Online communication has evolved exponentially since the creation of the Internet. When it comes to interacting with each other, users have a wide range of tools, applications, and websites where they can connect with each other and talk about the topics they are most interested in.
Among these forms of communication, an asynchronous discussion is a tool to take into account when communicating with other users. Therefore, we offer you all the information about its advantages, disadvantages, and applications to get the most out of it.
- An asynchronous discussion is a communicative space in which the intervention of the participants does not take place in real-time.
- Any Internet user can create or participate in an asynchronous discussion, although it is a tool widely used in online education and by various organizations.
What you should know about an asynchronous discussion
An asynchronous discussion is a form of communication that can be used in different ways and has many advantages, but it also has some drawbacks to consider. Below, we share with you all the essential information about asynchronous discussions.
What is asynchronous discussion?
Before discussing the concept of asynchronous discussion, it is necessary to define what a form of asynchronous communication is. To clearly distinguish this type of communication, one of the most relevant factors is interactivity, which has less to do with the concept of online communication than with the way in which messages relate to and follow one another and the time at which they occur (1).
In this way, asynchronous communication is one that does not occur in real-time, as participants can intervene at any time without the need for an immediate response (2). For example, a forum is a form of asynchronous communication (3).
Differences between asynchronous and synchronous discussion
Although both are part of users’ online communication, there are numerous differences between these two types of online interaction. The main difference between asynchronous and synchronous discussion lies in the way participants interact.
On the one hand, a synchronous discussion is understood as a group activity that takes place at the same time for all users, since they are discussions in which they are all connected at the same time and interact in real-time with each other.
In contrast, in an asynchronous discussion, each of the participants progresses at a different pace, since they are not all online at the same time and therefore interact with the discussion at different times (4). The following table shows the main differences between the two types of debate.
Learn more about: Asynchronous vs. Synchronous Communication
|Asynchronous debate||Synchronous debate|
|Response time||Whenever the user wants||Immediate|
|Reflection||With user premeditation||Without premeditation|
Advantages of asynchronous discussion
One of the main advantages of asynchronous discussions is the independence it provides to the participants, especially notable in the following points:
- There are no time limitations. Users can respond at any time, so they do not need to be online at a specific time to participate in the discussion (4).
- They allow reflection time upon responses. The participant can take as much time as needed to read, evaluate and reflect on the main thesis and on the responses of the other participants, making it an ideal type of debate on topics that require thoughtful consideration by the participants.
Another advantage of asynchronous discussion, which in this case it shares with synchronous online discussion, is the possibility of storing all the content of the discussion in the cloud. In many discussion forums, it is possible to attach documents, images, or even videos, which enrich the experience and allow extra information to be added and stored on the web. In this way, participants can refer back to it throughout the discussion and as many times as they like.
Since asynchronous discussions do not require real-time interaction, this mode of communication allows people from different parts of the world, with very different time zones, to communicate with each other and discuss topics that unite them.
Difficulties of asynchronous discussion
The biggest problem with asynchronous discussion is the lack of real-time interaction (4). This can lead to a feeling of isolation and a lower sense of group than what is generated in real-time debates (5). This does not happen in synchronous discussions, as the participants participate at the same time, maintaining live communication with each other, which increases the intensity of the relationship established between them.
For an asynchronous debate to work, its organization must be perfectly clear to all participants, since there is no real-time interaction between them, so any doubt or problem is not solved at the moment it arises.
Therefore, it is advisable to have prior instructions on how the discussion forum should work, as well as a clear structure of intervention and adequate guidance for the feedback and support that participants may need (6).
Finally, moderation of the asynchronous discussion is another factor to take into account when organizing this type of communication. In an asynchronous debate, as it is a space in which participants can write freely, the presence of a moderator is necessary, whose main tasks are:
- Encourage the conversation. The moderator helps the debaters to participate in the conversation and ensures that the conversation takes place (7).
- Ensuring that the rules of the debate are followed. Before the debate begins, it is customary for a set of rules of conduct and behavior to be established (7). The moderator supervises that these rules are complied with and that no confrontations occur.
