Asynchronous Instruction: A Promising Practice Using Online Access

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In a study funded by the National Science Foundation's Research in Disabilities Education (RDE) program, a group of three postsecondary institutions used asynchronous online access as a universally designed method of content delivery. In addition to classroom lecture, web-based access to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) course content was also offered. The online access included integrated audio/video screen recordings of the instructor’s lectures, including sequential step-by-step hand drawn problems modeled by the instructor.

In this study the researchers wanted to see if providing asynchronous online access could benefit students with learning disabilities and/or attention deficits and perhaps even replace traditional accommodations such as note takers or audio recorders. Access to diagrams and equations can be particularly important in STEM classes. With the asynchronous online access students did not need to try to rush to record information written on a board while listening to the instructor. Errors are often made while taking notes and instructor explanations may not be clearly captured, resulting in students studying incomplete and/or inaccurate notes. The asynchronous online access to course content allowed students to review information presented in classes, learn at their own pace, and study at times conducive to their own needs. Students could pause, rewind, and fast forward as needed to locate particular information.

At the end of the course students with learning disabilities and/or attention deficits were interviewed about their experiences. Students reported that the asynchronous online access to their class content enhanced the clarity of course concepts and skills, increased the organization of course materials, increased convenience, improved their study habits and grades, and helped them to cope with their disabilities.

The use of asynchronous online access is a promising practice in how technology can be used to allow equitable and flexible access to course content. For more information on how universal design can be applied in educational settings and to instruction visit the Center for Universal Design in Education.

This article was developed through the RDE Collaborative Dissemination Project (National Science Foundation Research in Disabilities Education Award #HRD-0929006) and Effects of Teaching with Tablet PCs with Asynchronous Student Access in Post-Secondary STEM Courses on Students with Learning Disabilities (National Science Foundation Research in Disabilities Education Award #HRD-0726449).

Last update or review: September 10, 2012