts to longer form videos or readings. 
  • Use a  conversational delivery style, both in video and in text. It can promote learner engagement by creating a social connection to the instructor.
  • Always ask: is video the best way to present this content? Video can be an engaging instructional format, but from the learner perspective, it’s an inherently passive encounter. It is also very time-consuming to produce and update. Consider using text instead of video to allow learners to return easily to key content. You can also include, or adapt, other online content that provides background information instead of reproducing it in a lecture format.
  • Get to the point. Weed out extra information (where possible). Look to reduce the cognitive load on a learner by eliminating non-essential information, such as extra content, unnecessary imagery, music, or non-essential content that may be confusing or require extra mental effort. Limit contextual information or preambles to the minimum necessary for pedagogical precision. Graphics and text on screen should accompany video instruction and highlight key points. Passages of important instructional text should be indicated typographically (bolding, italicizing, set off in a summary box, etc.).
  • Highlight learning objectives or guiding questions to help learners focus on what’s important. When done at the start of a lesson or activity, they can help focus your students’ attention on the most important information or ideas. When done at the end, they can serve as a review and self-check for your students.

Ways To Produce Asynchronous Content

You have three main options for asynchronous content production, which you can also do in combination: pre-recording, recording live during the term, or substitution of media produced by you or others. As you consider your options, be particularly aware of:

  • how effective and engaging the finished product will be, 
  • the time and technical skill required, and
  • your level of comfort and ability to express your personality in the medium

Pre-Recording Lectures at Home

On the plus side, pre-recording videos opens up a whole range of creative possibilities for tailoring your content delivery to the online experience and for upping the game on the quality of the videos. Even working at home and without a technical support or professional video editing, some faculty have produced engaging, high-quality videos that students love.

On the down side, pre-recording videos is very time consuming. It can take much longer than you would expect. It takes longer both because of the extra planning and editing to create the finished product and because you are likely to find that your standards for your own performance are different than in a live lecture context. Delivering a lecture to a camera without an audience is surprisingly different from doing it with students in a classroom and may not come easily even to people with lots of live lecturing experience.  

As you consider how you want to record, consider audio recordings as an option as well. They give your students a way to step away from the screen. 

How-Tos

Getting ready to self-record will require setting up your at-home recording "studio", choosing the tools that best suit your needs for both recording and presenting, and then practicing. Unless you are willing to invest a lot of time, plan to keep your editing to just making simple trims of the beginning and end of your videos. This is another reason to keep each individual video short. 

For consultation on self-recording, schedule a consultation with the Bok Center.

Live-Recording Lectures During the Term

Perhaps the simplest way to produce asynchronous lecture content is to record it during a live lecture. If you held classes in Zoom this spring and recorded them, you were already doing this. This may not be the most polished option, but it has several advantages and there are available techniques for improving the finished product. 

Here are some of the advantages of live-recording lectures: 

  • It is the closest analog to the classroom teaching experience. As a result, your classroom teaching style can translate more easily. It’s also easier to express your personality and voice and be a bit more informal. 
  • It is easy to incorporate interaction with students or TFs as you would in an on-campus course. 
  • It makes it possible for students to attend in real time if that is their preference. 
  • It takes a predictable and manageable amount of faculty time. 
  • It provides before and after class opportunities for informal interaction with students. 

The disadvantages of this method are: 

  • The produced video is not as polished and is not broken up into short segments for students.
  • There is less time after recording for post-production or insertion of activities. 
  • It requires hours of faculty time each week which then cannot be spent on more interactive activities with students. 
  • Student perceptions of the quality may be negatively affected by the lack of more polished production.  

Even though your videos will be long-form, you can still add activities for students watching the video. If you make a plan for this, it may be a responsibility you can share with or delegate to a TF. 

Alternatives to Producing New Video

Consider using other media for your content delivery, including text (readings, lecture notes) and audio (podcasts or audio lectures). You can also find video resources that are produced by others (documentaries, news clips, performances); even YouTube videos might be interspersed with newly recorded lecture videos and other activities.