- Fostering a pleasant conversational atmosphere. The moderator ensures that participants maintain basic standards of respect and that the discussion is attractive to all users (7).
In this way, the participation of a moderator becomes an essential element of the asynchronous debate so that it can be carried out as effectively as possible.
Asynchronous discussion in education
Nowadays, teaching has acquired new methods and ways of transmitting knowledge and connecting students and teachers. In addition, in recent years the number of people taking classes online has increased. The following graph shows how people’s involvement in online teaching activities has evolved in Spain.
Check out our guide to: Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Learning
Within online techniques and activities, the asynchronous discussion has become a widely used tool in the virtual classrooms of educational centers. Here are the main benefits of this tool.
The asynchronous discussion has numerous advantages and utilities when applied in a learning process. First of all, it is an essential element when it comes to making online learning more flexible since it allows students to organize their own time and not depend on schedules to connect to classes. The ability of methods such as asynchronous discussion to adapt to the learner is one of the main reasons for choosing online learning (5).
On the other hand, asynchronous discussion allows learners to respond to their classmates’ answers and intervene in the discussion without having to get a turn to speak and spend as much thinking time as they would like. This benefits those students who usually take more time and prefer to think more about their answers (8).
Asynchronous discussion tools
One of the tools that can be used to conduct asynchronous discussions is Stack Exchange. This platform does not consist of a single website, but rather a network of websites where users find questions and answers and comment on them.
One of the most remarkable features of this tool is that it is self-moderated, and the variety of topics that can be found is very wide.
NowComment is one of the most powerful asynchronous discussion and collaboration tools. With this platform, it is possible to annotate and comment on texts in groups, as well as create discussion forums. It can be used for public discussions as well as for private learning processes between teachers and students.
Take a look at: Asynchronous Collaboration: Step-By-Step Guide
If you want to generate asynchronous discussions in an original way, Kialo allows you to move away from the traditional concept of discussion. With this tool, you can visualize asynchronous debates structured as a family tree, with different branches where arguments for or against the main thesis are developed.
These arguments can be voted on by users (finding both public and private debates) and those with the greatest impact appear at the top of the tree. In addition, Kialo has an exclusive version for teaching, known as KialoEdu.
This tool is more focused on the decision-making process by teams. Users, organized in groups, generate debates on different topics, where both proposals and comments can be made.
This software, unlike the previous ones, is mainly used by companies, institutions, and non-profit associations, since it allows to outline and facilitate the resolution of problems and group decisions.
An asynchronous discussion is a form of online communication that does not require real-time interaction between participants. This communicative space is used in education, companies, institutions, and associations, as well as is accessible to any user who has a question or wants to raise an issue and discuss it with others.
The absence of instantaneous interaction between participants in asynchronous discussions has advantages and disadvantages. Among its main advantages is the independence it provides to the debaters, in addition to the possibility of storing information very easily and the global character that these debates can acquire.
2. Pol Lim F. An Analysis of Synchronous and Asynchronous Communication Tools in e-Learning. Vol. 143. Philippines: Advanced Science and Technology Letters; 2017.
4. Delgado P. Synchronous and asynchronous learning: definition, advantages and disadvantages. Institute for the Future of Education, Tecnológico de Monterrey; 2020.
5. Hrastinsk S. A study of asynchronous and synchronous e-learning methods discovered that each supports different purposes. No. 4. Educa Quarterly; 2008.
6. Tibi M. ESSENTIAL COMPONENTS IN STRUCTURING ASYNCHRONOUS DISCUSSION FORUMS. Vol. 17 No. 2. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education; 2016.
7. Martín de la Hoz, P. The Forum as a communication and interaction system. Vol. 18 No. 1. Complutense Journal of Education; 2006.
8. Coleman E, Murphy E. Graduate Students’ Experiences of Challenges in Online Asynchronous Discussions. Vol. 30 No. 2. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology; 2004.