Glossary of Common Terms
Distinctions are commonly made according to the mode of teaching delivery (in-person, online, or hybrid), as well as the timing of that teaching (synchronous or asynchronous). It is helpful to keep in mind a third, crucial distinction, between teaching and learning. At the end of the day, all teaching should be about our students' learning, which can help provide perspective on what can otherwise be a daunting environment. Ultimately, we may wish to ask ourselves not whether we are the best online teacher possible but whether we are effective at helping our students learn, regardless of the medium.
In-person/online/hybrid teaching –
Traditionally, most university teaching happened face-to-face, or in-person, in the classroom. That did not mean that all learning happened in the classroom. Much learning has always happened outside the classroom or lecture hall, in through reading, activities, preparing or revising for exams, office hours, rewriting essay drafts, and more.
In an online course, face-to-face or in-person instruction is replaced through online activities, whether they are live classes held on Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or other platforms, or other sets of activities, lectures, readings, collaborations, and more, pursued at different times.
It is also possible to combine these two means of teaching delivery. Many faculty teaching in-person rely heavily on Moodle and other resources to facilitate learning while maintaining in-person classes.
Hybrid (or blended) teaching, means different things at different institutions. At CEU, it most commonly refers to the practice of having both in-person classes for those students able to attend, and the possibility for other students who are unable to attend to participate fully in the course, online.
Synchronous Learning – These are courses or classes that happen at the same time (synchronously).
Example 1: A synchronous online course could meet every Monday from 2-4 pm via Zoom for lectures and discussions, with all students and faculty present.
Example 2: In-person teaching (classroom teaching) almost always happens synchronously, we just tend not to use this term.
Asynchronous Learning – These are courses or parts of courses that happen at the students' own pace, or quite literally not at the same time (asynchronously).
Example 1. In in-person courses, students routinely complete their readings, write essays or problem sets, and sometimes watch videos or complete other activities on their own pace, at home, so long as they complete them by a set deadline. These are asynchronous parts of learning, but we don't always use this term.
Example 2. Asynchronous elements can be incorporated into online learning as well. For example, there may be Zoom classes every Monday from 2-4, but in addition to asking students to read at their own pace (before the next class session), a professor might upload 5-10 minute videos for the class as a way of mini-lecture or reading introduction. This would free up class time for discussion. A professor may make their lectures available for asynchronous viewing after class for those who missed it or wish to review what was said.
Example 3. Alternatively, an entire course could be designed in a way that there are no class sessions. In such a course, students might still have a set of materials to work through each week, such as watching a narrated powerpoint presentation or recorded short lecture; reading; and completing a short writing assignment, problem set, or collaborative activity. Professors can choose how much freedom students can have with the timing, for example, whether students can complete the entire course at their own pace, whether they have a week to complete each set of materials, or whether they have just a few days to complete a short activity or discussion forum post.
About Online Teaching (General Information)
Online Teaching: Challenges and Opportunities
For nearly two decades, universities have explored online and hybrid teaching as a complement to traditional methods of instruction. Some universities offered degrees entirely online in one or more programs. Other universities used the online space primarily to support in-person teaching, for example, by providing basic readings or further resources via moodle.
With the quickly moving coronavirus pandemic, universities and educational institutions across the world have turned to online and blended teaching partly out of necessity – to provide a degree of continuity in uncertain times. Many see it as a “second best” solution, and the challenges and limitations are, indeed, substantial. However, when used thoughtfully and carefully, online and hybrid teaching can also provide opportunities in teaching that may not be as easy to adapt in an in-person setting, for example, in student collaboration, leveraging of students’ internet literacy, and making greater use of the majority of course time that is actually spent outside of the classroom. At least, the transformation to online teaching may provide opportunities to rethink teaching – and more importantly, learning – more generally.
Whether you find yourself attracted to the possibilities of online teaching or find yourself hoping to survive teaching until the pandemic subsides, the Center for Teaching and Learning is here to help.