News Flash! Asynchronous Time is School Time!

In this strange world of remote learning, most schools are doing “synchronous” classes in the mornings and “asynchronous time” in the afternoons (sometimes called “office hours”). This means that classes meet for video lessons in the morning and then students have the option of meeting with their teachers in the afternoon.

And since the afternoon sessions have been framed as optional, most students are not attending. Shocking, I know.

But here’s the thing: Asynchronous time is school time. It’s part of the normal (pre-COVID) school day. So there’s a very real sense in which skipping asynchronous time is like skipping school. And me suggesting that students actually go to asynchronous time is about as radical as suggesting that they go to school!

Now, I realize that not every teacher is running asynchronous time the same way, so I’m just going to address the version that I hear about the most. Odds are, at least some of your classes are doing it this way.

Many teachers are treating asynchronous time as a study hall. Students show up, do their homework, and ask the teacher questions when they get confused. This time is for helping kids who struggle to be productive finish their work. And it’s for helping students who are struggling with the content keep up with the class.

I am astonished by the number of students I’m hearing about who are behind on their work, confused by the content, but not going to asynchronous time! It’s like, if you were drowning, and I threw you a life ring, and you said, “But grabbing onto the life ring is optional.”

But don’t get me wrong – I’m not judging. If remote learning had happened when I was in high school, there’s no way I would have volunteered to attend “optional” school. I would have simply thought to myself, Sweet! More time to play video games!

I’m just trying to make the case that it’s worth attending. Even if you’re all caught up on your homework, and you’re feeling confident about the content, you can still use asynchronous time to study for the next test. And remember, the test is always coming.

Many schools are trying to push through a full year’s worth of curriculum, despite the obstacles of remote learning. Instructional time has been reduced, and despite teachers’ valiant efforts, instructional quality has been reduced as well. So students aren’t getting the repetitions they need to form strong understanding and lasting memories. Asynchronous time is the perfect opportunity to reinforce what you’ve been learning.

Furthermore, asynchronous time often involves students helping one another out. It’s a precious opportunity to form social bonds with your classmates at a time when kids are being starved of social interaction.

So if your children have not been attending asynchronous time, it might be time to sit down as a family and reevaluate how you’re approaching online school. I keep hearing about students who have dance lessons or piano practice during asynchronous time. If education is really a priority for your family, then you should consider not scheduling other things during asynchronous time. It’s the equivalent of taking your kids out of school early.

Asynchronous time is school time, and students will be much better off if they treat it as such.

About the Author

Chris Loper has been an academic coach for Northwest Educational Services since 2014. He also writes the popular self-improvement blog Becoming Better, so if you liked this article, head on over to becomingbetter.org and check out his other work. Chris also offers behavioral change coachinghelping busy adults with habit formation and productivity. He lives in Issaquah, WA, where he is the owner of South Cove Tutoring.

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