Today’s workforce is expected to be highly educated and to continually improve skills and acquire new ones by engaging in lifelong learning. E-learning, here defined as learning and teaching online through network technologies, is arguably one of the most powerful responses to the growing need for education.1 Some researchers have expressed concern about the learning outcomes for e-learners, but a review of 355 comparative studies reveals no significant difference in learning outcomes, commonly measured as grades or exam results, between traditional and e-learning modes of delivery.2
For e-learning initiatives to succeed, organizations and educational institutions must understand the benefits and limitations of different e-learning techniques and methods. Research can support practitioners by studying the impact of different factors on e-learning’s effectiveness. Two basic types of e-learning are commonly compared, asynchronous and synchronous. Until recently, e-learning initiatives mainly relied on asynchronous means for teaching and learning.3 However, recent improvements in technology and increasing bandwidth capabilities have led to the growing popularity of synchronous e-learning.4
My work has focused on the benefits and limitations of asynchronous and synchronous e-learning and addresses questions such as when, why, and how to use these two modes of delivery. Many organizations and educational institutions are interested in using and developing both asynchronous and synchronous e-learning, but have a limited understanding of the benefits and limitations of the two. I began with a view of learning as participation in the social world,5 which implies that learning is a dialogue carried out through both internal and social negotiation
2008. Vol. 31, no 4, 51-55 p.